Update 1 – 12:28pm
I just arrived at the Downingtown chapter of Buffalo Wild Wings, one of my favorite establishments in these United States. It was here that I enjoyed almost every NFL Sunday this season. It was here that I bought a round of Jameson shots for strangers when the Seahawks miraculously tied the Packers in the NFC Championship to force overtime, and then picked up those strangers in pure elation after RUSSELL HUSTLE BUSTLE WILSON won the game, prompting another round of Jameson shots.
I have often said that this is my happiest place on Earth. Give me $50 and a full slate of sports at BWW, and I might as well be on vacation in Hawaii for a week. This is the shit that I live for.
Further, the first day of March Madness is filled with magic. Sixteen games with everything on the line. Upsets galore. And brackets. My beautiful, beautiful brackets. There is a calm that takes hold of the country as the first games begin and we await the inevitable busting of our bracket. We all know that our picks are soon to be doomed, but in this beautiful, fleeting moment, there is hope. There is an aspiration for perfection that feels somewhat attainable, even if we know it to be false.
I love today. Every year I love today. Spring is popping out, and hope is in the air both outside and on the courts. We live in a beautiful world.
Currently, Northeastern and Notre Dame is the only game live, tied at 11 with 11 minutes left in the first half. I am thankful for this stretch of ease before the totality of Madness ensues. I need to catch up on other writing before the 2 o’clock games tip, and all of a sudden we’re live with like six games running simultaneously, and I’m still looking at my computer half the time.
You might be thinking to yourself, “Tyler, this is sort of ridiculous and pathetic. You’re spending the entire day inside a restaurant day-drinking, watching basketball, and typing, and are trying to share that experience?”
To which I would respond: “Exactly.”
Full disclosure: I am currently unemployed. I have the unique opportunity of spending all day inside a bar day-drinking and typing and watching the greatest tournament known to man. Because I have this unique opportunity, I am attempting to take full advantage of it. Someday soon, I will be employed, and I will be unable to do ridiculous things like this. And when that day comes, I hope that some other young go-getting degenerate is fighting the good fight with his computer at a bar with a plate full of wings. But until that day comes, it’s my responsibility to live this life. I want to invite you to live through me during these upcoming hours.
Hang out with me through your screens today. Allow me and my writing to be open in that tab that you minimize when your boss walks by, next to your bracket and ESPN’s live scoreboard. We are here together to celebrate one of the world’s greatest treasures: high stakes amateur athleticism.
As I was writing that last bit, Iowa State and UAB has tipped off and the Cyclones are attempting to put it away early, leading 12-4 after seven minutes. Northeastern and Notre Dame are tied at 22 with four minutes left in the first half. Could Northeastern be our first buster? I don’t know, but I know where I’ll be when we find out.
Update 2 – 2:33pm
Notre Dame has officially notched the first victory of the 2015 NCAA tournament. (Side note: Play-in games do not count and I will fight anyone that wants to argue this point). The win came in a nailbiter, with Northeastern fighting until the end. With the ball and down only two with ten seconds left, a Northeastern guard missed a WIDE OPEN teammate underneath the basket, and the possession ended in a turnover. Sort of a bummer.
But the Madness continues! I was joined by my friend Chris. He does not know much about college basketball but was willing to learn and excited at the prospect of sixty-five cent boneless wings. Currently, UAB-Iowa State has our attention. UAB just hit a three to take a one point lead with 52 seconds left. I have no idea what my brackets look like right now (I stayed up until 7am this morning making my bracket of brackets, to be published ASAP), so I don’t know how bad an Iowa State loss would hurt me, but I’m pretty sure I had them final four bound in at least a few of the brackets that I submitted to money leagues.
Iowa State hits a floater to take a one point lead. 30 seconds left.
UAB responds with a jumper. 20 seconds left. Dear God this is the best.
After an inbound, an Iowa State forward tried to challenge a double-team for a layup. He failed, UAB ball, Cyclones foul to force a 1-and-1, UAB hits both. Cyclones down three with 7.5 seconds left. Timeout. Across the bar I hear the first “There goes my bracket!” of the day. This is the best.
