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Hyperion March 18, 2005
The Hyperion Chronicles
“One Shining Moment (unless you read slow)”

#342 Memory of a Day

Quite a few things happened yesterday. They don’t really tie together; I just wanted to talk about them.

For some, yesterday was St. Patrick’s Day. Personally, I’ve never really seen the point in celebrating the fake accomplishments (no, he did not drive the snakes out of Ireland) of a some long ago religious figure. (And yes, I realize that opens up a whole Pandora’s box of inappropriate humor, so let’s just move on.)

Let’s be honest: there are very few people outside of Ireland who get all misty-eyed about the Blarney Stone and Shamrocks. No, the main reason to don a party hat yesterday was to drink as much as humanly possible. Obviously any clover-carrying Irishman doesn’t need an excuse, but for the rest of North America, it’s pretty convenient. I even got a call from a girl last night who was on her way to debauch Irish Orphans with drink. “It won’t take very long,” she said optimistically: “They’re small to begin with.”

Yesterday was also my father’s birthday. It wasn’t a normal birthday for him, since he was involved in the dress-rehearsal for my mother’s Easter Production. (I will say that the main character gets knocked off half-way through, but I refuse to give away the ending. You’ll have to see it for yourself.)

Because of this, the only real time we got to spend with him was at breakfast. We reminisced about birthdays past in his life. I vividly remember one year my brother Achmed and I got to stay home from school, and we “kidnapped” my dad and took him to the beach for three days. The only tarnish on that day of glory was that half-way there my mom had to let him drive, since she wasn’t quite sure how to get there.

I also remember that for a long time mom used to wrap up one gift for every year old he was (until he got so old that using integers was no longer practical). Then there was the time he turned 50. I bought plane tickets, and flew my brother Achmed and my friend Bear up to Ohio to surprise him, along with his sister and mother. It was pretty cool. Even cooler: the church people didn’t know him well yet, so I was able to convince this woman that Bear was adopted and get him in all the family pictures. I’ll still remember the look on her face when she said she wanted “just family” and I said “I know he isn’t blood, but we have taken him into our family, and we’d ask that you do the same.” I thought she was going to start crying. Good memories.

But perhaps even funnier than that was the time that I left school (a theme of mine), and surprised my dad in a pig-ballerina costume. There was a pink leotard that was so tight (how tight was it?) that let’s just say that I was as snug as a bug in a rug. There was also this tutu and a female pig mask. I drove over to Sizzler (back when Sizzler was THE place, and when did that change? But I digress) and came in and sat on dad’s lap and sang to him. Well, you have never seen a sexier pig-ballerina in all of your life. Or a more mortified father. However, with me not into green drunkenness and my dad tied up with the Passion of the Easter Bunny1, yesterday was spent the way it’s supposed to: in front of the TV.

If you are a sports fan, arguably there was no better day for television. You had the first round of Bay Hill, with Tiger, Ernie and Retief all teeing off together. (I realize that to non sports fans (read: women and history majors), Tiger, Ernie and Retief together might not mean anything to you, but it would be like they combined all the Soaps into one, and gave us “Guiding All the Young and the Passionate Children through the Hospital for their One Bold and Beautiful Life to Live.” In other words: suh-weet. But I digress.)

Unfortunately most of Bay Hill was rained out, forcing me to watch the Congressional hearings on steroid use in Major League Baseball. Is there a worse group of people (and I’m counting the FULL HOUSE alumni) than the United States Congress? Ugh! I loathe these people.

[Originally I had a 785 word diatribe on the mendacity displayed by the House of Representatives, in particular with those asinine hearings. Then I decided to write an entire column on it later, but for now, let it be known that Hyperion advocates smacking any Congress-people you run into.]

Finally, yesterday was perhaps the best day of the year because it was the first day of the NCAA tournament. They start with 64 teams, and over Thursday and Friday play 32 games to halve that number. Then over Saturday and Sunday they do it again to get to 16.
The next Thursday through Sunday they do the same thing, bringing us from 16 down to 4, and the following weekend they play those final four to figure out who is the best. You might have heard of it, and even if you know next to nothing about it, you might have entered your office pool by filling out a bracket.

