Dead Skunk

Greetings From The Booth!

The Hornets are still playing baseball! Congrats to Kevin Anderson’s 34-10-1 squad, who rolled through the ODAC tournament this past weekend and captured their 4th league title, and now will make their 12th appearance in the NCAA Division-3 baseball tournament. On top of that, SU will host the opening round Regional tournament this coming Friday through Sunday at the newly-renovated Bridgeforth Field at Jim Barnett Park in Winchester. The other 3 teams are Stevens Tech, Catholic (DC) University, and St. Joseph. The Hornets will open Friday against St. Joe at 11am, kicking off what should be a great weekend of baseball. I urge everyone to come out and fill the stands and cheer on the Hornets!

I’ve been asked to do the public address announcing for some of the games this weekend, and look forward to returning to my announcing roots, so to speak. I am the long-time PA announcer for Shenandoah basketball (as well as the play-by-play voice for Hornet football), and that is my comfort zone. It’s been a long, long time since I’ve done public address duties from a baseball press box, so let’s take a trip back to the mid-70’s.

As a 14-15 year old playing in the Martinsburg (WV) Senior Little League, my love for baseball extended beyond the diamond up to the press box at Pikeside Field. I also had a love for radio announcing, and always dreamed of being a baseball play-by-play broadcaster. I used to simulate games into a tape recorder, using TV “white noise” as the crowd. The next best thing to doing PBP was PA announcing, and I was fortunate enough to be allowed to handle those duties on nights that I wasn’t playing. I was in heaven, putting my own style and spin on the announcements, starting lineups, etc.

But the thing that got the most comments and attention was my “5th inning stretch” song (games were only 7 innings, so there was no 7th inning stretch). In the booth at Pikeside was a record player, wired in to the PA system. This was used for the National Anthem, and songs between innings, usually pop hits of the day. I somehow stumbled upon the song “Dead Skunk” by Loudon Wainwright III, a fun, nonsensical tune about, you guessed it, roadkill. I decided to play it between innings one evening, and I could see everyone looking up into the booth with either an amused or puzzled expression. I played it again the next game, and the ritual picked up steam, finally becoming the 5th inning stretch song of the Martinsburg Senior Little League (at least when I was doing PA). The song became our version of the Baltimore Orioles’ “Thank God I’m A Country Boy.”

I’m not sure you’ll hear Dead Skunk this weekend at Bridgeforth Field, as someone else will be handling the music, but when I make my way up to the booth on Saturday, I’ll be looking for that record player…

Until the next visit from The Booth…GO HORNET BASEBALL!!!

RW

Closing The Deal

Greetings From The Booth!

I’m writing this week’s blog only because I didn’t put anything down on Rich Strike in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby. Shoulda, coulda, woulda…

Then, there was one…

Most of Shenandoah University’s athletic teams have finished up their Spring seasons, except for some last chance qualifiers for Track & Field, and of course, Baseball. The number 21/28 Hornets are now 31-10-1 after sweeping Hampden-Sydney in their first-round ODAC tournament series. It’s now on to High Point, NC, for the 4-team double elimination ODAC Championship. Good luck to Kevin Anderson’s Hornets this weekend!

Well, the Washington Capitals let one slip away Monday night, and it very well may come back to bite them in the you-know-where. Leading top-seeded Florida 2-games-to-1 in their best of seven opening round Stanley Cup playoff series, and leading Game 4 2-1 in the third period, the Caps gave up a late goal in regulation, and then lost in OT 3-2. The series is now tied at 2 and headed back to Florida for pivotal Game 5.

Should the Caps go on to lose the series and do what they’ve done every season since winning the Stanley Cup–lose in the first round–they can look back to the heartbreaking end of Game 4, when they were seconds away from taking a commanding 3-1 lead. The Panthers knotted the game at 2 on a man-advantage goal after pulling the goaltender, a low percentage desperation move that almost never works. With the air sucked out of Cap One Arena, the Panthers scored just 4:57 into overtime, and have new life going back to the Sunshine State.