Iowa State gets an okay look at a three, it bounces wayyyyyy high off the rim before a teammate tips in the rebound for two. Doesn’t matter, only half a second left. UAB is our first bracket buster and life is beautiful.
We have two games in the books and I have five boneless honey-barbecue wings in my belly. Other games live right now: Arizona taking care of business against Texas Southern in the first half, Baylor is getting a fight from Georgia State, with the Bears only up three at the half. Texas-Butler will tip in approximately seven minutes. What a time to be alive.
Update 3 – 3:32pm
We are in full Madness mode now. Four games happening concurrently. Baylor is pulling away from Georgia State although it had been pretty close the whole way. Arizona is putting the hurt on Texas Southern. Texas-Butler is a close one and closing in on halftime, and UCLA-SMU is closer than I want it to be because I am very against UCLA right now. Also, I am absolutely exhausted. I only slept about three hours last night and in addition to writing this ish, I also just burnt out 2,000 words on my annual bracket of brackets. It’s draining. Thankfully, Chris and I are ordering another round of Mich Ultras and relaxing a bit with the Madness.
I look up and realize I spoke to soon on Georgia State. They are only down three with twenty seconds left, at the line shooting a 1-and-1. Sinks the first. Misses the second. They foul immediately but it’s only a 1-and-1 for Baylor as well. Now a two point game. Baylor misses! State has no timeouts. A guard spots up for three and I scream out loud “FROM OUTER SPACE!” and it swishes through the net. Georgia State is up one with 2.5 seconds left. We are looking at two 14 seed-3 seed upsets in the span of an hour. MADNESS IS THE BEST.
Baylor inbounds and settles for an awful shot from halfcourt. I really cannot believe this.
I have no idea how my brackets are doing. I’ll try and let you in on that with the next update. H/T to SB Nation for the Vines.
Sports are the best.
Update 4 – 6:00pm
I want to take a moment to appreciate how dope Buffalo Wild Wings is. I’ve been here for five hours now and the staff is changing shifts. My bartender Sarah was brilliant and never gave me any side-eye when I ordered gross amounts of wings and beers all while drooling over my keyboard. Also, managers Joe and Mike have been super accommodating. I was a bit nervous that my constant presence would mess with table rotation or I would be preventing a staff member of making the guap they rightfully deserve, but everyone has been super cool. The room has never been over half capacity, so I have never felt intrusive. Also, the wings today have been dope.
But shameless unpaid plugs aside, WHAT A DAY IN BASKETBALL. UCLA had been up on SMU for the majority of the first half, then SMU had something like a 17-0 run getting to a seven point lead with around two minutes left. The Bruins then storm back and with the ball down two with less than 30 seconds left. Then, this happened.
Goaltending is the worst. I don’t think that’s a goal tend, but my opinion is rarely correct and even more rarely matters in the eyes of the NCAA. It does spark ambitious investigative debate between myself, Chris, and a few other bar patrons. These are my people, and this is why sports are dope. Across the bar, a man that was wearing an SMU sweatshirt has walked out in silence. At the end of SMU’s run, one which was capped with a steal to an open layup to give the seven point lead, he had exclaimed, “That’s it!” and clapped his hands. I feel for him. I hope the rest of his day goes okay.
In other tournament news, we’ve hit the midday lull and things are a beautiful calm. Xavier has a twelve point lead on Ole Miss at the half and VCU is bringing their HAVOC to Ohio State, up ten as they near the end of the first. A few more games have gone final: Butler took down Texas and Zona came down hard on Texas Southern. Once the two games that are currently live go final, we will officially be halfway home on the first day of March Madness. I have eaten 15 boneless wings and am on my third Mich Ultra. I do not know why I haven’t switched to a better beer, but maybe I am watching my figure. Who knows.
