Extra Points: No Bracket to Bust This Year
I didn't fill out a March Madness bracket this year, marking the first time in at least 30 years that I didn't spend the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament cursing when a buzzer-beating three-pointer knocked out one of my Final Four teams in the first or second round.
Based on the upsets that took place, I saved myself a lot of embarrassment. I know of at least a dozen people, including my son, Kyle, who had second-seeded Ohio State advancing to the Elite Eight or better. Ditto for Illinois, Texas and West Virginia, who were all ranked third or higher in their regions.
Raise your hand if you had 15th-seeded Oral Roberts winning two games. Bonus points if you know where the school is located (Tulsa), its nickname (Golden Eagles), its conference (Summit League), or even who Oral Roberts was (televangelist).
Maybe there's something divine going on, considering Sister Jean has Loyola in the hunt once again.
Whatever mild interest I had this year disappeared on Thursday night, when my alma mater (Appalachian State) mounted a tremendous comeback from an 18-point deficit only to suffer a one-point loss to Norfolk State in a First Four contest. That whoosh you heard late Thursday night was not the 30-mile-an-hour wind but a sigh of relief from Gonzaga over not having to face the mighty Mountaineers.
I got a kick out of seeing Bobby Cremins in the stands for App State's game. He was their coach during my days in Boone, North Carolina, when App State reached the NCAA tournament in 1979 for the first time in school history - we lost to LSU in the first round - behind Walter Anderson, Mel Hubbard, Renaldo Lawrence, Charles Payton and Daryl Robinson. I can't remember what I had for breakfast yesterday, but I remember those guys.
I did catch a few games on Saturday afternoon during a visit to Kyle's house. I joined grandsons Hampton (5) and Graham (2) on the couch, where they rooted for teams based on their nicknames and school colors.
Hampton announced that he was pulling for USC against Grand Canyon University, despite its cool nickname (the Antelopes) and the local tie for Grand Canyon. Lower Township native Gary Osmundsen Jr. is a philosophy professor there.
"I'm cheering for the Trojans," Hampton said. "Because whenever the Trojans play our Sun Devils in football (Kyle is an Arizona State graduate), they beat the pants off us. ... It's exasperating."
My jaw hit the hard-wood floor. Hampton just turned five last month.
I pretty much ignored Sunday's games. The awesome weather prompted me to grab my clubs and join buddy Tom Shagren for 18 holes at Cape May National.
It turned out to be a great day. The sunshine and warm weather made it possible to ditch my "Half Moon Bay Ocean Course" sweatshirt for a few holes. It also brought out some turtles who were sunning themselves on the banks of the 18th hole. I saw them as I was fishing out a Titleist Pro-V1 with "No. 1 Poppy" Inscribed on it that I had sliced into the pond off the tee.
I still would've shot in the low 80s if not for some bad breaks with the flat stick. I had at least a half dozen putts lip out, thereby costing me a dollar. Whoever has the fewest putts wins a buck. I had a three-putt lead at the turn but wound up losing by one.
If I didn't know better, I would have thought Sister Jean was "Shag's" caddy.
It was so exasperating.
My disappointment didn't last long, however. I pulled into our driveway to find Hampton and Graham waiting to play. Ten minutes after leaving the course, I was on all fours in the backyard giving Graham a horsey ride.
March Madness could wait.
KEEP READING: South Jersey Athletes Who Played/Coached in NBA and MLB
CHECK IT OUT: 100 sports records and the stories behind them