That being said, the Capitals are one of the best road teams in the NHL, and with 2 of the last 3 games away from DC, they will have to be. I have no stats to back me up, but I also think that home (ice) advantage matters least in hockey. In the playoffs, my theory is that often times games are decided by “puck luck,” an odd bounce of the biscuit or crazy deflection. A hot goaltender can also take you a long way, and Ilya Samsonov has performed well for the good guys.

And, of course, the Caps have The Great 8, Alex Ovechkin, arguably one of the 2 or 3 best players to ever lace up the skates. As each game in the series becomes more crucial, what he does will be magnified.  As a team leader, Ovechkin will need to get his team past a possible letdown after Monday’s loss.

Bottom line…great teams know how to close the deal when the opposition is on the ropes. Game 5 will tell us a lot about how great the 2021-22 Capitals are. Catch the action with John Walton on Sports Radio 1450.

Until the next visit from The Booth, #ALL CAPS…#GO HORNETS!

RW

 

 

Little League Memories

Greetings From The Booth!

With the 95th Shenandoah Apple Blossom in the books, we try to shake the inevitable Bloom hangover (figuratively, if not literally) and gather some forward momentum. A quick Shenandoah University update–congrats to Men’s Lacrosse, who earned their first-ever ODAC tournament win earlier this week, and good luck to all the Hornet teams still alive in their respective ODAC tourneys. SU Baseball plays a best 2-of-3 this weekend in an opening round ODAC series. The Hornets sit on 29 wins, and hopefully there are more “W’s” before they are done!

It’s time again for Little League Baseball, and my mind wanders back to my LL days at Oatsdale Park in Martinsburg, WV. Whatever your idea of Heaven is, I truly believe that in Heaven we get to go back and re-live some of our best moments in life, moments that we maybe didn’t savor enough in our youth. My Little League days were filled with many of those moments, and I would go back in a heartbeat if I could. Here are just a few:

Tag Day, when we would dress in our Little League uniforms and stand on Queen Street, asking for donations to the Martinsburg Little League. My first experience in sales.

Opening Day ceremonies, when all the teams would be introduced player by player by PA Announcer Charlie Trayer. The season was an eternity, and it was all ahead of us.

A night when my lowly Dodgers took down the powerful Yankees. Their players included Keith Brooks, who would go on to play professionally in the Giants organization. After the game, the impromptu chants of “We beat the Yanks” echoed through Oatsdale. If we played them 100 times they would  win 99 times, but that was our night.

The feel of a brand new baseball placed in my hand by the umpire as I walked to the mound.

The taste of the concession stand hot dogs. For some reason, those boiled dogs always tasted better after a win.

Somehow spearing a hot one-hopper at first base, and having my coach, Sonny Johnson, say to the rest of the team, “that was a pro play.”

Making the All-Star team.

I would happily re-live some of the not-so-good moments, too, like failing to close out the aforementioned Yankees after an otherwise masterpiece of a pitching performance. Boy, did my Dad give it to me good, after that one.

Or, slipping on a wet outfield at All-Star practice and snapping my arm in two, ending my dreams of playing for that 1972 team. In many ways that was a great memory because I was allowed to stay on the team, relaying signs to our pitchers by rubbing my cast during games. Our All-Star travels would take us to Philippi, where several years later I would return as a student at Alderson-Broaddus College.

There is a classic Twilight Zone episode where a man returns to his hometown, where he meets his boyhood self. The man’s father tells the older version of his son, “you have to go back where you came from, this is his time now.” It’s such a bittersweet moment, as he tries to tell his younger self to savor every ice cream cone, every carousel ride, every skinned knee.

I’m pretty sure I would say something like that to the 10 year-old Randy Woodward.

