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despite all the ways it's been poisoned (see, for example, the rules violations by the university of michigan the penalties for which prevented them from fielding a truly competitive team from 1995 until now), the ways most everything everywhere has something rotten hidden, i still enjoy athletic achievement as exemplified by march madness in college basketball. and it's not rational, find all the reasons you'd like to dislike duke university, but i think i'll always be a fan of the duke blue devils {chasseurs do not say rouge (red) but bleu-cerise (cherry blue), except when speaking of the color of the lips of a beloved, the red in the legion of honour's insignia (including its fourragère which is called la rouge), and the red of the french flag}, despite the not infrequent occurrences where they battle my next favourites, the michigan state spartans and michigan wolverines (in that order now, though it wasn't always that way).

so when i made my prognostication regarding the bracket of 64 teams, i had to remind myself, as always, to choose with my head and not my heart (to the extent this is possible). so when i saw that three of the four best teams in the nation were all placed in the same region, that inevitably michigan state and duke would face each other in the round of sweet sixteen, i was disappointed. the later that inevitable battle could come, the better. and though my heart wanted to see michigan state succeed and move on to another national title, my head had analyzed their capabilities and found them wanting. i knew that duke would win the day. and so i picked duke. the game, you may know, was played on friday night. it's not often i watch with interest an athletic contest where i don't have or develop a rooting interest, as i did that night -- the outcome concerned me not, i only took pleasure in seeing it unfold. and then, late in the game, with duke holding a sizable lead, the sideline reporter relayed an apt tale: "when the thirteen-year-old son of michigan state coach tom izzo was prognosticating the bracket as so many of us do and his father saw he had not yet selected a winner for the msu-duke duel, tom told his son 'you gotta go with your head and not your heart'. and what did he do? he picked duke! he's a coach k fan. it left tom speechless. coach k offered him a scholarship." i think tom taught his son the wrong lesson because the goal one pursues determines when one should follow one's head. during last year's tournament i was working with my friend paul reiser, who was instrumental in my becoming acquainted with c. paul is a new yorker through and through whom cruel fate has marooned here in michigan and played basketball (mostly benchwarming) at saint bonaventure during his student days. coincidentally (?) saint bonaventure was making a rare appearance in the tournament. despite knowing small school teams like the bonnies won't go very far, despite being inclined to win some money in our office pool, i chose with my heart, predicted that the bonnies would make it all the way to the final four. even paul himself chose with his head and didn't have them winning more than one game. but i made the right choice for what was really important.




***

i was thrilled and wowed to watch the wolverines work their way past kansas on friday, and am greatly pleased that the one remaining team from kansas, one of those unheralded underdogs, are so aptly named the shockers, as the hoop dreams of wichita state banished the hated buckeyes ('oh how i hate ohio state'). i was unduly proud of my prognosticatory skill when all four of friday's winners (seeded 1,2,3,4) were correctly predicted by me (never mind that i was only correct about one of the four winners on thursday). i took great joy in hearing all the many interesting names of the players -- vander blue was a favorite.

i still hold out hope that the national championship will see a rematch of that legendary (to me) 1992 finals between duke and michigan. we will already be seeing a related rematch -- louisville plays duke on sunday, the first time rick pitino and mike krzyzewski have met in a regional final since christian laettner's shot in 1992. the truth is, though i told myself (still tell myself) i was thinking with my head, though i turned out to be right, i probably was thinking as much with my heart when i predicted duke would be michigan state -- i wanted these rematches much more than another championship for izzo. it's going to be quite a game on easter sunday.

after underdog wichita state made the final four, one player, cleanthony (shakespearean!) early stated: "it's crazy. i still can't believe we're here. you try to expect it, but you expect a lot of things that don't happen. this really happened."

i expect a lot of things that don't happen. i can't wait to see what else really happens.

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