My children know that during this time of year - during the college hoops tournament -- they better occupy themselves by playing in the street -- or whatever it is they do when a tournament game is on -- or they need to join the madness to which their father and I so deeply subscribe. They're either for us or against us. In past years, the girls have scampered in and out during games saying things like, "What team do you want to win?" "Why are you yelling at the TV?" "Pretty uniforms!" This year was the first that Maya was interested in the tournament beyond the neat mascots and making fun of cheerleaders. During the Georgetown/UNC game, both Maya and Mina were (almost) riveted by the second half in which the momentum swung from one team to another. Husband and I were rooting for the Georgetown Hoyas mainly because in a surreal display of a skipped-generation, parrallel universe, Patrick Ewing Jr. plays on this Georgetown team and John Thompson Jr. coaches. Their fathers, in the same exact roles, were part of the Georgetown team in the 80's. It makes a great story. And Maya decided to jump on the Hoyas bandwagon. She said to Husband, "Y'know, GTown's in Washington DC," which I had told her a few days earlier. Husband raised his eyebrows. My heart soared. Mina said she wanted UNC to win and we said, "Whatever. You're dead to us." Mina skipped around most of the game saying MyTeamIsWiiiinnnningMyTeamIsWiiiinnnnnning which following the Oregon loss (I had them going all the way) was making mommy want to drop kick something.
With about seven minutes left, Georgetown was down my ten and Maya took to yelling things like, "AH, REBOUND!" and "Don't panic, boys!" She threw her hands up, frustrated. We all stared at a dead-serious Patrick Ewing, Sr. on the TV screen, in the stands, for the 48th billion time. Then I said, in my tourney-seasoned way, "Maya, it ain't ever over until the buzzer sounds in college hoops." Mina had gone to her room at this point, self satisfied, but when she heard us whoopin and hollerin for the tremdous comeback Georgetown was making, she sauntered back out, now in dress up clothes. She was still chanting MyTeamIsWinning until she saw that the score was tied at the end of regulation. "AH MAN," she yelled. We yelled back, "Yea, Mina, what's up your precious Tyler Hansbrough now? You're so going down!" Instead of going back to her room -- she was wearing princess shoes and a Lucy Ricardo dress and a tiara -- she sat and watched the rest of the game and yelled at the TV until Georgetown had won the game by ten. Then Maya asked, "How much does it cost to get in your pool?" I said, "20 bucks." She said, "Ok.". Husband added, "Of your OWN money."
An obsession may have been born with Maya yesterday. And it was born during a Georgetown game where a Patrick Ewing was on the roster and a John Thompson was listed as the coach. The mind-bending irony to this is not lost on me because my own obsession for this tournament also began precisely during a Georgetown game. In 1985, I was a senior in high school and a starting guard for my varsity basketball team (holla'). One of my after-school jobs was as a hostess at a place called Carlos & Pepe's, which was an establishment made from the El Torito mold. I worked the night that Georgetown upset Villanova. I remember that the TV's, which hung in the corners of the bar, shook on the hinges as the second half unfolded. I remember staring at the screen, menus in hand, watching the senior Patrick Ewing and John Thompson beat the odds. I ignored customers -- they may have eventually sat themselves -- until every second ticked off the clock. The celebration of them winning -- the level at which they triumphed in their own ability to pull off an upset and prove disbelievers wrong -- had a profound impact on me.
That's all I got.