Good luck to all the Little Leaguers out there, and until the next visit from The Booth…GO HORNETS!

RW

 

 

 

Sports And The Bloom

Shenandoah Apple Blossom 2022

Greetings from The Booth!

The Booth this week is festooned in pink and green bunting as we celebrate the 95th Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival. The “Bloom” is one of my favorite times of year, as the Winchester area shuts down and goes into party mode with 40 events in 10 days, many of them sports-related. There are Apple Blossom Golf and Tennis Tournaments, an Apple Blossom 10k, a Kids Bloomin’ Mile, and this year, a new E-Sports Tournament.

But the centerpiece of the Festival as it pertains to sports is the Apple Blossom Sports Breakfast. This event is held on the last Saturday of the Bloom and features some top sports celebrities and also honors a “Sports Breakfast Hall Of Fame” class. This years HOF inductees include James R. Wilkins, a great local athlete back in the day, and an even greater philanthropist. The Wilkins Center at Shenandoah University is, of course, named after Mr. Wilkins. Through his generosity, that showplace now exists on the SU campus. That is just one example of how Mr. Wilkins has given back to his community.

The Sports Breakfast also honors some of our local athletes, and this year, that group includes the Hornets’ own Olivia Weinel, who is not only a stellar Basketball player, but excels in the classroom. In addition to Olivia, some athletes from our local high schools will be recognized, a huge moment that they will always remember.

And, in attendance every year are some really big names in sports, and 2022 is no exception. Terry Bradshaw is the overall Grand Marshal of the 95th Bloom, not to mention basketball’s “Dr. J,” Julius Erving. A few words about each…

Some of the younger sports fans out there may only know Bradshaw from the Sunday Fox NFL Pregame Show, as he banters back and forth with Howie and Jimmy and the rest of the crew. But it was Terry Bradshaw that quarterbacked the Pittsburgh Steelers to 4 Super Bowl titles in the decade of the 70s. The Pittsburgh “Steel Curtain” defense grabbed most of the headlines in that era, but Bradshaw saved his best for the big moments, namely the Super Bowl. With a flick of the wrist, Bradshaw launched bombs to the likes of Lynn Swann and John Stallworth, usually when the Big Game was on the line.

He was also involved in one of the biggest plays in NFL history, the “Immaculate Reception,” a play that’s been analyzed more than the Zapruder film. By now you know about this miracle play that happened in the 1972 playoffs. It can be argued that without the Immaculate Reception, there would have been no Steeler dynasty in the 1970s. Post-football, Bradshaw has parlayed his “yokum” persona into a very successful career, but don’t be fooled. You can’t succeed as a quarterback in the NFL without a high IQ. He is also a very good speaker, and is well worth seeing at the Sports Breakfast.

As for Dr. J, Julius Erving, he was the reason every kid in my neighborhood wanted one of those ABA red white and blue basketballs. Before his stint in the NBA, Erving was a member of the Virginia Squires and the New York Nets, and along with players like George “Iceman” Gervin, was part of a colorful group of ABA players. If the NBA was Classical, the ABA was Jazz, and Dr. J. was the Miles Davis of b-ball. He is probably the reason the NBA has a dunk contest. (remember his highlight dunk, sailing through the air from the foul line?) Erving is one of the great elder statesmen and ambassadors of the game of basketball and makes a house call this Saturday at The Bloom!

Have a great Apple Blossom and until the next visit from The Booth…GO HORNETS!

RW

Are You Ready For Some (More) Football?

Greetings From The Booth!

Just when we were settling in to Spring, this week the Shenandoah Valley was hammered with a Monday snow that left up to 4 inches on our cars, driveways, etc. By this Sunday, the snow will be a distant memory as temps soar into the 80s, just in time for the 95th Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival, one of my favorite times of the year. This year, even more so, as the Bloom returns in it’s full-fledged glory after no Festival in 2020, and a limited one last year. S[ports is a big part of the Bloom, and I’ll be writing more on that next week.

