The world turned upside down

I needed today.  The winds and snow of the first day of spring have been chased away by the sparkling sun, budding trees, chattering birds. A vase of daffodils on my desk and the room is filled with their sharp-sweet scent. The house is quiet, the expletive-generating machine that is Mike having ventured into other people’s homes for the day, and the four felines blissfully nap on the most cat-hair absorbant surface they can find. Calm and stability regain their footing. A long, cleansing breath centers me.

Because, people, this past weekend was one hell of a shit storm!

It is tempting to pile onto UVA and its historic loss to UMBC (I always thought UMBC was short for “umbilical cord,” but apparently this is really an institution of higher learning), but really there is no room on the pile. Suffice it to say that there is no joy in Charlottesville nor in the hearts of our UVA alums (and eventual aluma) Daniel, Honor, Dan and Ellie.

Nor is there joy in Rivers’ heart, because not only did our seed-total superior lose the overall #1 seed in the first round, he also lost his #4 seed, Wichita State in another shocker. Bounced, he was, as were many of those expected to fall in the first round (Claire, Karen, me), and those where it could have, in a usual year, gone either way (Elaine, Elizabeth, MikeP, Rhyne, Robert).

No one, and I mean NO ONE, could have predicted that Dottie would have gone into the second round with both of her teams intact. Dub was also a surprise, with his #7 and #13 sallying forth, as was Honor, whose #9 and #11 prevailed (go, ACC!). They joined other two-teamers Christine, Dell, Kiran, Pierce, Rebecca and Susan.

Everyone else retained one team, so that at the end of the first round, this is how things stood:

Beth Marshall (13E)
Carl Kansas (1M)
Caroline Houston (6W)
Christine Rhode Island (7M) Kentucky (5S)
Claire
Dan Alabama (9E)
Daniel Ohio State (5W)
Dell Michigan State (3M) Gonzaga (4W)
Dottie UMBC (16S) Kansas State (9S)
Dub Nevada (7S) Buffalo (13S)
Elaine
Elizabeth
Ellie West Virginia (5E)
Gordon Villanova (1E)
Honor Florida State (9W) Syracuse (11M)
Jim Xavier (1W)
Joe Auburn (4M)
Karen
Katie/Dave Michigan (3W)
Kiran Clemson (5M) Duke (2M)
Libby Tennessee (3S)
Martie/Lee UNC (2W)
Megan
MikeB Butler (10E)
MikeP
Pierce Loyola-Chicago (11S) Texas Tech (3E)
Rebecca Florida (6E) Seton Hall (8M)
Rhyne
Rivers
Robert
Sarah Cincinnati (2S)
Susan Texas A&M (7W) Purdue (2E)

If anyone thought that the second round would be where the 1st round chaos would settle down, that top seeds would prevail and perennial favorites would again be labeld “sweet,” they were as wrong as wrong could be. Wronger than a kimchi and strawberry jam sandwich.

It was a killing field out there, with the second #1 seed, Xavier, held by Jim, exed out and Dell’s #3 Michigan State unceremoniously ejected by Honor’s #11 Syracuse. The Rivermeade Runners’ #2 UNC was ousted by their own grandson/nephew’s #7 Texas A&M. Who among us wouldn’t have loved being a fly on the wall of the Salvato/Blyth house while, as Joe so eloquently put it, “them Aggies mopped the floor with them Tar Heels.” Well, we Tar Heels might have been aggravated by the Aggies, but at least we still have grammar.

Speaking of Joe, his #4 Auburn Tigers were scratched by son-in-law Kiran’s #5 Clemson Tigers. Libby didn’t volunteer for her #3 Tennessee to lose to her son’s #11 Loyola-Chicago (oh, and the now-famous Sister Jean did say that God was on the Ramblers’ side; I guess He could have predicted Dottie’s improbable run, but I’d be mighty pissed if He filled out a bracket in my pool), nor was it expected that Sarah’s #2 Cincinnati would have exited amid the howls of Dub’s #7 Nevada Wolfpack.

