That came up again this week, as I returned to Columbus for a day or two so I could help Juan’s mother go through stuff — some of which was his — as she prepares to downsize from her condo to a smaller apartment.
We had a good day. It was sad for both of us, but we laughed a lot … especially at the number of red Solo cups she had stashed with her Fourth of July decorations. It was a productive day, and Mary is closer to being ready to hold an auction for the stuff she can’t take with her.
If you put any credence into Kubler-Ross stages of grief — they are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance — I’d say I’m solidly in the acceptance stage in relation to Juan’s death like 90 percent of the time. There are still little moments when that’s not the case, but for the most part, I’m at peace with his passing.
Here’s a thing I haven’t mentioned on Uncle Crappy: I’m on strike. Have been for seven months.
And it’s a struggle.
Money is tight. We’re super busy fundraising and taking care of other strike stuff. It makes finding the time to hold down a side gig a challenge.
And there is the added stress of what’s going on at the PG. A bunch of my colleagues decided that going on strike wasn’t for them … and they crossed the picket line (which is pretty much virtual these days, as most are working remotely). So the PG’s site is still getting updated. The daily e-edition still lands in inboxes every day. And, twice a week, there is still a print edition.
That’s frustrating as hell, boys and girls. Our best guess is that if the Steelers beat writers, for example, had come out, the strike would have been over in a couple weeks, rather than stretching past half of a year. And it is annoying to watch those people work and enjoy the salaries and benefits that the union, the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh, earned for them.
But here’s the bigger thing: I’m struggling with what this means for me. If the strike were to end today (spoiler alert: Not likely), I’d go back, but probably not for long; working at the PG no longer feels like my dream job.
For a while — and as recently as most of last year — it was. I had a fantastic editor. I worked with great people. And the atmosphere in the newsroom had recovered from the pit that it landed in in 2020.
For me, that’s all gone. Forever. And it’s sad and aggravating all at once.
I’m in therapy. This situation I’m in occasionally feels desperate enough that I needed to talk with someone about it. And last week, she said something that really struck me.
My ranting was kind of all over the place. Do I go back? Am I done with journalism? Why did this have to happen? Is it time for a new job? What do I do with all of the opinions about what course I should be taking? WHY, for fuck’s sake … WHY?
“You’re grieving,” she said. “You’re mourning what you had there before the strike.”
I stared at her face on the screen. And it dawned on me that she was exactly right.
Folks, I have to apologize. I normally would have had this update ready by midweek at the latest, but real life got in the way in a pretty significant manner this week.
But writing about basketball — and the Fourteenth Kind Of Annual Uncle Crappy NCAA Final Four Challenge (Brought To You By Piper’s Pub*) is the kind of distraction I need — so let’s get down to bidness.
As longtime AUCNFFC players will recall, no one has any points yet — that doesn’t happen until teams actually reach the Final Four after Monday night’s games.
We can, however, begin to ascertain how things might shake out, based on the results of the first weekend. Quite a few of us picked Ohio State as our eventual champion, for example — and that’s not going to work out so well. A few others of us went all in on the Big Ten — and that’s really not going to work so well.
But most of us — well over half, in fact — were able avoid real disasters associated with early upsets, and are therefore in pretty good shape. And there two of us — just two of us — who have an intact Final Four still alive.
I have done no math associated with this so far, but in general, I’d give the advantage to those who are still working with their pick to be national champion over those who are trying to move on without. And so, we begin with the bad news and move on to the good.
One FF team alive, champ pick is out:
One FF team/champ alive:
Two FF teams alive, champ is out
Three FF teams alive, champ is out
Pgh Rugby Ref
Three FF team/champ alive
Ex-Pat Pittsburgh Girl
Aunt Annoyed Angel
Styx 4 Curl Girl
North Coast Matt
And our best of the best, as we go through the second weekend of FKOAUCNFFC (BTYBPP*):
All FF picks/champ still alive
There is one more player I haven’t mentioned, and that’s Juan, oh he of little basketball knowledge. When I started this thing, I was concerned that I wouldn’t get enough entries to make it interesting, so I badgered the hell out of my family and close friends to get in. Most were accommodating, but Juan dug in his heels, giving me BS reasons like “I don’t like college basketball” and “Why are you torturing me?” When he finally made it clear that he was out, I decided to enter him anyway, using a variety of methods that pretty much guaranteed that he wouldn’t come close to ever winning this thing. He grumbled about it at first, but eventually came to appreciate that he would be entered in AUCNFFC with zero effort and almost zero chance of stressing about it at all. It became a standing joke, one of a looooooong list of standing jokes we had between us.
Juan — that’s not his actual name — was my friend who died this week. We’re not going to worry about his picks for the rest of FKOAUCNFFC (BTYBPP*), and if I do this again next year, I suspect the tournament will be named in his honor. Which he would find as funny as I would hope.