A quick SU update: after a recent stumble against Roanoke, Hornet Baseball has returned to it’s winning ways, and as of this writing is 23-8-1 and ranked in the nation’s top 25. Women’s Lacrosse will find out how good they are this week when they face number-4 Washington & Lee. Our Tennis teams have been solid this year, and Andy’s Track & Field squad has been strong, especially the throwers and sprinters. All is well!

So, did you watch the debut weekend of the new USFL? The USFL is the latest incarnation of Spring pro football. If you remember, there was a USFL way back in the day that did manage to snag some top names, but fell by the wayside due to financial problems. There have been other leagues that have tried to compete, albeit indirectly, with the NFL, to mixed reviews, like the WFL, which didn’t last 2 seasons. Vince McMahon’s XFL tried to give fans football with a pro wrestling feel, but didn’t catch on. The rebooted XFL was a victim of COVID, but thanks to investors like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, plans a return in 2023.

One weekend does not a season make, but doing the eye test, here are my thoughts. Despite the hype from Fox, the product is still sub-standard. There are a few nice players, but for the most part, the 8 teams are made up of college players who didn’t make NFL rosters, journeymen who spent some time in the League, and some D-II athletes.

What the USFL has in it’s favor is a nice TV deal from Fox, with some innovative technology. I really like the helmet cam, which gives the viewer a feel for what it’s like to carry the ball into the line, for example. Fox tried to give Saturday night’s debut game the FOX NFL treatment, but fell a bit short. The sideline reporters were hyping “the incredible crowd” against the backdrop of lots of empty seats. Curt Menefee was clearly out of his element as a play-by-play guy, and Jason Garrett seemed ill-prepared as a color analyst in what was probably an audition for NFL broadcasts down the road.

What is working against the USFL, aside from second-tier players, is not having a team in a major market like New York, LA, or Chicago. It remains to be seen whether a market like Birmingham, in the heart of SEC country, will support a pro team. And don’t forget that in the Spring, USFL is competing with MLB, the NHL, NASCAR, not to mention people getting outdoors and away from the hi-def TV.

The major factor for me is “football burnout.” By the time the Super Bowl ends, fans have had a full season of college football, the bowls, and the CFP games, plus 17 weeks of regular season NFL games, the playoffs, and the Big Game. Is America ready for some more football?  Time will tell.

Until the next visit from The Booth, Happy Bloom and GO HORNETS!

R

 

 

Unrealized Potential

Greetings from The Booth!

It’s starting to feel like Spring is settling in for the long haul, but you know what they say: if you don’t like the weather in Virginia, wait 5 minutes and you’ll get something else. Still, the mid-70’s temps feel good to my ever-aging joints and bones. On the SU scene, baseball stumbled a bit recently, but hopefully is back to it’s winning ways. Both lacrosse programs are having great seasons, and everyone else is at the very least, competitive. For a complete “State Of The Hornets” update, head to the podcast section and check out the latest Sports Dogs Podcast, where I’m joined by Shenandoah University’s Scott Musa.

By now you’ve heard about the tragic death this past weekend of NFL quarterback Dwayne Haskins. The former Washington QB was training with his current team, the Pittsburgh Steelers, and was killed while walking across a busy interstate. He was just shy of his 25th birthday.

For whatever reason, Haskins wasn’t the franchise quarterback that Washington had hoped he would be. The Ohio State product captured the eye of owner Dan Snyder, although several personnel people in the organization warned against taking someone with basically one year under his belt as the Buckeye’s starter. That one season in Columbus was a great one, though, as Haskins threw for well over 4-thousand yards and 50 touchdowns against Big Ten defenses, setting conference records in the process and leading his team to a 13-1 record and a spot in the Rose Bowl.

