In Jim Jividen’s celebrity alumni version of this year’s NCAA Tournament, playwright Arthur Miller and actor James Earl Jones take on Joe Montana in a championship game for the ages.
For the past quarter century, I’ve gone out the Monday morning after Selection Sunday to buy two copies of the USA Today. Why? Giant brackets (one to fill out, one to populate as the tournament played out) and team capsules. For several years, really through law school, I cut out those capsules, put them in a baseball cap, and would throw each team away as it was eliminated.
I still occasionally got laid. I can’t explain it myself.
Today, the capsules are largely as needed as a hard copy of the TV Guide but I was still surprised this year to see that discussion of the players has been replaced with lists of “notable alumni” of each of the 68 tournament teams.
That leads to this.
The 2013 Men’s NCAA Basketball Tournament as Predicted by The Notable Alumni as Listed in USA Today.
First Round (these are play in games, don’t let them tell you different)
NC A&T (Jesse Jackson) v. Liberty (Sid Bream) – Jackson’s one of the pivotal civil rights figures of the past 40 years, Sid Bream’s career WAR is 9.7 – Winner: NC A&T
Middle Tennessee St (James Mcgill Buchanan) v. St. Mary’s (Robert Hass) – This is only evaluating the alumni actually named by USA Today, so as to avoid researching where all of my favorite federal judges went to law school…except for this game. I used to go out with a Mid Tenn St alum, which, since it was an amicable break up, would lead one to believe they were the side – except that I was still seeing her when I met the woman who I would eventually marry, and that’s not a door that needs opened lest I risk her writing about her exes. Ain’t nobody got time for that. Winner – St. Mary’s
Boise St. (Steve Appleton) v. LaSalle (Peter Boyle) – Frankenstein’s Monster against some former CEO. Please – Winner: LaSalle
LIU Brooklyn (Terry Semel) v. James Madison (LeRoi Moore) – Moore was Dave Mathews’s saxophonist, when Semel ran Yahoo, the employees could still work from home – Winner: LIU
Let’s go to the regions.
1.Louisville (Mitch McConnell) v.16. NC A&T (Jesse Jackson)
I voted for President when I was 17; I fell into a loophole in Ohio where, because I would turn 18 by the time of the 1988 general election, I could vote in the Democratic primary even though I was 17.
I cast that vote for Jesse Jackson. I don’t know how many other white 17 year olds who ever voted for Jesse Jackson, but I’m guessing we could fit in a really tiny car that would drive as fast as it could away from Mitch McConnell. Winner – A Shocker! – NC A&T
8. Colorado St (John Amos) v. 9. Missouri (Sam Walton). Let’s see, the founder of a non-union shop or James Evans, Sr., who, in a different time or place, would have been rebounding from one of those “temporary layoffs” with an overnight shift at Wal-Mart. This is a blowout. Winner – Colorado St.
5. Oklahoma St. (Barry Sanders) v. 12. Oregon (Ken Kesey). This is a war – how can the author of Cuckoo’s Nest go home in the first round? By hitting maybe the greatest college football player I’ve ever seen. Winner – Oklahoma St.
4. St. Louis (August Busch IV) v. 13. NMex St (Harold Reitsema) – One of these guys has an asteroid named after him. It ain’t the heir to a brewery. Winner-New Mexico St.
6. Memphis (Fred Thompson) v. 11. St. Marys (Robert Hass) – Hass and his wife got beaten up by a cop at an Occupy rally. Thompson probably wishes he were swinging the club. Winner – St. Marys
3. Michigan St (Magic Johnson) v. 14. Valpo (Not Magic Johnson) – Winner: Michigan St.
7. Creighton (Bob Gibson) v. 10. Cincinnati (William Howard Taft) – I’m not an institutionalist, but as great as Gibson was, he wasn’t both President and Chief Justice. Plus – fat guy solidarity. Winner – Cincinnati
2. Duke (Richard Nixon) v. 15. Albany (Harvey Milk). There was a book a year ago alleging Nixon used to bang Bebe Rebozo. Too little, too late. Winner – Albany
Round of 32:
8. Colorado St. (John Amos) v. 16. NC A&T (Jesse Jackson) – a 16 seed in the Sweet Sixteen? Winner – NC A&T
5. OK St v. (Barry Sanders) 13. NMex St v. (Harold Reitsema) – Ask Harlon Barnett who wins this game. Winner: OK St.
3. Michigan St. (Magic Johnson) v. 11. St Marys (Not Magic Johnson) – Winner: Michigan St.
10. Cincinnati (William Howard Taft) v.15. Albany (Harvey Milk) – If Taft doesn’t run for re-election and instead endorses Teddy, who made a sharp left turn while on safari, that third Roosevelt term is probably more progressive, certainly on race, than Wilson’s. Winner – Albany
5. OK St (Barry Sanders) v. 16. NC A&T (Jesse Jackson) – Sanders averaged 5 yards a carry for his career, Jesse’s kid’s going to jail for using campaign funds to buy one of Michael Jackson’s hats for 4 grand. Winner – OK St.
3. Michigan St. (Magic Johnson) v. 15. Albany (Not Magic Johnson) – Winner: Michigan St.
3. Michigan St. (Magic Johnson) v. 5. Oklahoma St. (Barry Sanders) – Barry Sanders is one of the greatest backs in NFL history. He’s Not Magic Johnson.
MIDWEST REGION WINNERS – MICHIGAN ST.
1. Gonzaga (Bing Crosby) v. 16. Southern (Randy Jackson) – Bing Crosby’s been dead 35 years; he released a duet with Michael Buble 3 months ago. That’s the definition of survive and advance. Winner – Gonzaga
8. Pitt ( Gene Kelly) v. 9. Wichita St. (Bill Parcells) – there’s a story, perhaps apocryphal, of Parcells eating a Dove Bar while on a treadmill – that’s some pretty nifty footwork needed to pull that off. Unfortunately, on the other side of the court is Gene Kelly. Winner – Pitt
5. Wisconsin (Errol Morris) v. 12. Mississippi (John Grisham) – Art battles Commerce in the Round of 64. If there’s one place where art should still win that game, it’s college. Winner: Wisconsin
4. Kansas St. (Erin Brockovich) v. 13. LaSalle(Bill Raftery) – Send it in Jerome! Winner: LaSalle
6. Arizona (Garry Shandling) v. 11. Belmont (A couple of popular country singers). You could put all the popular country singers you can find in the same Intro to Sociology Course at Belmont and they still don’t beat Larry Freaking Sanders. Winner: Arizona
3.NMexico (Brian Urlacher) v. 14. Harvard (the 44th President of the United States). Harvard’s also got Conan O’Brien. The Crimson are gonna be a tough out. Winner: Harvard
7. Notre Dame (Regis Philbin) v. 10. Iowa St. (George Washington Carver). I’m allergic to peanuts. Winner: Notre Dame
2. Ohio St. (Jesse Owens) v. 15. Iona (Richie Guerin). Yeah, that seems like an unlikely upset on anyone’s bracket. Winner: Ohio St.
