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I picked Taylor up from her friend’s house yesterday and while I was waiting in the doorway her friend’s father Tom, who happens to be a good guy asked me about my brackets.

“How’s your brackets?” he asked.

“You know, I have a few favorites and a few underdogs.” I answered.

Taylor, sitting on the floor in front of us tying her shoe laces chimed in, “what the heck’s a bracket?”

I looked down at her, and was about to explain but scolded her instead.

“TAYLOR, easy girl, I’ll explain when we get in the car” (she has this bad habit of cutting me off while engaged in a conversation with someone).

The brackets, NCAA tournament, March Madness, pool…whatever you like to call it.  I will tell you this, I love it.  It’s a great time of year.  64 teams, interesting match-ups, upsets, blowouts… beginning yesterday,  all the way through April.

The next couple of weeks are what some call the greatest time in sports.

Many years ago the best NCAA tournament contest I ever entered was introduced to me by the late Danny Mills.  There are many different pools and contests to enter.  I would get in so many; one year I filled out 10 brackets!  Danny was one of the bartenders up at Farrell’s.  I think I was 14 years old, one day I was hanging out on the stoop outside Farrell’s filling out my brackets for a contest sponsored by the Daily News trying to figure out who to pick.  Danny came out of the bar after a long days work on his way home.

“Here kid, try this contest” he said as he tossed a sheet towards me.

I looked at it for a moment and didn’t quite get it.  After looking at it a bit closer I realized all I had to do was pick the Final Four…for only  $10!

“Gimme two” I said to Danny as he began to explain the rules to me.

It was Wednesday so I knew the picks had to be in soon.

“And don’t worry, you have until Friday at noon”, Danny added before getting in his car and pulling away.

Friday? What about if my team loses on Thursday? Plus how was I gooing to come up with $20.  I could pay someone back with my winnings.  Damn, all I need to do is pick the Final Four…that’s easy.

Not exactly.

Sure enough, a team I picked for the Final Four lost on the opening day but I was able to do the one sheet over and fill someone else in.  That Friday morning, I walked in the back door at Farrell’s and handed Danny my $20 and two sheets with my Final Four picks.

Long story short, I lost…on both sheets.

Each March I looked forward to entering the $10 pool but I never won.  Never came close.  Actually one year I had three teams right but UNLV hurt me.  The Final Four pool since has been halted.  I believe the NYPD became privy to the action out of a Staten Island tavern and shut it down.  It was the biggest NCAA tournament pool in New York.

The NCAA tournament has many people interested; folks who know nothing about sports.  Offices conduct their pools, I see contests in newspapers and on-line websites offer up to a million dollars in prize money.  These days all I do is grab the newspaper on Monday morning, look over the teams and fill out my brackets.  No contest, no money-making pools,  for amusement only.

Last night I called Taylor over and even though a few games were already complete, I had her fill out a bracket.

Earlier that day she asked me a question and not only did I answer it, I showed her what a bracket is.  I wonder if my introduction to the NCAA tournament will be the same for Taylor.

Oh yeah, for the record, I have Louisville, Memphis, Pitt and UNC in the Final Four with Memphis and Pitt in the Finals.

Good luck!

-SF

Hoops135@hotmail.com