I hope your teams do well this weekend, and I’ll be back on Tuesday — I promise this time — with the first look at our official FKOAUCNFFC (BTYBPP*) standings.
Sister Jean says it’s go time. And we never argue with Sister Jean.
Because you never argue with a Chicago nun.
But we don’t need to be afraid of Sister Jean — or of rogue yardsticks: There is championship basketball on our screens and the Fourteenth Kind Of Annual Uncle Crappy NCAA Final Four Challenge (Brought To You By Piper’s Pub*) is underway.
As I do every year, this is the post where our picks are revealed and we all begin the painful public shame and humiliation of sports prognostication — and for one lucky contestant, never-ending glory and $50 for drinks and food at the legendary Piper’s Pub. So — who ya got?
As is tradition, we begin with Yours Truly:
Gonzaga and Michigan on one side of the bracket and Houston and … wait for it … Ohio State on the other. Title game is the Zags and my Buckeyes. And the champion? Gonzaga is this season’s Team Of Destiny — but the Buckeyes are winning the title. And they’ll win by a score of 74-68.
Next we have the contestant I’m rooting for: Mrs. Crappy:
Gonzaga vs. Alabama, Purdue vs. Illinois. Illinois beats the Zags for the championship, 82-79.
And now, the rest of yinz guys, pretty much in no particular order:
Strang, who isn’t rolling with her hometown Bonnies:
Final Four: Houston, Texas, Iowa, Ohio State. Championship Game: Houston vs. Texas Winner: Houston (80-77)
Morgantown Socialist Joe:
Final Four: Gonzaga, BYU, Arkansas, West Virginia National Championship: Gonzaga, West Virginia Winner: Gonzaga Tiebreaker: 136
Ex-Pat Pittsburgh Girl, Esq.:
My FKOAUCNFFC (BTYBPP*) picks as selected by pulling my sweet sixteen selections out of a hat: Final Four: Baylor v. WVU, Kansas v. Texas Semi-finals: Kansas v. WVU National Champion: WVU
Aunt Annoyed Angel, who’s been doing this for as long as I have:
Ok, here goes. Final 4: Gonzaga/Alabama, Ohio State/Tennessee. Final 2: Alabama v Ohio State. Winner: Alabama. 73-68I’m well aware that one side of my bracket is very family & personal preference influenced… I just couldn’t get past it no matter how I tried.
And this is a first in the long and storied history of AUCNFFC: Entries from an entire family: AAA’s sister Lianne and the kids who bestowed upon AAA that first A: C and G Haviland.
Ok- here is my info- Final four- Oregon, Baylor, Alabama, Illinois Champ game: Illinois vs Baylor Champion: Illinois (75-68)
final four: Gonzaga, Baylor, Colorado, Houston. Champ game- Gonzaga vs Baylor. Champion- Gonzaga (83-79).
final four- Gonzaga, Baylor, LSU, TN. Champ game: TN vs Gonzaga. Champion- Gonazaga (87-82)
My question for AAA and Lianne: Do the kids have to take you guys out for dinner if one of them wins?
Next up: Cleveland Kelsey, who is as much of a homer as your Uncle Crappy:
FKOAUCNFFC (BTYBPP*)! Final Four: Ohio State, M!ch!g@n, Iowa, West Virginia. OSU/scUM in the championship. OSU wins 72-71
Gonzaga over Michigan. West Virginia over Villanova. Gonzaga 71, West Virginia 63. (If this looks like I haven’t paid any attention to college basketball this season, it’s because I haven’t.)
Kewyson, who apparently discovered brevity somewhere between 2019 and 2021:
With Covid rules in play, one never knows – but I stuck with the tried and true (and no Duke Blue) – M*ch*gan / Iowa – with the Team up North prevailing Illinois / Baylor – with Illinois coming through with the win Final victor goes to Illinois – 87 – 83
Styx 4 Curl Girl, another contestant who’s been doing this for a very long time:
Final four: Gonzaga vs. Alabama, Ohio St. vs. Houston Championship: Alabama vs. Ohio St. Champion: Alabama Tie Breaker: 78-72
Good luck everyone!
What does Chachi say? Chachi Says:
Gonzaga v Texas Houston v Baylor
Final Gonzaga v Baylor
No Cardinals and no Panthers? No problem for Calipanthergrl:
I have watched like 20 minutes of MCBB this entire season. But I’m in! Here are my entirely laughable picks: USC/Michigan & Syracuse/Purdue. Michigan/Purdue. Michigan (84-73)
My #CnCShow partner Carla knows college football. Does she know college hoops as well?
Next up is Dudders, the baddest woman in all of Pittsburgh:
I would like to join that basketball event you host each year! I like to randomly pick teams and not do any research. Final Four: Purdue, WVU, Gonzaga, Alabama. Final Two: Gonzaga and Purdue. Gonzaga❤️
She added in a subsequent message that her tiebreaker is 91-88.
