Saturday, March 6, 2010

So I Guess I'm Missing Christmas. Well, Hanukkah.

It's entirely possible that there are some people out there reading this on a regular basis who don't actually know me, but I'm highly skeptical. And if my inclinations are, in fact, correct, me pointing out on here that I'm going to Israel for 11 days on Monday is probably unnecessary, but just in case you missed the memo, I am leaving for Israel on Monday.

What does this mean for you?

Well, probably not a whole lot in your day-to-day lives. I think the vast majority of you get by without seeing or speaking to me every 24 hours, but if part of your daily routine involves reading my absolutely phenomenal musings, well you're about to take a break. I'm not sure how much internet access I'm going to have in the holy land over the next two weeks -- I'm expecting it to be almost none -- but the upshot of that is most e-mails won't be answered and it's extremely unlikely that I'll actually be able to post any blog entries.

If I do, consider it a present. From me to you.

If I have the time to post a full story before I head out -- this is looking unlikely -- I will do so Monday morning just so you have one last bit of entertainment before I'm gone.

What this all means for me, however, is that last night I realized that I will be missing perhaps the holiest of holy days on the sports calendar. Due to a massive oversight on my part, I will probably be hiking up Masada or somewhere else in the Negev at the time CBS unveils the 2010 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament Bracket.

I'm missing Selection Sunday.

This is a pretty big issue for me, and while I don't regret missing one Selection Sunday for the opportunity to take a once-in-a-lifetime trip to the Middle East, well, it's a tad jarring. Then again, maybe I've been focusing on college basketball too much. After all, as you can see to the left, my religion isn't the one that gets to have any bracket-related fun. But the unveiling of the NCAA Tournament Bracket is one of the cherished moments on the annual sports calendar, up there with Major League Baseball's Opening Day or the Super Bowl. Every single Selection Sunday for at least a decade now, I have sat by the television and waited for the moment that I got to fill out my almost certain to be incorrect predictions for March Madness.

I say certain to be incorrect because the odds of correctly predicting the entire tournament are roughly 1 in 9.22 quintillion. I, clearly, have never done this, though I ought to point out that I did correctly get the entire Final Four in 2001, picking Duke, Maryland, Arizona and Michigan State. Five years later, in the year George Mason shocked the world, I turned an almost more remarkable trick by getting all four of my Final Four teams into the Elite Eight only to see all of them lose. The year before that, I correctly tabbed the first 27 games of the tournament and finished the first round 30-2.

The two teams I missed? Kansas, which I had in the Sweet Sixteen, in an upset loss to Bucknell, and Syracuse, who I had in the Final Four, which lost in its own upset to Vermont. Without two of my deep teams, my bracket was done after one round despite my best first round ever. My hope is that I will get near a computer in enough time to fill out a bracket at some point when I'm in Israel, and Israelis are no strangers to basketball. Maccabi Tel Aviv is a noted Euroleague power, but given that I will be in the desert most of the days after the tournament field is announced I'm skeptical. To boot, I won't be watching the first day of the tournament, another one of the great sports days of the year, because I don't think my trip can afford me the time to find some sports bar in Tel Aviv that will let me watch basketball for 12 hours. Of course, given that, barring an impressive run in the Big Ten Tourney, my Northwestern Wildcats' once-promising hopes of ending their record tournament drought this year are pretty much gone, it may be just as well.

I will also be missing some birthdays while I'm gone, and for those of you who want to know how I could leave you, well, see above.

While we're on the confluence of basketball and religion, I would like to touch on one more incident some of you may have heard about last night, when the Cleveland Cavaliers distributed free snuggies to everyone in attendance at their win over the Detroit Pistons in an effort to set the Guinness World Record for most snuggies worn in one place. The disturbing part about all of this to me is not that some sports team would take advantage of their arena's size to set some remarkably goofy record. I was once part of an effort to set the record for most people crunching on potato chips at one time.

The part of this whole snuggie-related event that made me uncomfortable was that the Cavaliers wear a deep red color that en masse could be misconstrued as some sort of maroon. And the problem that comes with that, as you can see from video of the event, is that it looks like a massive gathering for some sort of doomsday cult. Seriously, what else am I supposed to think when I see 20,000 people wearing robes gathered in one place. It's either a cult preparing for the end of days or a jawa convention.

And we're not on Tatooine.

Tatooine does, however, in some ways look, I assume, like the desert in southern Israel, considering George Lucas filmed those scenes in Tunisia. And so we're back to square one. I hope all of you manage to survive without my irrepressible wit and charm until March 19th. I will try to update at some point from there if I can, but given my remote contact with the American sports scene it could be tricky. In any event, I hope all of you manage to enjoy yourselves without me until I return. Don't worry, I won't be gone too long.

Israel here I come.

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