Here’s a fun fact that you may not know about me; I am a Spartan.
No, I don’t mean that I am spartan: marked by simplicity, frugality, or avoidance of luxury and comfort. In that regard I am more of a sybarite: a voluptuary or hedonist.
I mean that I am a proud graduate and loyal daughter of Michigan State University. And just because I don’t follow college sports and, as a matter of fact, don’t know very much about such things, that doesn’t mean I can’t claim full bragging rights because the MSU men’s basketball team has made it to the Fantastic Four.
For those not familiar with this great tradition, a fever grips colleges all across the land at this time of year. Students abandon their scholastic pursuits and get drunk because it is spring break. But that does not concern us right now. They also abandon their scholastic pursuits and get drunk when it is Thursday. We’re not getting into that, either.
I want to talk about this magical time for college basketball that is known as The Spring Fling.
The NCAA (National Council on Avoiding studying in April) breaks the country up into 4 divisions: East, Midwest, South and West. There is no North division because the northern schools’ only sport is playing hockey against Canada. Each college plays the other schools in their division until each has a winner. Michigan State, for example, which is generally considered be in the Midwest of the contiguous United States map-wise, is in the Eastern division for basketball purposes. We play all the other Eastern teams like the one bordering the Gulf of Mexico, Louisiana.
Before any games may be played, however, every adult male in the nation (and many intrepid females) must formulate their brackets. This is a complicated process which involves calculating wins divided by losses multiplied by free throws, all carried to a power equal to the number of tattoos the point guard has. Sports fans are cautioned to keep in mind the Order of Operations rule, working from left to right except that equations within parentheses and brackets come first. That’s how they got the name. At the end of these logarithms, each person winds up with their own, personal ranking of teams going from dead last, which position they call Unable To Get Alumni Donations, to the team they think will win the whole tournament, called The Big Kahuna.
This process is so complex that many men find it necessary to abandon their work pursuits and get drunk EVEN IF THEY ARE NOT IN COLLEGE!
Formulating and betting on brackets is a vital part of the U.S. economy during this time, and it accounts for a full 67% of the Gross Domestic Product of Las Vegas. Every time anyone anywhere says they bet their team will go all the way, they have to send $50 to Antonio “Sonny” Parmigiano-Reggiano at the Sands Hotel & Casino.
The first round of games is called the Sudden Death Double Elimination. That’s also what they called it during the playoffs sophomore year, when I spent the night on the bathroom floor with a bucket after I had enjoyed the Little Caesar’s 2-for-1 anchovy pizza deal along with 5 shots of tequila. But I don’t want to talk about THAT, either. All you have to know is that MSU beat Virginia in this round to get into the Sixteen Candles.
Michigan State was unstoppable as they whupped another East coast powerhouse, Oklahoma (formerly known as a Great Plains state before they migrated East,) to advance to the Crazy Eights.
Then came Sunday’s nail-biter. That game went into overtime before MSU emerged victorious over Louisville to earn a place in the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
This weekend will be major. No, I’m not talking about the events marking the passion, death and resurrection of our lord and savior, Jesus Christ, although that’s big, too. I mean the two games on Saturday that will determine who goes to the final showdown. If MSU wins, we play for all the marbles on Monday as one of the Dynamic Duo.
This is big.
Of course it’s not as big as in 1978-79 when MSU won the Big Ten championships in football, baseball and cheer-leading, and went all the way to #1 in the country in basketball. I’m sure all the athletes worked really hard that year, but was it merely coincidence that I had just transferred in to MSU at the start of that Never-To-Be-Repeated-Year-Of-Glory? You decide.
Be sure to cheer for Michigan State this weekend. All of us loyal Spartans will sing the fight song loud and clear. And if anyone still wonders why the song is “fighting with A vim” (as in only one vim; wouldn’t it be better to have a whole bunch of vim (vims? vimi?) for the big game?) that won’t diminish our enthusiasm for our team. My money is on MSU to go all the way.
(The $50 is in the mail, Sonny.)
Go Green! Go White!