My former colleague North Coast Matt:
Final Four: Gonzaga, Alabama, Houston, Illinois Championship Gonzaga vs. Houston Champion Gonzaga total combined score: 157
Your defending AUCNFFC champ, the Sports Chump:
Against my better judgment, I’m going chalk. Give me all number one seeds in the Final Four.
Illinois, Gonzaga, Baylor and Michigan with Gonzaga beating Baylor in the final game 82-67.
But what do I know?
Pgh Rugby Ref has taken over Kewyson’s claim to the most-verbose contestant each year:
The day the brackets came out I completed one quickly, without any research or thought (other than no number 1s in the Final Four). After I looked at my selections, I figured there was no chance of winning (hell, I might even Blutarsky). All week I had the intention of putting in some effort for a real bracket (I’m sure you know about intentions and what road it paves). It’s a little more than an hour before deadline, and no extra work has gone into selections, so you get my original choices: Virginia over Colorado West Virginia over Arkansas Virginia Final score total 124
A blast from the past: M Fulk:
Hey, why not?
Final Four: Kansas vs. Alabama, Purdue vs. West Virginia Championship: Alabama vs. Purdue Champion: Alabama Tie Breaker: 80-85
Spoon, on behalf of his basketball-playing boys:
Kids picked this one. I’ll think about getting them Piper’s if we win.
Final Four: Gonzaga vs. Alabama, Ohio St. vs. Clemson Championship: Alabama vs. Ohio St. Champion: Ohio St. Tie Breaker: 77-75
Susan, who did, in fact, get in just under the wire:
Hopefully getting in under the wire: Iowa, Michigan, Ohio St, Ilinois. Michigan/Ohio St. Michigan. 151. Please do not reject based on my winner.
Dish, who is an actual person and not a restaurant on the South Side:
Gonzaga over Alabama, Illinois over Arkansas. Gonzaga over Illinois, 83-77. I did at least 90 seconds of research for this!
My Penn State friends are partial to hockey and football, but TraiLion paid more attention to the Lions’ hoops season this year than she would probably admit. Her picks:
Ohio State over Illinois, Iowa over Michigan, Iowa over Ohio State (sorry). 112 points.
The lion’s spouse JCK158:
Gonzaga over FSU, Baylor over Illinois, Gonzaga over Baylor, 158.
It’s excellent when you guys provide me with your own nicknames. Right, Scooter (38 seconds from being defending champions)?
Gonzaga, Alabama, Baylor and Illinois Gonzaga and Baylor Baylor 150 F the Mutant Twins
As to Scooter’s final comment: If you know, you know.
And finally, we have Juan, oh he of little basketball knowledge. He is entered each and every year against his will (or, at least, without his awareness); I couldn’t find picks from Phil’s Mom, so we’re going with the virtual version of the Penny-Flipping Method — ESPN’s random bracket generator. And while it’s not going to win him a damn thing, I’m going to be pulling for these picks anyway:
To be clear, this is my Bobcats vs. Texas Southern on one side and Purdue vs. Liberty on the other. And in what would be a championship matchup for the ages, Purdue will beat OU in the title game. And no, I’m not picking a tiebreaker. C’mon now.
And there you go, boys and girls. I have to say that I’m disappointed that I didn’t get any TikTok entries; that might be a thing we’ll work on for 2022. As is always the case, if I missed your entry, it’s nothing personal — I’m just an idiot. Let me know and I’ll add you to the list. Let’s all enjoy the hell out of the hoopage. And good luck to everyone. Especially me Mrs. Crappy.
An NCAA tournament without Coach K and Dook? Eh. We’ll manage.
The Fourteenth Kind Of Annual Uncle Crappy NCAA Final Four Challenge (Brought To You By Piper’s Pub*) without you? That would be a shame.
But you’re in luck, boys and girls! Unlike years past, the first round of the NCAA tournament doesn’t start until Friday, so instead of this post being a last call of sorts, it is your 24-hour(ish) reminder: Git yer pix in soon.
Important things to remember: It’s free to enter. I just need your final four, your semi-finalists, your champion and a title game final score, to use as a tiebreaker. I’ll need those, submitted via your favorite social media platform (there will be bonus points* for anyone who submits and entry via TikTok), by noon Friday. And if you win, boys and girls, you’ll enjoy $50 of food and beverages from the legendary Piper’s Pub on me (or fifty American dollars, eligible to be exchanged for goods and services, for you out-of-towners).
There are some more rules and guidelines to keep in mind, but in general you won’t find an easier college hoops pool than FKOAUCNFFC (BTYBPP*). Don’t miss out, kids — get your entries in soon.
*Editor’s note: Bonus points are not actually worth anything.