Forget Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey, the greatest show on earth is the Big Dance. They run faster, jump higher and throw down alley-oops that make your eyes flutter in disbelief when you see it happen, not to mention knocking your beer over in the celebration.
The Madness of March marks the only month of the year when we carry money out of Nevada casinos in wheelbarrows. There are fewer variables in basketball compared to other sports, and this makes it the most profitable game upon which to wager; the Dance was devised in Betters’ Heaven for basketball mavens.
On Saturday I got to speak to 300 college administrators at the Silver Legacy. My last words to them were, “If you’re smart, you’ll go straight to the sportsbook and put a pile on Michigan State; you’ve got half an hour.” When I arrived back at the office I found this message on my phone: “Thank you for suggesting we ‘put a pile’ on Michigan State, a few of us did exactly that and they won by 20!” I just love it when that happens...
I was never a baller myself. In fact, I remember my coach’s last words to me as he cut me from my high school squad, “Son, this is a team sport.” I only knew one play, “High-Diddle-Diddle-Right-Down-the-Middle!” The half-court hook I let fly just before the buzzer sounded flew over the top of the backboard. My girlfriend, a cheerleader, refused to talk to me after the game.
By ’79, my love for the sport had grown exponentially. I rented a motel on Cape Cod and left a note for my girlfriend while she was in the bath, that I would be right back. I needed to catch the final few minutes of the Magic Johnson-Larry Bird showdown at a sports bar next door as our room didn’t have a TV. When I returned to the room she was nowhere to be found and I have been looking for her since.
Then, in ’83, I took a date to the Hyatt to watch the Cardiac-Pack of North Carolina State take on Phi-Slamma-Jamma of Houston, featuring no less than Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde the Glide Drexler. In one of the most mind-blowing finishes in the history of college athletics, after dismissing no less than Michael Jordan and Ralph Sampson, the Cardiac Kids slew the Houston dragon, causing me to spill my tankard of beer onto the table and into my date’s lap, virtually filling her skirt, which she went to the powder room to repair and never returned. Most people who watched the historic aftermath of that game remember Coach Valvano running around looking for somebody to hug. Well, that was me too.
The sport is amazing, simply amazing, a perfect blend of agility, athleticism and timing. To watch these incredible athletes at the top of their game is pure adrenalin-fueled exhilaration; to my mind there is nothing comparable in the world of sport. Bull fighting — too agonizing. Auto racing — waste of ethanol. Boxing — too debilitating. Football — same. Baseball — the game doth lack excitement. Soccer — God gave us hands.
So who’s going home with the gold-plated Wooden award this year? Well, I’m writing this with four teams still dancing, but it’s very obvious to me, as plain as oats in fact, that the Cardinals of Louisville will cut down the macramé. Take it to the bank.
See you at the sportsbook ...
Learn more about McAvoy Layne at www.ghostoftwain.org.