Charlie Bertsch (cbertsch) wrote,
Charlie Bertsch

The Madness Within

The NCAA men's basketball tournament kicks off tomorrow. I've tuned in to each final since the famous 1979 contest featuring Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, and plenty of preliminary games as well. Even when I didn't have a television, I managed to see Michigan beat Seton Hall in an overtime thriller and UNLV eviscerate Duke. When I was an exchange student in Germany, I placed an expensive call to George Michael's Sports Machine -- 202-362-4444 was the number, I believe -- to find out who had prevailed in the Final Four and then listened to the closing minutes of Indiana's defeat of Syracuse on Armed Forces Radio, even though I had to set my alarm to wake up in the middle of the night in order to do so. I remember Penn's improbable triumph over the Tar Heels in 1979, St. Joe's shocking first-round upset of De Paul, Derek Wittenberg missing the basket so badly that he made the perfect pass. I remember rooting for Ralph Sampson's Cavs, only to be disappointed in the end. I remember what Michael Graham did for Patrick Ewing. I remember the astonishing title game in which Villanova somehow overcame the Hoyas a year later. I remember how the Terps underperformed in the tourney, even though Len Bias was in uniform. I remember Bo Kimble's left-handed free throws as a tribute to fallen teammate Hank Gathers. The list goes on and on: Forty Minutes of Hell, Toby Bailey's reverse slam, Rick Pitino's scarily good Kentucky Teams, John Wallace willing the Orange back to the finals, Bryce Drew's game-winner, Arthur Lee playing out of his mind in the last minute to get Stanford in the Final Four, the great Connecticut-Duke final, Arizona winning in 1997 and coming close in 2001, Carmelo and Gerry and Hakeem Warrick too finally bringing Jim Boeheim a much deserved title. I remember little details that barely made the highlight reels in the first place, like the missed free throw that made Drew's basket possible, Wallace's amazing cross-court passes, the meanness of Teddy Dupay. And I remember Cal, of course, in extreme and sometimes excruciating detail: the defeat of Duke, first and foremost, Jason Kidd's game winner in the previous game against LSU, the horror of the following year, when Dick Bennett's Wisconsin-Green Bay team sent us packing, the lackluster performance against Iowa State, the stirring teamwork the following year as Tony Gonzalez and Randy Duck stepped it up in Ed Gray's absence to get the Bears back to the Sweet Sixteen, the too-long arms of Melvin Ely, Joe Shipp's dunk and the second-half collapse, Richard Midgely's three to beat N.C. State and the loss to that same school in Leon Powe's last year. The point is, I really do remember. It's noteworthy, then, as I gear up for tomorrow with more melancholy and less trepidation than usual, that I worry that my memory banks are too full for new data. Maybe that's why I'm writing this, to free up space. Maybe I just needed to remind myself how much I care, even though I know that I would be better served caring a little more for myself and a little less for life on the hardwood.
Tags: analysis, autobiography, everyday, sports

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