Round of 32:
1. Gonzaga (Bing Crosby) v. 8. Pitt (Gene Kelly) – without looking it up, I don’t think Kelly was ever accused of beating his entire family. Winner: Pitt
5. Wisconsin (Errol Morris) v. 13. LaSalle (Peter Boyle) – I enjoyed Everybody Loves Raymond as much as did anyone who only watched two episodes, but it didn’t get anyone freed from a Texas penitentiary. Winner: Wisconsin
6. Arizona (Garry Shandling/Geraldo Rivera) v. 14. Harvard (Conan O’Brien/Barack Obama). Here’s where depth comes into play; Conan/Shandling is a lean to the Wildcats – but then not only does Harvard come at you with Obama, they do it against Geraldo. Geraldo! Even the most hardcore where’s the birth certificate/terrorist fist jab/get your government out of my Medicare wacko couldn’t give it to Geraldo. Winner: Harvard
2. Ohio St. (Jesse Owens) v. 7. Notre Dame (Regis Philbin) – I’ve met two of the alums in this tournament; about five feet from where I’m currently sitting is the pen I may have taken from one of them. No, I do not have Jesse Owens’s pen. Winner-Notre Dame
5. Wisconsin (Errol Morris/Joan Cusack) v. 8. Pitt (Gene Kelly) – It’s a good battle between Thin Blue Line and Singin’ in the Rain – but Joan Cusack hits you with Say Anything and Broadcast News and In and Out and School of Rock and Perks of Being a Wallflower and it’s the Badgers who advance. Winner-Wisconsin
7. Notre Dame (Joe Montana) v. 14. Harvard (Conan/Obama) – I buried the lede. The Irish have a second listed alum. Conan’s good times, but he ain’t Letterman and while the Obama legacy isn’t written yet, FDR seems pretty far away. It’s that second group that Montana’s in. Winner: Notre Dame
5. Wisconsin (Morris/Cusack) v. 7. Notre Dame (Joe Montana) – It’s the same game as the previous round, you can find better documentarians than Morris and better Cusacks than Joan. But you don’t get better than 13 TD (rushing and passing combined) and 0 picks in 4 Super Bowls. Winner: Notre Dame
WEST REGIONAL WINNERS – NOTRE DAME
1. Kansas (Wilt Chamberlain) v. 16. Western Kentucky (Kenny Perry). It could be that I went through a multi-month interview process with one of these schools to just come up short at the very, very end. It could be. Winner-Kansas.
8. UNC (James K Polk/Mia Hamm) v. Villanova (Don McLean/Maria Bello). I mean, have you seen The Cooler? Have you seen the Cooler? One side invaded Mexico and the other side is The Cooler? Winner: Nova
5. VCU (Stephen Furst) v. 12. Akron (the drummer for the Black Keys) Much like Howard Stern, I think the Black Keys are good, but Flounder is closer to my milieu. Winner: VCU
4.Michigan (Arthur Miller) v. 13. S.Dakota St. (Adam Vinatieri)
-Shockingly, it wasn’t a South Dakota St. grad who wrote Death of a Salesman. Winner: Michigan
6. UCLA (Jim Morrison) v. 11. Minnesota (Thomas Friedman)
-Friedman is almost always wrong about almost always everything. Morrison was the Lizard King. Winner: UCLA
3.Florida (Erin Andrews) v. 14. Northwestern St. (Bobby Hebert)
-My boy Maury is a Gator grad. What up Maury! And that’s how I avoid any reference to illegally obtained videos that blew up the internet. Winner: Florida
7. San Diego St. (Joe Gibbs) v. 10. Oklahoma (James Garner)
-I’m not generally swayed by iconic maleness – you give me John Wayne, and I’ll talk about a cartoon tough guy who liked to rhetorically punch hippies after avoiding military service himself. But James Garner? The Rock? That’s my dude. Winner: Oklahoma
2. Georgetown (the 42nd President of the United States v. 15. Fla Gulf Coast (I’ve been teaching in higher ed in Florida for a decade – there’s a school called Florida Gulf Coast?) Winner: Georgetown
Round of 32
1. Kansas (Wilt) v. 9. Nova (Maria Bello) – Wilt averaged 30 points and 20 boards for his career. He’s Babe Ruth. Winner: Kansas
4.Michigan (James Earl Jones) v. 5. VCU (Stephen Furst) – Michigan can leave the playwright on the bench for this one. Winner: Michigan
3.Florida (Erin Andrews) v. 6. UCLA (Jim Morrison/Rob Reiner)– The Lizard King and Meathead? That’s a gritty, veteran backcourt. That’s Mike Warren/Lucius Allen right there. Winner: UCLA.
2. Georgetown (Bill Clinton/Bradley Cooper/Allen Iverson) v. 10. Oklahoma (James Garner) – That’s a bad locker room for the Hoyas, a lot of guys needing the ball and time at the mirror. Winner: Oklahoma
1. Kansas (Wilt) v. 4. Michigan (Arthur Miller) – Wilt slept with 20,000 women. Miller married Marilyn Monroe. Winner: Michigan
6. UCLA (Morrison/Reiner/Jackie Joyner Kersee) v. 10. Oklahoma (Garner) – Have I mentioned I’m a big Garner fan? Winner: The Rock!