(Hyperion is personally running a pool, with the prize that the winner gets a column written about whatever he/she wants, and this year I am determined to win it, because I have things I want Hyperion to talk about, but he always ignores my requests. But I digress)

The memories I have here are legendary. For years I skipped school with my brother to watch the opening day. (It just occurred to me that if you just read this column, you might get the idea that my parents were a bit permissive. Nothing could be further from the truth. We didn’t even get cable until I was fourteen, and to this day I have not been allowed to see GHOSTBUSTERS. But for probably the fiftieth time today, I digress.)

One year I actually got to go to the tournament. We went to Seattle to watch the Regional, and I got to see the legendary UNLV and sit next to Razor Ruddock, a week after he’d been beat black and blue by Mike Tyson. (In 1991, this meant something.)

Then there was 1995. I got up early (this was college, so a feat for me), and spent the whole day watching the tournament and playing Paseo Dos with Kevin Frank, Jason Apple, and J Lush (this was so long ago, I don’t even have aliases for them). It was glorious. After the games ended, several of us went to Olive Garden for the all-you-can eat Soup and Salad.

Friends, I tell you the truth: the good people at Olive Garden did not make out in this bargain. Between the three of us, we ate at least 30 big bowls of salad, and 15 bowls of soup apiece. And let’s not even talk about breadsticks. We also drank so much raspberry iced tea that the waiter finally just brought us the raspberry syrup bottle. It took us four hours to eat it all.

[By the way, I can appreciate that many of you hate sports like Tupac hated Biggie, but consider this: I think the entire month of March should be a holiday for this tournament. Starting to look a little better, isn’t it? I thought so. Now, quit complaining and keep reading.]

Then there is the brackets themselves.

Filling out a bracket is always a high combination of art and science. On the one hand, there is all the basketball knowledge my brother and I possess. On the other hand there is the crippling inability to make decisions we often have, not good when you have to predict the outcomes of 63 different games. Also a motivating factor: beating my dad. He fills out his own bracket every year and not-too-magnanimously avows that he will beat us like Irish orphans (which is the next best thing to a red-headed stepchild).

Then I have weird idiosyncrasies. Last year UCONN won, and this girl in my pool was insufferably smug, so I wouldn’t pick UCONN if they were playing a Canadian team (well, maybe not that far, but you get the point). Perhaps most strangely: I picked Northern Iowa this year because of the time I visited Storm Lake, Iowa (I wrote about this in #305). I also am a sucker for upsets; picking low-seeded teams that aren’t supposed to win on paper.

This is primarily because I love the underdog story. The best part about the NCAAs—or “March Madness”—is that all 64 teams actually have a chance. Most of them don’t have a good chance. When the second week rolls around you see the Dukes, North Carolinas and Kansases far more often than the Creightons, Winthrops and St. Maryses. Realistically, those smaller teams aren’t going to win. They don’t get the best players. They don’t have the money. They don’t get battle-tested with the best competition. March Madness is like dog-breeding: look for pure-bloods.

The magic, friends, oh the magic, comes in that first weekend. Little teams from places you’ve never heard of and featuring more gangly white people than you knew played basketball have a chance to knock off a big dog; pull an upset.

This is the real reason I watch. I love the majesty of the thoroughbred teams, and I love the bragging rights of outguessing everyone, but to me the real joy is watching some over-confident Powerhouse refuse to take Podunk University seriously, and get their comeuppance. To watch the faces of those kids who aren’t going into the NBA, aren’t getting shoe and soft drink endorsement deals. Soon they will be doctors, lawyers, and God-help-me: Economists.

But for that one shining moment on the center stage they shine. And it doesn’t matter that in two days they will lose by 40, or that you couldn’t find their college on a map with a homing device: they did it, and they’ll always have the memories. Because the days pass, my friends, but the memories, the memories live on.

I wonder if any of the teams’ mascots are ballerina-pigs?

March 18, 2005

1 If Ben and Jerry made an ice-cream flavor called Passion-Fruit of the Christ, would that be sacrilegious? Can I get a ruling on this?

Thanks to everyone who helped make all those great memories, whether I watched them make improbably shots, or they lent me a pink leotard

Motto Explanation
At the end of the final game in the NCAA tournament, they play this incredibly cheesy song called “One Shining Moment,” while showing all the highlights and lowlights from the tournament, with the emphasis on the emotions of the kids and coaches. Everyone who watches makes fun of it incessantly, but if they didn’t do it there would be a riot

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