is a month that puts a severe strain on my marriage. Always has.
I mean, I do love my wife, but probably not as
much as college basketball and March Madness.
Over the next three weeks I'll watch almost every one of the 63
games from the first tip-off at noon on Thursday through
the closing credits of the championship game played to the tune
of "One Shining Moment." The ultimate high in life is when there
are four NCAA games going on simultaneously and you're seated at
a sports bar with a satellite dish and four big-screen TVs. It just
doesn't get any better than that. (Look, if you're going to watch
the games you absolutely must have a satellite dish, or you have
to find someone who does, or else you're going to O.D. on 7-Up and
Honda commercials by the end of the month.)
Usually I try to go to one of the games during the first round of
the tournament, as long as it's within a 100-mile radius. I've been
at some of the greatest upsets in NCAA history: Northern Iowa beating
Missouri, Richmond upending the #2 seed Syracuse, tiny Sienna whipping
Stanford, to name a few. The real sports junkie aches for the Thursday-through-Sunday
first and second-round games. There's nothing quite like watching
Princeton upend UCLA or Weber State knock off mighty North Carolina.
My wife, Allison, says that I take these games too seriously. She
may be right. Several years ago, my alma mater Illinois blew a 7-point
lead in a first round game against a college
named Austin Peay. That was the same school that produced the great
Fly Williams and the immortal cheer, "The Fly is open, let's go
Peay!" I felt close to suicidal for about two weeks after that Illini
kids have started complaining that in March they feel
as if they're growing up in a fatherless home.
When Allison and I got married the hoops ground rules were already
well established: She's not allowed to talk to me during the NCAA
tournament. Sometimes she slips up and pesters me by saying, "Steve,
take out the garbage please." And I will respond: "That's funny,
I didn't think it was April yet." My kids have started complaining
that in March they feel as if they're growing up in a fatherless
home. One year an idiot friend of Allison's actually got married
on the Saturday night of the Final Four, and I was forced to go
as her date. "Gee, Karen," I said to her friend, "I'd much rather
witness you taking your wedding vows than watch the Duke-Michigan
State game." We almost got divorced over that little fracas.
Our second child, William, was accidentally born in March. We had
strategically engaged in planned parenthood so that the baby would
arrive in early April. William confounded our plans by arriving
three weeks early. In fact, he was delivered in the middle of an
Indiana-Temple game, a real nailbiter. I remember the game vividly
because I kept running back and forth between the delivery room
and the hospital TV room. The surly nurse kept asking me: "Mr. Moore,
is this an inconvenient time for your wife to have this baby." I
told her, with all honesty, that the timing could have been a lot
better. Allison kept saying: "Let him go, I'm better off without
Anyway, as fate would have it, that was a great day after all. William
was born healthy, and IU won the game. We came close to naming him
Robert Montgomery Knight Moore.
The tournament, for all its greatness, has lost some of its luster
of late. It was so much better when ESPN, rather than CBS, televised
the games. CBS simply refuses to switch away from a boring game
(only of interest to the local audience) to an exciting one in a
different part of the country. (That's another reason why you need
a satellite dish.) Another problem is that CBS now has women announcers
and commentators. Is nothing sacred? This is like having wives attend
a bachelor party. CBS caters its broadcasts to the marginal fan.
ESPN is for the fanatic. Of course, there's a pall over this year's
tournament given the recent death of the original voice of college
basketball, Al McGuire.
This year I have two horses in the race. Illinois is, of course,
the #1 seed in the Midwest, and I've psychologically prepared myself
for the typical early exit to a lower-seeded team. I got my graduate
degree from George Mason. The Patriots are in the big dance for
the first time in ages. So here's my vision of Utopia: The Illini
meet the Patriots in the Final Four.
So now, dear reader, you know my two real passions in life. Tax
cuts and college basketball. And not necessarily in that order.