But sometimes you can achieve too much too soon. Those in the Washington organization cited Haskins’ lack of work ethic, undisciplined play, and lack of leadership as sources of frustration. One example is the time when Haskins was called on to close out a Washington victory, but was busy celebrating with fans in the stands. Haskins was eventually replaced by Taylor Heinicke and released by the club after less than two seasons.

Now is certainly not the time to pile on as several national pundits have done, but a time to grieve for the young man and his unrealized potential. By all accounts, Haskins was making good with his second chance in the NFL. His head coach in Pittsburgh, Mike Tomlin, said that Haskins was working hard, and with the retirement of Ben Roethlisberger, certainly had a chance at moving up from his third-string spot on the club. Hopefully, Haskins had realized that raw talent alone isn’t enough to succeed in the National Football League. It’s quite possible that Dwayne Haskins could have learned from his time in Washington, and become a star at the professional level.

Sadly, now we’ll never know.

Until the next visit from The Booth…GO HORNETS!

RW

 

 

 

Tiger Is Back!

Greetings from The Booth!

It was great to see lots of Shenandoah University fans, athletes, coaches, and dignitaries this past Saturday in Winchester, braving a brisk 40-degree morning to be a part of the ribbon cutting of the renovated baseball and softball fields at Jim Barnett Park. The ceremony was culmination of creative thinking from SU and the City to give the Hornet softball and baseball programs a home field they can call their own, and also provide local teams like the Winchester Royals upgraded facilities they can be proud of. Speakers included emotional Hornet baseball coach Kevin Anderson, and Shenandoah President Dr. Tracy Fitzsimmons, who called the project a “win-win.” It was a great morning, one that I’m sure many thought would never come because of the challenges posed by COVID.

Well, it’s Masters Week, with golf’s first “major” set for this weekend at beautiful Augusta National. I’ll admit that for me, this was going to be a boring Masters. Many of the game’s top players are not on top of their game right now. New names we don’t really know have been winning golf tournaments in 2022. A name we do know, Phil Mickelson, has fallen from grace because of his controversial comments about the Saudis, and has self-isolated. He will not be a part of the 2022 Masters. I felt no “buzz” heading into this week.

Then came the appearance of Tiger Woods at Augusta. His early-week practice round drew large crowds, and there was much anticipation that he would give it a go on Thursday morning. Tiger confirmed the rumors on Tuesday, and the Masters was given the storyline it needed.

Tiger Woods believes he can win another green jacket this week, and said as much. He wouldn’t play otherwise. His competitive fires still burn. The issue this week, aside from making the cut (which would be an amazing story in it’s own right) is one of endurance. Tiger hasn’t played competitive golf since late 2020, three months before the car crash that almost took his leg, and could very well have taken his life. It remains to be seen if Woods can walk 4 consecutive days around a hilly Augusta National.

There’s also the fact that the top golfers in the world are also vying for one of golf’s top prizes. To beat the Masters field when you have your “A” game is tough enough, let alone when you are returning after 14 months. Win or lose, Tiger just playing at the 2022 Masters is the sport’s version of the Alex Smith story. Winning would be almost incomprehensible, and would certainly trump his win at Augusta in 2019.

But don’t count him out. Tiger Woods has a flair for the moment. He is well aware that another green jacket would give him six, which would tie him with the great Jack Nicklaus, a man Tiger still thinks he can catch in the race for all-time majors (18). Tiger is also well aware that winning the Masters would be arguably the greatest comeback story in sports history.

Reason enough to hope Tiger is prowling the back nine at Augusta National late Sunday afternoon.

Until the next visit from The Booth…enjoy the golf, and GO HORNETS!

RW

 

700!

Greetings from The Booth!

