lessons.

What I learned last night:

1) Giving up a little Ohio State mojo for the best freaking Carolina barbeque that has ever crossed my lips was totally worth it.

2) Greg Oden, pictured here walking off the floor at the Dean Dome, is taller than everyone.

3) Without Greg Oden, Ohio State’s basketball team is really, really good.

4) With Greg Oden, the team is going to be unbeatable. Seriously, if he had been playing last night, we would have won, and it wouldn’t have been close.

5) When we play Carolina again in March — or maybe even April — things are going to be different.

6) When we play Carolina again in March — or maybe even April — I’ll probably break down and eat the barbecue again. Sorry. It’s that good.

Y’all be sure to watch my Ohio University Bobcats play for the MAC football championship tonight on ESPN.

Yeah. That was as weird to type as it is to read.

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hoops. meat.

I normally don’t really start paying attention to college basketball until the conclusion of college football season, but this year, a couple things are happening that are forcing me to re-evaluate that position.

Thing No. 1: North Carolina.

Thing No. 2. No. 1.

Let me clarify: Tonight, Uncle Crappy and The Wife face off when Ohio State visits Chapel Hill to play the Tar Heels as part of the Big Ten-ACC challenge.

And my Buckeyes, according to the coaches’ poll this week, are the No. 1 team in the country. They’ve reached that point without the benefit of contributions from Greg Oden, the freshman from Indianapolis who is not quite ready to play after off-season surgery on his hand.

This is a big matchup in the Crappy home, because The Wife spent many of her formative years in North Carolina, including a few in Chapel Hill. She’s a big Heels fan, and during basketball season, that trumps her admirable loyalty to her adopted Buckeyes.

Can’t fault her for that.

While tonight’s game is a pretty big deal, I will be participating in a bad Ohio State mojo thing that I would never accept if this were a football game: The Wife is making Carolina barbeque for dinner, and Sweet Jesus, is it good. That slab of pork has been stewing in the slow cooker since last night, and by the time the game begins, it’s going to be perfect.

The superstitious part of me says Ohio State’s going to have trouble with UNC because of the fact that I’m going to eating Carolina barbeque for dinner; the more rational part of me says Ohio State will have trouble stopping UNC’s inside game because of Oden’s absence.

Ahh, it’s November and it doesn’t matter that much yet. Honey, can I have another sandwich please?

** 9 p.m. Update: Oh my freaking god the barbeque was good. Enjoy the game, y’all…

housekeeping.

There’s been a lot of stuff I should have been keeping track of in the last few days, but as I noted before, I’ve been pretty tapped out, from both an inspiration standpoint and an energy standpoint. So as I am wont to do, I offer you the patented Uncle Crappy Catch-up Synopsis:

* The First Annual Uncle Crappy NCAA Final Four Contest ended, fortunately, in a three-way tie among Fred, Mr. Burns and yours truly. And despite the fact that Mr. Burns didn’t technically pick George Mason to make the Final Four — he merely accepted the picks given to him by me — there will be Fabulous Prizes as promised to all three winners.

* Baseball season has begun, and the Indians are 5-1. Ahhh….

* I got to see Keller Williams in Pittsburgh about 10 days ago. If you have a chance to see him, he comes with the Uncle Crappy Seal of Approval. Keller’s definitely hippie-friendly, but his one-man jam band approach is definitely unique. Pacing around onstage between a bass, a bunch of percussion toys, a keyboard and about a dozen guitars, Keller uses digital loops to build his own backing band from song to song, and then sings and solos over the loops. Infectious. I got to see him do a set with Larry and Jenny Keel, bluegrassers from Virginia who backed Keller on his most recent CD, Grass — very cool stuff, ranging from fairly straightforward bluegrass to covers of Steve Miller’s “Take the Money and Run” and, believe it or not, Kiss’ “Rock and Roll All Night.”

* Uncle Crappy’s very existence has been validated. I’m writing a monthly beer column for the entertainment tab my paper has been publishing for about a year. The column is just two months old at this point, but the editors seem to like it and the feedback that’s dribbled in so far has been fairly positive, so I’m hoping that means I won’t be getting shitcanned anytime soon. The magazine isn’t online yet, but I’m told that’s coming sometime later this year; if you’re interested in reading — and you haven’t already tired of hearing me pontificate about beer — send me an email, and I’ll pass out a link as soon as it’s up.

* In my last post, I mentioned the stuff that’s been going on in my personal world. Without going into too much detail, I can say that across the board things are headed in the right direction. John, the author of Life in Alaska — one of Uncle Crappy’s new favorite blogs — offered me some advice as a response to Friday’s post: “Breathe slowly…!”

John, you’re exactly right. That’s something we should all keep in mind. Thanks.

what’s that smell?

We stink.

Uncle Crappy’s pathetic effort in his various NCAA basketball pools has already been documented, but now that we have a Final Four, it’s obvious that everyone else entered in Uncle Crappy’s First Annual NCAA Final Four Contest is equally inept.

Here’s what we got: a Final Four of LSU, UCLA, George Mason and Florida.

Here’s what that means, beyond the blatant suckitude of all the contestants involved: Three people — me, Fred and Mr. Burns — get a point for correctly picking at least one Final Four team. For Fred and me, UCLA got us each the point; in the case of Mr. Burns, who was dragged kicking and screaming into the contest after I made some half-assed picks in his name, the unlikely story of George Mason has kept him in the running.

