No cheering in the Press box right?
Well, I can live with that. But right now I'm crying, mainly out of selfishness.
Let me explain.
I am very much a seasonal college basketball fan. I follow it casually for most of the year, ignore it in the fall--especially in November when they play games that are forgotten by Christmas.
Once football season is over, I start to make the transition, look at the standings, take a peek at Joey Bracket's seeds. That starts in mid-January.
By mid-February, I'm ready for March Madness, which is when I go into the full battle mode, with the ultimate challenge of getting the 68-team NCAA bracket right---which I finally did for the first time when I went 68 of 68 last season.
But my first post-football ritual every year was a simple telephone call to my long time friend Jim O'Connell, the national basketball writer for the Associated Press.
Oc was simply the best. He was Google before Google on all things concerning college basketball.
We talked all the time about a lot of things, but in January, Oc knew the call was one of those ""on the record'' conversations.
But I didn't have context to any of it. For years, I would ask Oc about who were the sleepers, write about them and then proudly claim credit when it turned out to be true.
In reality, I was closer to Sgt. Schultz of the Hogan's Hero days--I knew nothing. (Google it, Youtube it and then watch and laugh). But Oc made me smarter--at least on the surface.
This week, I was ready for the season. I was ready to find out stuff, to sound smarter than I was.
"Tell me who's good,'' was the question. And then for the next 10, 20, 30 minutes it began, conference by conference, player by player.
When it was over, I was ready for the season.
But then shit did happen. Bad shit. Oc, who had been having health issues, died last summer.
People deal with grief in different ways. You have to accept death when it happens because it happens to all of us.
For the past six months, I have tucked Oc back in the closet of my mind. The pain has eased, but the memories remain.
Now I need to vent.
It's January and it's really college basketball season. And you know what this is about.
I know that Virginia and Duke are each ranked No. 1 in different polls. I know Kansas is good again and Nevada is a semi-new face at being good.
Have two teams from the same conference ever been ranked No. 1 in two different polls during the regular season? And have they played each other as 1 and 1A?
You would know.
I need to know if the Pac-12 is as bad as it looks. Only two NCAA teams? Really.
I need to know why Villanova is still on top in the Big East. Didn't they lose a lot of players from last year's national championship team?
And St. John's? Are they that good? Who have they beaten? And, has Chris Mullen finally figured it out?
Give me your Final Four.
Where are you? I'm tempted to get in my car and drive hours to find the nearest Steak N' Shake, buy a Ouija Board and find stuff out..
God damn it, Oc. I miss you.