As Chris and I comment on the VCU game, we’re joined by Gideon, another BWW manager, and start shooting the shit about basketball in general. We talk MJ and Scottie, Villanova, the Golden State Warriors, and whether or not the Atlanta Hawks have the wherewithal to take down the Cavs in a seven game series. While there is much debate, we are all in agreement that VCU should take out OSU and may be a force to come in the tourny. Again, these are my people.
Also, I promised an update on how my brackets were doing. Not great. If you hadn’t heard, I made a bracket of brackets in order to determine which bracket to use in my leagues. The bracket that ended up winning was formed by picking Names From A Hat. That bracket had Iowa State in the Sweet Sixteen and Baylor in the Elite Eight. So, rough stretch there. But spirits are still high! I’m on ounces 60-80 of Mich Ultra and I feel loose and fantastic. Xavier is about to put away Ole Miss for good, and VCU and Ohio State looks like it’s going to stay close for the duration.
Update 5 – 7:13pm
The late games are creeping upon us as 7pm approaches. Nova-Lafayette has tipped off with Nova immediately taking control. I’m very much looking forward to Cinci-Purdue which is scheduled to start momentarily. As of right now though, VCU-OSU is still terrifyingly close, 66-66 with 48 seconds left. This is the stuff nightmares are made of.
Ohio State wastes a possession. VCU brings the ball up and sits on it until there’s only eight seconds left. They had timeouts but chose not to use them. A guard drives the lane, is met by a defender, puts up the floater, and it doesn’t go.
WE’RE HEADING TO OVERTIME.
The teams trade baskets in the first minute of OT and VCU takes a timeout. I say out loud, (a bit too loudly) “OH, now you want a timeout.” and a few of the heads at the bar turn to see who the snarky kid is. I realize I am a little bit tipsy. The Mich Ultras are getting to me. Whatever. I just want VCU to win. I don’t even know if I have them in my bracket, I’m just a big fan of HAVOC.
This is another aspect of the bracket of brackets that I enjoy: the process basically warps my brain inside, outside, through, and around every possible bracket configuration imaginable, to a point that it just becomes a blur. It allows me to simply enjoy the competition. Instead of being bummed when my bracket gets busted, I’m much more likely to react as “OH! Georgia State won?! DOPE.” because after seeing as many weird brackets as I have seen, you’re into weird things happening in real life. I am able to let go and simply let the bracket fall as it will.
I am envious of those who can tap into this zen-like basketball viewing state without creating 16 brackets first.
OSU has the ball and a three point lead with 48 seconds left. During the possession, VCU is playing the tightest defense that I have ever seen in collegiate basketball. They are asking to get flown by on a drive, but OSU won’t bite, choosing instead to milk clock. VCU gets the stop, crosses midcourt, and takes another timeout. I have never been this mad at Shaka Smart. WHY DIDN’T HE TAKE THE TIMEOUT AT THE END OF REGULATION. Whatever.
They inbound, take an awful attempt at a three, and they lose. Blerg. Gideon has had it with this. “This is upset central man.” he says as he walks away to continue managing. He’s not wrong.
But hey, on the bright side, gambling:
Have I mentioned that I love sports?
Update 6 – 7:59pm
And the late slate has begun. It does not feel like I have been at this Buffalo Wild Wings for over seven hours, but that is a true aspect of my reality, which is sort of cool to think about. I want to order more wings, but am unsure of how aware the night staff is of how many boneless boys I’ve already consumed, and I don’t want any of them thinking I am as gross of a human being as I actually am. Some of them are really cute. Regardless, I’ll probably be getting more wings soon.
Nova is at halftime trouncing the sixteen seed that was brought out as sacrifice to the NCAA Gods. On other screens, Purdue and Cinci are playing close, as expected, and UNC seems to be toying with Harvard before killing them for good, but that game is still early, and I’ve already spoken too soon like four times today already.
With the Nova game at halftime, we are blessed with Chuck, Kenny, and Greg Gumbel recapping the day so far for us. It was quite a day, and I am hyped for the potential of a Barkley #hottake. They show highlights of the SMU game and include a soundbite from Larry Brown’s postgame presser. He is very sad and I feel bad for him. I wish that dude didn’t get called for goaltending, but whatever, sports are gonna sport.
