My spring starts with college hoops championships

Bohannon didn’t call glass on that 23-footer, but that didn’t keep me from backwards somersaulting on the floor when it went down giving the Hawks a win over Indiana in the Big Ten Championship semifinals.

I couldn’t help but think of Larry Smith, the town’s most infamous retired optician. A rabid Fort Madison fan and an equally rabid Indiana fan.

Larry’s one of my favorite people because he always has time for a chat and he always, always has a smile. Odds are -200 that he was smiling even after Jordan Bohannon’s bank shot went in for the Hawkeyes, because he knew his phone was about to blow up.

Smith posted “Hoos-ier Daddy?” on social media Friday after his cream and crimson horde dismantled Illinois in a win that gave the Hawkeye faithful a slight sigh of relief. I replied, “We’ll show you Saturday.”

It’s the mayhem that is March college basketball. I can’t say the other thing for fear of someone taking my camera and computer with a cease-and-desist order.

The feed from CBS through KHQA where I was watching the game was less than perfect. But hey, I had laundry to do so at least they provided some chances to rotate the clothes when the screen went blank.

Talk about your madness.

I left the room several times to work on chores telling my wife it was over – the Hawkeyes were out of sync and wouldn’t rebound. Actually, I feel like I can remove the hex when I leave the room. It actually works more than you might think. Chuck luck.

But not much unlike the miracle in Minneapolis, they came back. I left the room in that football game several times as well.

Now it’s time for the brackets. It’s one of my favorite times of the year. It always coincides with spring cleaning, although with all the grants due, stories to write, and track and soccer just around the corner, spring cleaning may have to wait. And I can’t get into it with snow on the ground, anyway.

But it’s wonderful to open the windows, breathe in the spring air and have three or four games going on at the same time. Watching the brackets and all the last-second buzzer-beaters that are the hallmark of late March college hoops. This year’s going to have be Hulu replays and ESPN because I have an office job now. What was I thinking?

I’m a big baseball fan too, but I was really kinda hoping for a shortened season this year. I love going into Cincinnati and taking in a couple games over a weekend and hitting downtown for Jack Brown’s Beer and Burger Joint.

Jack Brown’s is one of those places and if you get a chance, get in there. Burgers are homestyle and the sweet potato fries are like candy. It’s a microbrew but they have a limited listing because they make it in small batches and move it regionally to maintain freshness. You gotta go.

But I was fine thinking the season might be 130 games or so. Everything in moderation right?

The college basketball post-season just can’t be taken in moderation, though. There are brackets to monitor and contests to play and maybe a parlay here or there. Which is stupid gambling because it’s hard enough to win one game with the odds in the bookmakers’ favor. But trying to stack games is not practicing moderation.

Even taking all those things out, it’s the upsets. It’s the buzzer-beaters and the emotion. Heck, it’s even the music that CBS and TBS and TNT pump in that gets your blood going. I like listening to Bill Rafferty and Gus Johnson and the rest.

I think about our local coaches and what they are thinking when Iowa’s playing sluggish or Duke’s getting beat. I lovingly look at my wife when she screams that no one rebounds anymore. Today she said, why would you give the ball to anyone else but Keegan (Murray). Just give it to him every damn time.

I love that. She’s a tennis junkie. She wanted to start a magazine and have me travel around to the tournaments covering princy, spoiled brat, social elitist tennis players. No thanks. But she did have a great name for it…Ten-Issue.

She also has more Vikings gear now, which is bitter and sweet. I love that she wears purple and gold but I feel bad that I’ve burdened her with that heavy curse. She’s a Cubs fan so she knows the pain of a curse.

So I sit ready for the selection night tonight and beg for a nice position for the Hawkeyes that I’ve been rooting for since the days of Steve Krafcisin and Kenny Arnold back in the late 70s. The days of Michael Payne, Greg Stokes, Todd Berkenpas, Jeff Moe, Roy Marble, Ed Horton, Bobby Hanson, Kenny Boyle, and on and on and on.

So again, I will pick my brackets not with much education, but heart. I like the Hawks and will again be emotional about them getting to the final four. If they don’t win today, the draw will make it tough.

And then it’s all about the underdogs, picking just the right ones and then bragging about it for a few days. That’s why it’s madness.

And speaking of madness, I put my new hopped up Canon in the hands of a 6-year-old named Lincoln Freeman Saturday at Burlington Notre Dame, and he had a blast trying to capture some of the dunks from area seniors during the Senior Game.

I can’t help it, this kid is way too cute and so – some of his pictures are in tomorrow’s e-Edition – But that’s Beside the Point.

Chuck Vandenberg is editor and co-owner of Pen City Current and can be reached at

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