Tuesday, March 9, 2010

March Madness

On Sunday, the brackets are chosen, and according to hubby, "Chances of UCLA making it to the big dance this year are slim to none.  Their only hope is to win the Pac-10 Tournament." Why am I hoping they don't?  Why am I relieved, if not all-out giddy?  In the past, when UCLA has made it to the party, my house has reverberated with scary, ritualistic zeal. 

Three years ago, when the Bruins went all the the way to the Final Four (their third year in a row!) we hit a new dimension of craziness.  Scotty was 15, and engaged in some rather alarming behavior. I'll never forget the day I found him doing the following:  First he splashed water on his face five times. Then he went outside, clasped his hands together and prayed silently to the heavens above. Four “amens” followed.  He hadn't stepped foot in temple since his bar mitzvah, so the sudden surge of religion seemed a little out of character. A few minutes later, he started making frantic hand gestures at the TV,  while snarling in an unrecognizable foreign tongue. It sounded like, “MISS IT! MISS IT!”

When he wasn’t hissing, he was yelling, screaming, cursing and jumping up and down, pretty much at the same time. Now and then, he looked my way, shook his head and shushed me, as if my very presence had created a bad luck vibe. Personally, I found this last custom most unnerving.  “What’d I do?” I asked feebly. He said nothing in response. So I told him he needed a hair cut. That got his attention. His head whipped around. Steam poured out of his ears. “Not… until… MARCH MADNESS… is… OVER!” he said, hugging his UCLA t-shirt, unwashed till the madness ended. Then he turned away.

The boy was doing everything in his power to help UCLA win. A hair cut was not part of the game plan. And besides, one of his players was at the free-throw line. This was serious business. His fingers immediately crossed. Presumably, some internal praying went on. He had money riding on the outcome of the UCLA-Kansas game.  At 15, he'd entered his gambling phase.  If his “picks” held up, there was 80 bucks with his name on it. Not that this was about money. This was about his team. His UCLA. Naturally, I wondered if a win for UCLA meant he'd reimburse me for all the deli I’d ordered to guarantee UCLA’s success.

What did deli have to do with a Bruin victory? Everything, in the eyes of the youngest. In 2006, during play-offs, I'd made the mistake of serving deli during a UCLA game. They won.  After that, I had to serve deli every time they played.  In 2007, we ate deli twice a week till deli no longer delivered a Bruin win -- my fault, apparently.  I came home with the wrong cheese (they were out of Jarlsberg) and consequently, UCLA lost.  As the only one in the house who actually went to UCLA, I thought I handled this continuous loop of cold cuts and cole slaw like a good sport. And thank God I hadn't launched this tradition (unknowingly) with fried chicken or Sloppy Joes, or I’d still be wearing my fat jeans.  Not that I’ve given them away.  I may need them soon enough. 

Every year, I experience my own kind of March Madness, only mine has nothing to do with brackets.  Mine comes in small, colorful boxes. They are green, orange and magenta. They are the demons that taunt me from the kitchen.  They are Girl Scout Cookies.  I can’t resist them.  I don’t even try. They reappear every March without fail, and make me do bad things. I order too many. I’m an easy mark. I was a Girl Scout once. All the neighbors know this and take advantage. Their daughters show up at my door and ask “how many?” and “what kind?” On delivery day, I have my own rituals to uphold. I look longingly at the boxes, then “hide” them in my fridge, pretending I won’t eat them. The truth is, they taste even better frozen.

To this day, a missed free-throw unhinges my son, but Thin Mints make me meshuga. Trust the English major when I tell you, April isn’t the cruelest month.  It’s March.

No comments:

Post a Comment