' ' Cinema Romantico: Joy to the World

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Joy to the World

What's that old saying? Ah, yes. Christmas comes but once a year.

Says who?

The morning of December 26 I ignore the boundless department store sales and turn my calendar to the third Thursday of March in the coming year so I can put a circle around it. This is the day each year when Cinema Romantico (and countless others) celebrate Second Christmas.

Or, for the uneducated, this is the first day of the NCAA Basketball Tournament.

There's certainly more presents than First Christmas. We've got games galore! It's a quadruple header, each and every year. The tip-off's come early and often and last deep into the night and come at wonderfully ridiculous times like 11:25 AM and 1:47 PM and happen at fabulously unexpected outposts such as Greensboro, North Carolina and Spokane, Washington.

On the morning of December 25th it doesn't matter what present you've got in your hand, there's another one under tree that looks just as good. And if you take that one, you realize there's something else in your stocking that you want. The third Thursday of March is just like that. Travel to a nearby sports bar and you will find yourself unable to focus on any of the scores of TVs in front of you. There's action beaming in from all parts of our glorious country, upsets brewing in every time zone. Keeping your attention on a singular game is nigh impossible. It's why this event brought the term "live look-in" to our vernacular. It's why this event raised the television "cut-away" to the level of an art form.

The only sound I anticipate more than the "ho ho ho" of Santa Claus is Greg Gumbel in the CBS studio advising us viewers, "For those of you expecting the game in Dayton we'll get you there shortly for that tip but we'll start everyone off in the west region."

Wait. I just got goosebumps.

Snow, you say? Christmas 2006 in Chicago, IL had no snow. But the third Thursday of March 2006 did. That ain't exaggeration, people. That's fact.

There's plenty of eggnog, too. It's just not nog. Perhaps Labatt, or some flavorful Boulevard Wheat. Last year it was Harp. My first pint came a pinch before 11:00 AM (you read that right) and my lovely bartendress kept them coming at a perfect pace for the rest of the day.

Christmas carolers? Who needs them? We've got color guys. Clark Kellogg advising us which players are "stat-sheet stuffers" and which ones "squeeze the orange" to the most effect and how many teams possess "spurt-a-bility". Bill Raftery peppering his analysis with shouts of "send it in, big fella'!" and "with a kiss!" and lamenting the needlessness of committing a "nickel-and-dimer".

Pre-eminent blowhard Dick Vitale doesn't get to broadcast any of the games (thank God) but flip over to ESPN for a few highlights and the poor guy's on the verge of a coronary every half-second.


It should be crime in this otherwise fine nation to make people work on the Thursday of Thursdays. As Andrew Leonard once so gloriously wrote, "The first Thursday and Friday of the Tournament should be a federal holiday.....because upsets are a lesson in American civic values." And therefore I don't care if you detest basketball as if it were a sewing project in home economics or you love it like a Kylie Minogue gyration. Take the day off. Call in sick. Quit your job, if you must. Hit the pub with a few friends instead and take in all the action. Someone there can explain the difference between the 2-3 zone defense and the 1-3-1. And make sure to have a beer at 11:00 in the morning.

Also, make sure you fill out those infamous brackets whether you understand them or not. America loves the underdog, right? Well, show the underdog how much you love 'em! Second Christmas is all about the little guy, see. If a school's name combines a state with a direction, or if it's named after a state that isn't actually a state, they're your ally. Eastern Kentucky can spring the upset and I'm willing to bet Weber State can, too. And even if you didn't pick a particular little guy to win, you have to root for them anyway.

There's no better day to play hooky. There's no better day to avoid those pesky faxes and files for a few pale ales instead. After all, it's the most wonderful time of the year.

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