March Madness: Why I Root for Underdogs

I woke up early Thursday morning, headed to the computer and changed my NCAA bracket hours before the first tip-off. Rather than make mine match President Barack Obama’s or ask sports columnists for advice, I decided to play with my heart. After all, it’s only money.

I chose Princeton over Kentucky.

Princeton was this year’s Cornell on my bracket. A win for an academic powerhouse would prove something: that students can be athletes.

I chose Gonzaga over St. John’s because, well, I choose them every year. And they do not disappoint.

And I chose Oakland over Texas – even though I’ll be attending the Final Four with a best friend who is a Longhorn. (I don’t plan to let her see my bracket. It wasn’t about foolish loyalty. I reserve that for my alma mater, Carolina, who I just know is going to the championship game every year (although this year, just for the money, they fall to Syracuse in my bracket. I’ll never be so glad to be wrong).

Yes, I cheered for the little university just miles north of Detroit because I believe I believe in magic, miracles and Cinderella. And they almost proved me right. They gave the Texas players a run for their money at the end that left them losing by only 4 points.

That’s respectable for a Cinderella team that no one thought had a chance.

You always have a chance. Just ask Morehead State players who sent Lousville home.

LeBron James: King of his Soles

I didn’t watch the Lebron James show, the one in prime time where he announced his new job yesterday.

I was watching paint dry.

But I have watched the aftermath and the Dan Gilbert show.

Gilbert, the owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, was angry at Lebron’s decision. So he wrote him a letter, one of those don’t-let-the-door-hit-you-in-the-ass letters as James announced he was going to Miami – a city with beaches, young people and a possible franchise that could possibly when a championship (if Miami can find two more players willing to work in an arena that James, Dwyane Wade Chris Bosh will suck the air out of and a team the trio will get most of the money from.)

Dan Gilbert was watching his franchise take a hit that could possibly kill it.

Dan Gilbert was watching his owner cred drop like a rock.

So he wrote a good-bye letter that told James exactly how he felt. Unfortunately, the only thing it did was make Gilbert look bad.

Mr. Gilbert: Mel Gibson called. He wants his rant back.

There are millions of sports fans who know take the game, love the game, and there are at least 239,000 (the population of Cleveland) who took James’ decision very seriously.

But it’s a disservice to throw rocks at James on his way out of the arena. Or worse, to imply that he has turned on his family, been disloyal.

The reaction implies that James took a swipe at his old employer. But all that happened was that an employee got a new job.

If Gilbert isn’t careful in the days ahead, he might sound even worse than a disgruntled former employer. He night sound like someone who believed he owned more than James’ contract.

There are those who believe he may already be there. To understand the sentiment, sports fans should read Bill Rhoden’s book “Forty Million Slaves….” The title comes from “a remark made by a white spectator during a game in Los Angeles to Larry Johnson of the New York Knicks. Johnson had called some of his teammates “rebellious slaves.” That night in Los Angeles, “as his team headed toward the bench curing a time-out, a heckler yelled out: ‘Johnson, you’re nothing but a $40 million slave.”

All LeBron James did was prove that he is the master of his fate, the captain of his soles, the only one to choose the team to pay him millions of dollars to run and jump.

Nothing was wrong – and everything was right – about that.