Miraculously, Honor’s high-seed ACC duo heads into the third round. Only Pierce and Susan join her there with both teams. We lost Beth, Caroline, Dan, Daniel, Jim, Joe, Libby, the Rivermeade Runners, MikeB, Rebecca and Sarah. And here’s who else remains:

Beth

27

Carl Kansas (1M)

9

Caroline

18

Christine Kentucky (5S)

12

Dan

18

Daniel

18

Dell Gonzaga (4W)

7

Dottie Kansas State (9S)

25

Dub Nevada (7S)

20

Ellie West Virginia (5E)

20

Gordon Villanova (1E)

17

Honor Florida State (9W) Syracuse (11M)

20

Jim

15

Joe

20

Katie/Dave Michigan (3W)

18

Kiran Clemson (5M) Duke (2M)

7

Libby

18

Martie/Lee

8

MikeB

21

Pierce Loyola-Chicago (11S) Texas Tech (3E)

14

Rebecca

14

Sarah

14

Susan Texas A&M (7W) Purdue (2E)

9

In tonight’s and tomorrow’s games, father will face son, mother will face same son, cousins will spar and we’ll all thank our lucky stars that we’re not Virginia.

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Beware the Sides of March

Howdy, howdy, happy, happy. I hope this missive finds you all in fine fiddle, back from your sojourns in Thailand, Kenya, Japan, Italy, Honduras, Guinea (that’s Guinea, Virginia, where Mike had an appraisal and trust me, it’s LIKE a foreign country) and points near and far, ready for some bad-ass basketballery.

But, I know how personal things can get when these 32+ competitive people get together, so I’ll say, on behalf of an ancient soothsayer, “Beware the Sides of March.” And like my buddy Marc(h) Antony also says, “Cry havoc, and let slip the dogs of war!” (That’s just fancy talk for, “Let’s Go, Team! Beat the snot of the other guy!”)

Before I go another misguided step further, let me extend a much overdue congratulations to last year’s winner. *ME*… I mean *UNC*… I mean, yes, I mean RIVERS!!!

Rivers Patterson kept it in his family last year (Susan won in 2016), even if he was betraying his Wake Forest roots by backing Carolina. UNC pulled out the win for the 2017 title, elating the many on this list with ties to the Tarheels. This tied one watched the game in a hotel with Mike and Dell from that hotbed of hoop mania, Burlington, Vermont (after chowing down on dinner with Gordon and spraining my ankle; everyone should watch a national title game like this). But, if he’ll accept my belated accolades, I hail Ribbet (as Dell calls him) and wish him well this year, too (remember the soothsayer, for these words prove prophetic).

I don’t know about you, but I’m glad to get this family fracas underway. It’s good to have a touchstone to come back to amid all the chaos and upheaval, some real (the loss of our beloved Dot), and some even more real (the Trump White House personnel merry-go-round). We return to the bosom of our loved ones to reaffirm all that is good and solid in the world.

This week I find myself — again — in the middle of Sunshine Week, where I held three online webinars and two in-person events. I will get a better audience share with this post than I did for all five events put together, such is my drawing power.

Dell celebrated his birthday by helping me draw teams for this year’s challenge. (He’s a Spinal Tap moment, y’all because The Boy goes up to 11!!!) But in full disclosure, he did not pick his own teams. I did. I can already hear the accusations across the miles (really, it’s just Carl who does this; was he like this as a kid, Elaine/Karen?). And maybe I did unintentionally give him a little extra birthday present.

The cat commissioners were out of commission this year, however, busy as they were with NCAA allegations of pay-to-play, hookers, booze grade scandals and contraband catnip.

Again, I divvied us up to get to 32 entries. I doubled Martie and Lee up into one team (the Rivermeade Runners), and I doubled Katie and Dave up (Kave). This is Dave’s first foray into the fray, and I made he and Katie ONE before they legally become one this summer. Also, as affianced and not yet married, they still actually like each other.

The wee ones — Cora, Revi, Rowan, Simon and Teddy — are going to be represented through their parents. I realize some of the tiny tots, especially 7-month-old Teddy, are going to be disappointed by not getting to sit at the big kid table, but, if there’s one thing I excel at it’s in crushing the hopes and dreams of our youth.

And before I get to the picks (hurry up, the first games are already over!), let me say that Virginia has been making a play of late to join in the pantheon of overrepresented schools in this thing. UNC still pulls in the most members, but Duke is close behind, as is Texas, and now Virginia, who this year pulls in not just a #1 seed, but THE #1 seed.