As of this post, my NCAA bracket is still alive, but barely. Only one of my teams remains and that team would be Duke.  Almost no one I know believes my conspiracy theory that the NCAA set up the Blue Devils so that Coach K could win the whole shebang as he rides off into retirement. But here they are, 2 wins from the championship. Three of the number-one seeds have fallen by the wayside, with only Kansas remaining as a top-seed. The road gets a little tougher now for Duke, as they must face rival North Carolina in one National semifinal this coming Saturday. It was the Tar Heels that ruined Coach K’s final game at Cameron, so the Blue Devils will have a chance to turn the tables , and I think they will, and then complete the job Monday night.

Now…I finally get to congratulate Shenandoah University baseball coach Kevin Anderson on his 700th victory this past weekend. As I always say, you can look up the stats, but the amazing number for me is that the 700 wins came in just 23 seasons, 19 of those at SU. If you get out your calculator and do the math, that’s 30.4 wins per season! Coach Anderson’s winning percentage is .703 at Shenandoah, where he has compiled 553 of those victories. Hornet baseball is a dynasty, and I think a sometimes underappreciated one in the area.

It would be easy to say that great programs, once they are established, simply reload year after year. It’s not that easy, especially at the D-3 level, where athletic scholarships cannot be offered. With SU football and basketball, the sell is a bit easier, because of the top-notch facilities we have. I’ve travelled to a lot of schools in my almost 40 years of doing sports play-by-play, and there is no finer venue in D-3 than Shentel Stadium. And the Wilkins Center is the arena we’ve dreamed of for a long time.  Those facilities are a big part of the recruiting package.

With baseball, the premier athletic program at Shenandoah, not so much. Until recently, the Hornets dealt with a less than perfect situation, playing at off-campus Bridgeforth Field, which was run by the City of Winchester. Now, with the out-of-the-box partnership between SU and the city, the newly renovated Bridgeforth feels more like the Hornet’s home, and the upgraded digs will also be enjoyed by area high school sports teams. It’s a win-win for everyone involved, especially Coach Anderson, who now has his own top-notch facility to show off to potential recruits.

I urge you to get to a Shenandoah baseball game this Spring and see one of the top programs in the nation, and one of the best coaches in the land. Here’s to the next 700, Kevin!

Until the next visit from The Booth…GO HORNETS!  RW

Bracket Reset

Greetings from The Booth!

The best laid plans of mice and men. I had planned to write this week’s VFB about Shenandoah University baseball coach Kevin Anderson, in anticipation of a Tuesday win over W&L, which would have given him 700 career victories. As of this writing, he’s still at 699, thanks to the Generals’ 5-2 triumph over the Hornets. So, we’ll just stick that one in the back pocket and save it for next week, hoping for a win or two this weekend.

Instead, let’s do an NCAA bracket reset. Surely by now, yours looks like a crumbled piece of origami or is in ashes at the bottom of your firepit. In my office pool (for entertainment purposes only), I was a respectable 27-5 after round one, and I still have 12 teams alive in the Sweet Sixteen. On the surface that is pretty good, good enough for a pretty good lead over my co-workers going into this weekend. But, a closer look shows that only 2 of my Final Four teams are still alive.

Let’s have a show of hands. Who saw 15-seed, St. Peters, a Jesuit school in Jersey City with an enrollment of 3-thousand, taking down mighty Kentucky in the first round, then advancing to the Sweet Sixteen with a win over Murray State? Maybe Tony Soprano or Henry Hill, but that’s it. That’s the list. The Peacocks could be this year’s George Mason.

Michigan and Miami, while not as big a surprise as St. Peters, beat much higher seeds to get to the round of 16. I told my friend and Sports Dog Coach C that I liked Miami’s athleticism and I always feel like Michigan always plays well in the NCAA Tournament, no matter what kind of regular season they have. If they get to the Dance, they will be a tough out. All that being said, I didn’t see the Canes taking out Auburn, who was one of my Final Four teams.

