Elite Peeps

NCAA Basketball at Sharkeez

I’ve always been a fan of the underdog. I blame my parents for
this utterly unfortunate condition: The pair of Catholic
bleeding-heart liberals instilled this value in me from the time I
was young, favoring as they did the poor, the disenfranchised,
Dukakis, Mondale, the San Francisco Giants. The result is that this
penchant to root for the little guy has become a solid part of my
identity, and though it’s undoubtedly served me well in some areas
of my life, in others — namely the yearly NCAA basketball pool — it
has done nothing but kick my ass and empty my wallet. So, when it
came time to fill in my bracket for this year’s tournament, I
thought I’d take a different tack. I’ve had enough losing, I
thought, enough getting my heart broken, watching my Cinderella
story dissolve before my very eyes with a Big-Bad-Guy (i.e., Duke)
perpetrated buzzer-beater to win the game and knock me out of the
running. I made my picks based on rankings this year, for the first
time in my life: Duke to win it all, over UConn, in the final game.
Yawn. Though I knew there was no way I’d manage to bring myself to
root for either of the two, I took some comfort in the fact that,
while I’d inevitably be watching the teams I’d love to see win go
down in flames, at least I’d still be in it. In it to win it.
Ha.

I was working late on Thursday night when I got the call: Duke
was out. The Sweet Sixteen round was the end of the line for the
odds-on-favorite. I couldn’t believe it, but on some level, I felt,
it served me right, betraying my Cinderella sensibilities as I
did.

By Sunday morning, it was down to the Elite Eight, and I headed
out to peep other Tourney-watchers at Sharkeez, the logical spot,
as the fish-taco-slinging sports bar is home to more TVs than
Circuit City. (They even have TVs in the bathrooms — a female
sports fan’s dream.) I arrived near the end of the UConn-George
Mason game, and was stunned when I realized how little time was
left on the clock, and that UConn was down. How could this have
happened?

I took a spot at the bar when the Huskies pushed it to overtime
with one of those beautiful buzzer shots you only see in college
hoops. I’m a big college basketball fan, and married to an even
bigger one, so I knew better than to bother asking the guys in the
crowd to smile for the camera while such unbelievable drama was
unfolding, and, frankly, who could peep at a time like that? We
sat, on the edge of our collective seat, and watched, as
number-one-seed UConn eventually went down at the hands of the
11th-seeded George Mason. I cheered despite myself, tearing up my
list of losing picks.

This year, Cinderella proved her mettle. By the time I left for
home, the Final Four had been determined: LSU, George Mason, UCLA,
and Florida — none favored to be there. I can only hope that next
year, I, the ultimate underdog, will pull off an upset of my
own.

As ever, look for more Peeps at independent.com. Got cool news,
hot tips, juicy gossip? Write to shannon@independent.com.

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