On another TV, collegiate wrestling is on and has captured Chris’ attention. I attempt to watch but I quickly realize that there is not a sport on the planet I know less about than actual wrestling. Off the top of my head, I know more about cricket, polo, and Aussie rules football. Did you know wrestling has three two-minute periods? Or that you can go up 15-0 on a guy and they just end the match like you do in your friends basement with ping-pong?
Sports are crazy.
Also, sports are brutal.
Update 7 – 8:28pm
My parents showed up unannounced. This is very classic them. They are trying to work their way into one of my columns, and I won’t give them the satisfaction. I will continue writing as if they weren’t here. This is me trying to be professional. Or escape my childhood. It’s probably about 50/50.
Nova is cruising, and that is comforting. Even though they’re just doing what they were supposed to, it’s still nice to see, especially since I have them winning it all in one bracket I’ve entered into a money league. They are probably going to score 100 points in this game, which is insane in college basketball. Elsewhere on the TVs, Purdue-Cinci is still tight as the second half is underway, and after an 11-0 run got the Harvard Crimson back into contention against UNC, the Tar Heels took back the advantage and are up eleven at the half.
Villanova goes final and the Wildcats finish with 93 points. The audio at BWW was on a different game, but I’m assuming Jay Wright threw some seniors in to play the last five minutes. On another screen, Utah has opened up a seven point lead against SF Austin, with hopes of dashing the hopes of us idiots who forced a 12 seed upset into our brackets. On the screen next to them Purdue and Cincinnati is still a one point game. I haven’t had all my attention on the game, but it seems like every time I check the score the leading team is up by no more than four points. This game is great because these kids are giving their all and playing each other super close to decide who gets killed by Kentucky in two days. Sports are hilarious.
Update 8 – 9:05pm
Purdue is up one with 3:30 left in the game. They officially have my attention. Harvard is slowly clawing back at the UNC lead, but I already made a written commitment of my attention to Purdue-Cinci in the previous sentence, and I am a man of my word. The Bearcats and Boilermakers trade baskets, but Purdue’s was a triple so they’ve extended their lead to two, 51-49.
Purdue hits another three coming out of commercial break. Cinci timeout. They need points here or the game might be lost. Close games can turn to not close games real quick in the last minute of a game. But to be fair, the opposite is also true. Out the timeout, Purdue gets the stop, but then makes the worst pass I’ve seen all day to give the ball right back, but THEN Cinci misses a gimme layup. Just ten seconds of awful basketball. Very disheartening.
I look up and Harvard has cut their deficit to three points with four minutes left. Jesus Christ Madness is the dopest.
I look up again and Harvard is now only down two with the ball. After a stoppage to check possession, Cinci gets the ball and hits a shot, now only down two with like 40 seconds left. The two screens I’m watching these games on are rather far apart and I am keeping my head on a swivel. Purdue-Cinci goes to commercial. Harvard misses a shot but comes down with the offensive rebound after some chaos for the ball. Harvard hits a three for their first lead of the game, 1:15 left. He was fouled on it too. Hits the free throw.
This is awsome. Cinci-Purdue back from commercial, and Purdue is shooting free throws. I don’t know why. The hit both and go up three.
UNC ties the game, and they go to timeout.
Cinci hits a quick two and fouls again. Purdue at the line for a 1-and-1. Misses the first. 20 seconds left. Cinci down one. Guard tries to drive baseline, makes a bad pass and loses it out of bounds.
Harvard shoots a three, misses, and UNC beats them on the break for a two point lead. 11 seconds left there.
8 seconds left for Cinci down one. 11 seconds left for UNC, up two. Shooting 1-and-1 UNC misses the first and Harvard brings the ball down and spots for a three that comes close to banking in. It doesn’t . Game over. UNC wins.
Purdue is in double bonus but still misses the first. Needs to make the second to go up two. He sinks it. Cinci ball down two with 7.4 seconds left. Timeout Bearcats.
On another screen LSU-NC State tipped off.