So, NOW, without further, further ado, let’s get on with this 21-year tradition, the 2018- Mostly-Annual-Rhyne-Blyth-Patterson-I’m-Not-Cyberslacking-I’m-Updating-My-Resume-to-be-the-next-Secretary-of-State-NCAA-Basketball-Extranvaganza!

Beth Marshall (13E) Stephen F. Austin (14E)

27

Carl Creighton (8S) Kansas (1M)

9

Caroline Houston (6W) Davidson (12S)

18

Christine Rhode Island (7M) Kentucky (5S)

12

Claire New Mexico State (12M) Charleston (13M)

25

Dan NC State (9M) Alabama (9E)

18

Daniel UNC-Greensboro (13W) Ohio State (5W)

18

Dell Michigan State (3M) Gonzaga (4W)

7

Dottie UMBC (16S) Kansas State (9S)

25

Dub Nevada (7S) Buffalo (13S)

20

Elaine Arkansas (7E) Texas (10S)

17

Elizabeth Murray State (12E) Oklahoma (6M)

18

Ellie Iona (15M) West Virginia (5E)

20

Gordon Villanova (1E) Radford (16E)

17

Honor Florida State (9W) Syracuse (11M)

20

Jim Xavier (1W) Montana (14W)

15

Joe Auburn (4M) Texas Southern (16W)

20

Karen Providence (10W) Georgia State (15S)

25

Katie/Dave Cal. St. Fullerton (15E) Michigan (3W)

18

Kiran Clemson (5M) Duke (2M)

7

Libby Lipscomb (15W) Tennessee (3S)

18

Martie/Lee UNC (2W) TCU (6M)

8

Megan Bucknell (14M) San Diego State (11W)

25

MikeB St. Bonaventure (11E) Butler (10E)

21

MikeP Miami (6S) Wright State (14S)

20

Pierce Loyola-Chicago (11S) Texas Tech (3E)

14

Rebecca Florida (6E) Seton Hall (8M)

14

Rhyne Missouri (8W) Arizona (4S)

12

Rivers Wichita State (4E) UVA (1W)

5

Robert Pennsylvania (16M) Virginia Tech (8E)

24

Sarah South Dakota State (12W) Cincinnati (2S)

14

Susan Texas A&M (7W) Purdue (2E)

9

Congratulations to our #1 seed holders: Carl (Kansas), Gordon (Villanova), Jim (Xavier) and Rivers (UVA). See what I meant now about Rivers’ continued good luck? In fact, the last two tournament winners, Rivers and Susan, have among the top seed totals, since Rivers also has a #4 seed, for a total of 5, and Susan has a #7 seed and a #2 seed for a total of 9. Dell and Kiran are actually in second place in seed totals, Dell with #3+#4, and Kiran with #2+#5. The Rivermeade Runners come in with a #2 and a #6 for 8, and Carl ties Susan with a #1+#8 for 9.

At the bottom of the pile this year are Beth, with a total of 27, followed by Claire, Dottie, Karen and Yours Truly, with 25. Robert is nipping at our heels with 24, though MikeP is Robert’s greatest cheerleader since the Atlanta Entrepreneur holds Virginia Tech.

Despite his Big 12 credentials, Kiran can’t escape the ACC: he has both Clemson and Duke.  His aunt-in-law, Elaine, holds his Texas, while Elaine’s alma mater, William & Mary, has still never, ever been to the NCAA tournament. (Moment of silence, please.)

Gordon is guaranteed to keep one of his teams into the 2nd round. On the other hand, he’s guaranteed to lose one of his teams in the first round, too, since his #1 seed plays his #16 seed in said first round.

Dan will be cheering in red, and rooting on the close-to-home Wolfpack of NC State when it plays also-red Alabama. Rhyne has two cats (2 more and you’re the Crazy Cat Dude) with Missouri and Arizona. MikeB has the Gone With the Wind duo of the Bonnies and Butler (look that up, young ‘uns). Libby is Tennessee Two-Steppin’ with Lipscomb and, well, Tennessee. Beth has two universities named after famous Americans, the 4th chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court (Marshall) and the Father of Texas (Stephen F. Austin). (Psst, the Padre de Tejas, Antonio López de Santa Anna, might have something to say about that sobriquet.)

And so, because it is clearly obvious that I am straining to say anything meaningful, much less amusing, I’ll draw to a close here and wish everyone a day of total basketball immersion.

May the best team…nah…scratch that…may my team win.

Cry Havoc!