And, you can never count out North Carolina. For all the talk about this being a “down year” in the ACC, the Tar Heels seem to be peaking at the right time. After ruining Coach K’s big night at Cameron Indoor, UNC fell to surprising Virginia Tech in the ACC Tournament, but then beat Marquette easily in the first round of the NCAA before taking down number-one seed Baylor in an overtime dogfight. Carolina will now have to beat a UCLA team that doesn’t have Alcindor or Walton or Wooden, but like UNC, has plenty of tradition.

So let’s do our reset. I see Gonzaga advancing with a win over Arkansas. I think Carolina moves to the Elite Eight by eliminating UCLA in a classic matchup. This weekend, the dream finally ends for St. Peters, who will lose to a very physical Purdue team. Arizona will get past Houston, but it won’t be easy. The Michigan magic will end against Villanova, while  Big-12 battle tested Iowa State beats Miami in an 11 versus 10 showdown. I have nothing but disdain for Bill Self and Kansas and will be rooting for Providence, but I think the 1-seed Jayhawks get to the next round.

And then there’s Duke versus Texas Tech. The saving grace of my bracket is that I picked the Blue Devils to win the whole thing. I truly feel like the NCAA would love to see Coach K ride into the sunset on a white steed with a farewell Championship.

Folks, I’m riding that horse until it bucks me.

Until the next visit…enjoy the hoop this weekend…and GO HORNETS!

RW

 

 

Basketball Flu

Greetings from The Booth!

Whew! Saved by the running gods and Old Man Winter. This past Saturday was to have been the running of the Edward Jones 5k Race For Education, and in last week’s VFB, I wrote about my commitment to running/walking the race. On Friday I received an email that the event was going to happen rain or shine. The weather forecast for race time Saturday wasn’t promising. Blizzard conditions were predicted for the Northern Shenandoah Valley, and Kemp Miller was right on the money, as I woke to blowing snow, and icy roads, not ideal conditions for running a 5k race. Reluctantly, race director Bret Hrbek had to pivot and make the race virtual instead of in-person. I felt like the kid who didn’t do his homework the night before and prayed for a snowstorm to cancel school. That being said, I will be running a 5k on my own and sending the time to Bret sometime in the next few weeks…

Well, there’s a pandemic sweeping through the nation this week, and I’m not talking about COVID or some mutated variant. It’s Basketball Flu. You know, the ailment that sends millions away from the office and into local watering holes all over the USA. March Madness is here as the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament begins in earnest this Thursday and Friday with first round games (let’s not have the tired old debate as to whether the First Four is part of the tournament). From noon until midnight it’s wall-to-wall basketball, and a steady menu of buzzer-beaters and upsets (watch those 12 versus 5 games!) as the pupils in your eyes turn to roundballs. You’ll find the games on multiple channels these days, but back in the day, CBS was the sole network showing games, as they took you in rapid-fire succession around the tournament.

This year, I don’t have a horse in the race, as the only playing my WVU Mountaineers will be doing is foozeball in the student union. The Mounties started 13-2 and finished 16-17. Bob Huggins lobbied strongly for an NIT bid, but he was living in a fantasy world. West Virginia won’t even be playing in the iconic CBI, where they were waxed several years ago by Coastal Carolina. I begrudgingly have adopted rival Virginia Tech in this years dance, because of their improbable run in the ACC Tournament which took them from a bubble team to an 11-seed. This Hokie team could be this year’s Jimmy V NC State squad from ’83-’84,  My feelings for Tech have mellowed over the years, I guess.

That being said, I really really really don’t care much for Duke, but they are the team I have going all the way. Yes, they have flaws, but I think the NCAA wants a going-away title for Coach K, and until a potential matchup against Gonzaga in the regional finals, they don’t have the toughest road to the Final Four. If you’re a conspiracy theorist, you might think the NCAA is setting up the Blue Devils for the National Championship.

Unlike chicken wings and cheap gas, the truth is out there! (Cue the theme from the X-Files)

Enjoy the hoop, good luck with your bracket, and until the next visit from The Booth…GO HORNETS!

RW