I appear on television regularly as a political pundit and often quote my friend Andy from Wisconsin for his cogent libertarian viewpoints. Andy is a peripatetic financier, philosopher sportsman and self-described "flow trader" in business and life. On Thursday, March 22, Andy commandeered a diverse group of middle-aged men, loaded us onto a Citation X jet and took us to Boston for a weekend of NCAA basketball.
We arrived in Boston at 4 p.m., checked into the Taj Hotel and shortly thereafter we were at the bar for a friendly discussion that encompassed sports, politics, religion and finally, which college player has the coolest name: Rakeem Christmas (Syracuse) or God's Gift Achiuwa (St. John's). Many of us were meeting for the first time, and it reminded me of a college road trip, although with less drinking, better food and much nicer accommodations. To paraphrase an old school chum: It was a successful gathering -- no one was arrested or sent to the hospital.
When we were all heading for the TD Garden on the T, it was packed with people wearing shirts representing Syracuse, Wisconsin, Ohio State, and Cincinnati. I felt like I was part of a rolling underground sports talk show, without any of the usual bombast. We watched two games that night which set the stage for the winners -- Syracuse and Ohio State -- to play on Saturday, March 24.
On Feb. 8 this year, I covered the Duke-UNC game, which the Blue Devils won in the final second. After that game, Coach Mike Krzyzewski said, "In the NCAA, anything can happen," and that certainly seemed to be the case for the nail-biter we watched on Saturday night. Fans from both schools were there in force but more than any rivalry, I felt a common love for the game and a continual buzz in the air. Ohio State won the game and afterwards there was a great deal commiserating about what might have been over a beer or two.
Much has been written lately about the NCAA, most of it critical, and I agree that changes and reforms are needed, but this in no way diminishes my love for college sports. My friend John aptly stated: "Each season offers us hope and a chance for redemption." I enjoyed a great time with a wonderful group of guys and the most unique thing about the weekend was it was my first trip to Boston where I wasn't forced to go shopping or visit a museum. The trip would have been perfect, except I somehow found the only cab driver in the city who couldn't locate the Boston Common (and my hotel), but I've certainly met many of his associates in New York City.
My friend Brian McCabe summed up March Madness: "The electricity I felt at the games this weekend was something special." A room at The Taj, dinner at Grill 23 and a Citation X Jet definitely supplied an extra jolt.