Cinci drives the court. Puts up a layup. Buzzer sounds. The ball circles the rim. Lips out………
AND LIPS BACK IN.
WE’RE GOING TO OVERTIME.
You can’t make this shit up.
Again, sports are the best.
Update 9 – 9:40pm
Purdue and Cinci trade baskets to open OT. It’s amazing how fast the first two minutes of extra time go when compared to the final minute. Completely different basketball experiences.
I look over and realize that there are only ten minutes left in SF Austin-Utah. This is crazy. The score is only 38-30. Defense wins championships. I guess.
Purdue gets fouled shooting down one with 1:30 left, going to the line for two. Misses the first. Misses the second. Heavy sigh. But Purdue gets the stop! Only to have a kid trying to make a hero dunk blow it hard. But then they get another stop! And a different kid trying to be a hero air balls a three. Cinci makes a quick bucket and are now up three with 21 ticks left. Purdue misses the three attempt, gets the offensive rebound, and spins for a layup. Seven seconds left down one, timeout. They will look to foul immediately, forcing a Cinci 1-and-1.
Cinci misses the front end, Purdue gets the bound and drives the floor and…spots up for a three?! He had a second to work with and the lane looked open to me, but he spotted and missed. Bearcats survive and advance to get mauled by the Wildcats this Saturday.
I look up. There are two games live. SF Austin has closed the gap to five against Utah. LSU-NC State is close in the first half.
I need more exhales. I’ll see you later.
Update 10 – 10:14pm
Ray showed up! I got extra backup now and feel good. It does not feel like I have been sitting in the same restaurant for ten hours.
SF Austin has cut their deficit to Utah to three with a minute left. LSU-NC State is about to go to halftime with LSU leading comfortably. SF misses a three but slaps the long rebound back out to the perimeter and maintain possession. Drive the lane and gets the foul. Going to the line for two with 41 seconds left. They make one and establish a mean full court press, but it leads to a foul on the floor. Utah is in teh double bonus and shooting two. 30 seconds left. Makes both. Utes up four. Timeout on the floor.
On another screen, Kentucky is preparing to annihilate Hampton. Sorry Hampton. Life is hard.
On another screen, Arkansas-Wofford is almost halfway through the first and still close.
SF Austin has a three rim out and is forced to foul again, down four with 15 seconds left. Utah misses the first, makes the second. SF Austin misses another three and it looks like it’s all over. Utah hits both and the game is final.
Update 11 – Friday, 12:34pm
Upon Ray’s arrival, we ordered a final round of beers and boneless wings and settled in to simply watch basketball. After toggling my attention between four screens in the restaurant and my computer which holds infinite screens within it, there was something extremely comforting about just watching one game like a normal person. Our attention was kept by the LSU-NC State game, which ended like this:
Another last second shot for the win. Another one-point game in the greatest single-elimination tournament on the planet. In fact…
Yup. On arguably the most competitive initial day in NCAA tournament history, I watched basketball for eleven straight hours at my place of worship. Ray and I left while Georgetown had a comfortable lead over E Washington and Kentucky was still in slaughter mode. As we stood outside the B-Dubs, smoking a final cigarette to cap the day, a car peeled out of the lot and looped around to pass us.
“My friend thinks you’re hot!”
The car never stops moving and accelerates as soon as the words are out of her mouth.
I had just spent eleven hours in a bar watching sports, yelling at screens filled with players that can’t hear me. I had eaten close to 50 boneless wings and drunk something like six Mich Ultras. I would be hard-pressed to find a moment in my life where I felt more unattractive than that when that girl decided to catcall me, but whatever works. I’m into girls saying nice things about me.
I went home and unplugged from brackets, watching Broad City, Man Seeking Woman, and Archer in succession and allowed the buffalo sauce and basketball to seep out of my mind, knowing that I would wake up this morning to a brand new day and a brand new slate of games.
Right now, Kansas is up big on NM State, and UGA-Michigan State just tipped off. I will not be live-blogging today. I will enjoy basketball and pray for my brackets.
And I won’t eat another buffalo wing for at least a week.