So. We have us a three-way tie. But here’s the interesting part. Neither Fred nor I can advance further, because we didn’t have UCLA making it to the finals. Only Mr. Burns, who gamely accepted the picks I foisted upon him, can earn another point — if the Patriots beat the Gators to advance to the championship game.

Because I made the picks for Mr. Burns, there’s going to have to be a consultation with The Official Uncle Crappy’s First Annual NCAA Final Four Contest Rules Committee to determine what should happen with the Fabulous Prizes if he gains his second point. But since I already owe Mr. Burns a case of beer for a long-ago completed Simpsons trivia contest, it wouldn’t seem right to stiff him in this case, even though he didn’t make the picks.

And if the three-way tie holds up? Christ, I have no idea what happens then.

This should have been so simple…

screwed.

Remember last year, when I was able to follow the tournament to the end, because I was one win away from taking the cash in the biggest pool I entered?

Yeah. That was fun.

This year … not so much. Even if we pretended for a second that Ohio State hadn’t lost to Georgetown yesterday, my brackets — all of them — would have been in pretty rough shape.

And with the loss to the Hoyas? Wow. It’s bad.

I still have final four teams left, and I suppose there is a tiny chance to pull something out over the next couple weekends. But to be realistic? From this point on, Uncle Crappy is a spectator.

** UPDATE, 10 p.m. Monday: OK. It’s not so bad; Ohio State’s loss only made it seem that way. I’m in sixth place in the internet pool — that’s the one with the big payoff — and my non-fantasy brackets — the ones without Ohio State winning the whole thing — are in the top 10 at both my office and that of The Wife. It’s a little hard to project those, but the internet pool comes with an automatic projection thingie, which says I can still win, actually under several scenarioes. So from here on out, I’m a big freakin’ Villanova fan. Go Cats!

pix.

We have our contestants in the First Annual Uncle Crappy NCAA Final Four Contest. And because some of them are so finely crafted, we’re running the submissions verbatim.

To start, let’s recap Uncle Crappy’s picks:

Duke, UCLA, North Carolina and Ohio State. Bucks beat the Blue Devils in the final.

The Wife:

Dook, UConn, Memphis and Ohio State.

Why not UNC? Two reasons: First, in their last game against Boston College in the ACC Tournament, after a surprisingly great season, the freshmen FINALLY showed up. They couldn’t make a pass, they couldn’t command the tempo of the game and they couldn’t claw their way back when things got bad. And two, if I don’t bet on them to win, they will go far. Hell, last year I didn’t have them surviving the Sweet 16 and they won the whole thing. This goes back to the, “I don’t watch the game, my team wins!” method of fandom. I have found that this works far better than rally caps, repetitive rituals or lucky charms. It works and I’m sticking to it even though it means I never see the end of an important game live. Only on Memorex, baby.

Dook beats Memphis. UConn beats OSU. We have another BORING championship that no one cares about. Face it: These two teams are the Yankees of the college basketball world. No one likes them unless they have big money on the game or if they are alumni.

UConn wins. Thanks for calling Your-Sure-Lock-Pick-of-the-Week.

From Fred, also known in these parts as the learned pig:

the question is: do i believe there is some divine force that will give a us a final 4 that exemplifies a sense of truth and beauty in our world, material or not? right, and who’s our president? so, since evil will triumph again: boston college, connecticut, texas, ucla. in the final, a bunch’o east coast liberals (and rockefeller republicans, who i can live with) will defy god(?) and destroy the burnt orange team from hell. as retribution, during their trip to meet the boy-king, the true leader of american (this country brought to you by adm, brown & root, conocophillips, mephistopheles, & issac hayes) will jump out from under scalia’s robe spraying buck shot across the white house lawn. it becomes a more serious incident once herr cheney realizes, after the trigger has been pulled (recently, we always seem to shoot first and then look around), that a bunch of abramoff’s kids are taking part in the traditional easter egg roll. for the good of the country, the true scope of the destruction is never made public; bystanders remain in an albanian concentration camp, i mean, jail, awaiting bond & clearance. thus, as our friend(s) marx said, groucho and karl, it don’t mean a thing if you ain’t got that bling…if there was justice, bucks win! bucks win!!

I had to call Fred after receiving this, and he clarified that the east coast liberals he was referring to live in Connecticut and not Boston.

On to Ethel, Fred’s lovely and talented wife:

How’s this: An all-Big Ten final four for (Ethel)

Illlinois
Ohio State
Indiana
Iowa

Final matchup: Illinois and Indiana

Winner: Illinois

On to the former Carolina Boy, who’s added an S to his name, just to make sure people don’t mistake him for a Tar Heel:

SCarolina Boy sez:

Duke
Gonzaga
UConn
Villanova

Duke
UConn

Duke-Champions!! (At least they are smart guys even if they don’t win!!)

This entry is an interesting one. Mr. Burns said he was boycotting brackets this year. That struck me as wholly un-American, and because I didn’t want anyone to question his patriotism, I will submit this entry in his name. His response? “Works for me.”

OK. I’m putting you down for a final four of Southern Illinois, Belmont, George Mason and South Alabama, with SIU beating George Mason in the finals. Go Salukis!

I think Mr. Burns is already mathematically eliminated. Whoops.

Finally, we have the entry from Kewyson, which you might have already seen as a comment to yesterday’s post:

Kewyson’s prediction – Final 4: North Carolina, Villanova, Duke, Kansas. Championship game: Duke vs. Villanova – with the Blue Devils taking the title game of March Madness, now extended by commercials into April.

Strong entries all, with the exception of that of Mr. Burns. And that’s mostly my fault. Good luck to everyone. Especially me.