Once In A Lifetime – – At Least

This missive is intended for fans of NCAA basketball.  If you are a sports fan in general and kinda like college hoops, this is for you too.  If you just hate basketball because of the noise of squeaking shoes on hardwood courts, you can stop reading now because none of this will interest you – not even a little bit.

You’ve probably heard about people who make “life lists” comprised of things they want to be sure to do in their lifetime.  Often, these lists contain adventurous items such as “climb Mt. Everest” or “be the first paleontologist on Mars”.  [That second one actually was once a goal for  #1 son.]  Sometimes there are noble entries on a life list list such as “curing hunger in the Third World”.  I’m sure that some of these life lists contain fantasy items such as “break Wilt Chamberlain’s putative record for sexual partners”.  I have one for all NCAA basketball fans to add to their “life lists” – if you don’t have such a life list at the moment, start one – that falls into the purely hedonistic realm:

  • Go to Las Vegas; park your carcass in one of the top tier sports books, and watch the first two rounds of the NCAA Basketball Tournament.  That’s a four-day commitment to enjoyment.

Trust me on this; if you love NCAA basketball, this is something you have to do at least once while you take up space on this planet.

Picture this.  You are in a room with enough big screen TVs to make you think you are in Circuit City.  There are at least several hundred people there with you.  Everyone there is a basketball fan and everyone there has not only a “fan interest” in the games but also a “financial interest” in some of the games.  Every game is telecast in its entirety.

On each of the first two days of the tournament, there are sixteen games you can watch in an environment where every action in a game draws a reaction in the room.  Several years ago, I had ceased to pay attention to one game because the outcome was no longer in doubt and I had no wager riding on the game.  I don’t even remember what game it was now.  All of a sudden, the noise level in the room went berserk; there were people cheering and people booing; there were cheers of joy and woe all at the same time.  It involved the game I had chosen to ignore.

What happened?  One team was leading by 12 with 4 seconds to play; the team that was behind substituted all of its players so that the bench scrubeenies could all say that they had played in an NCAA tournament game; the ball went inbounds and one of these scrubeenies launched a 30 foot shot that went swish; they lost the game by 9 points.  That was the loudest cheer of the day to that point because the betting line for the game was 9.5 points.  People who had the favorite just lost what looked to be a sure winner and people with the underdog just got the Las Vegas version of “found money”.  I had to ask someone what had happened and then watch the replay to get the flavor of what happened.  The atmosphere in the room is electric and you have to pay attention all the time.

The next two days will seem tame because there will only be 8 games per day.  After trying to track 16 games on Thursday and Friday, Saturday will seem like a walk in the park – – at first.  But I promise that the adrenaline will kick in on Saturday and Sunday as it did on the opening days.

There is also a lot of opportunity to make some easy money there.  No, beating the books is not easy on that weekend; they are in no danger of going bankrupt because of my profits.  The easy money comes from other visitors who come to Vegas to party and carouse and watch their favorite school in the tournament.  It is the basketball equivalent of a trip to a “bowl game”.  Lots of these folks are willing to make wagers with you on the side that are guided by their hearts and their glands and not their brains.  I was sitting near a guy from a school that was a 12-seed in the tournament and he was just positive they would clobber the 5-seed in the first round.  Vegas had it wrong; they were giving the 12-seed 8 points but Harry Huckleberry was convinced the 12-seed would win the game outright.  I asked him if he had played the money line on the game but he said there was no money line on that game but he would be willing to bet me $50 at even money that “12-seed Tech” would beat “5-seed A&M” straight up.  I really wished his name had been Paine Webber because I really wanted to say, “Thank you, Paine Webber.” when he made the bet and then paid up after his team lost by 15 points.

I will be venturing to Las Vegas next week – with the usual suspects of course – to check out the first four days of the tournament once again.  After forty-eight games in four days in that kind of environment and I will come home in a state of sensory overload.  [Did I mention that you can bet horse races at the same time and in the same venues?  And of course the NBA and NHL are still playing at that time of year too…]  If I did something like that once a month, I’d be carried out of there one of those days by the men with the canvass sports jackets.  You know the ones I mean.  They have really long sleeves and the sleeves tie in the back.

  • But everyone who is a basketball fan needs to do it once – and if you are really a junkie, you need to do it once in a while.

Don’t get me wrong, I love sports………