4.Michigan (Miller) v. 10. Oklahoma (Garner) – Miller wrote Act I of the greatest American play in less than a day. With malice toward none and charity to all, we say goodbye to the Sooners. Winner: Michigan
SOUTH REGION WINNERS: MICHIGAN
1. Indiana (Will Shortz) v. 16. LIU (Terry Semel) – who doesn’t enjoy a good crossword every now and again in 1998? Winner: Indiana
8. NC St (John Edwards) v. 9. Temple (Bill Cosby) – Did you know from the ages of 7 to 15, that Cosby thought his name was Jesus Christ and his brother Russell thought his name was Dammit? Really tragic stuff. I mean, not as bad as Edwards, but still. Winner: Temple
5. UNLV (Kenny Mayne) v. 12. Cal (Gregory Peck)
-Remember when I told you I’ve met two of the listed alumni? Did you notice the first one is in the Final Four? Winner: UNLV
4. Syracuse (Jim Brown) 13. Montana (Carroll O’Connor)
-Holy cats, can you imagine such a round one game? Now peep this. I’m taking Archie Bunker. Winner: Montana
6. Butler (Thad Motta) v. 11. Bucknell (Les Moonves)
-Moonves is married to Julie Chen and that keeps my favorite American reality competition show, Big Brother, in business. Winner: Bucknell.
3. Marquette (Chris Farley) v. 14. Davidson (Steph Curry)
Among the more overrated comedians of my lifetime – Farley. Among the more underrated players in the NBA – Curry. Winner: Davidson
7. Illinois (Roger Ebert) v. 10. Colorado (Rick Reilly)
-One of these guys is a terrific, important writer and cultural commentator. And the other is Rick Reilly. Winner: Illinois
2. Miami (Dwayne Johnson) v. 15. Pacific (Pete Carroll)
-Much like in the upcoming Wrestlemania, The Rock ends the evening on his back, looking at the lights. Winner: Pacific.
Round of 32:
1. Indiana (Will Shortz) v. 9. Temple (Bill Cosby): Seriously, I almost voted for John Edwards – that would be a tough one to walk back. All that filth and foul, filth. Temple gets an extra round just for having to go through it. Winner: Temple
5. UNLV (Kenny Mayne) v. 13. Montana (Carroll O’Connor): If I had finished 1st instead of 3rd, maybe this result would be different, Kenny. Winner: Montana
11. Bucknell (Les Moonves) v. 14. Davidson (Steph Curry) – you know the metrics say Curry is one of the great outside shooters of all time? He’s buried out there with my Warriors….oops. I mean, I’m completely objective, I don’t at all root for the Warriors (Go Warriors!). Winner: Davidson
7. Illinois (Ebert) v. 15. Pacific (Carroll) – If this were a half dozen years ago, when Pete was leading the resurgence of my Trojans, instead of today when he’s my chief enemy in Seattle, this game has a different result. But unless there’s been an email chain on which I’m not CC’d, it is not, in fact. six years ago. Winner: Illinois
9. Temple (Cosby) v. 13. Montana (O’Connor) – Archie knocked off Jim Brown, but gets his comeuppance in the Sweet 16. He should have listened to Edith all along. Winner: Temple
7. Illinois (Roger Ebert/Nick Offerman) v. 14. Davidson (Steph Curry) – My affection for Ebert is virtually boundless, but when he meets the GSW (Go Warriors! We Believe!) point guard he looks to be outmatched….until he’s joined by Ron Swanson, who builds a pyramid of greatness right into the Elite 8. Winner: Illinois
7. Illinois (Ebert/Offerman) v. 9. Temple (Cosby) Shorts over 6 inches are capri pants. Shorts under 6 inches are European. Winner: Illinois
EAST REGION WINNER: ILLINOIS
So, your final 4, three Big 10 Teams and the Irish
Michigan St. v. Notre Dame
Michigan v. Illinois
Semi Final: Michigan St’s got Magic Johnson; they also have creepy Dateline host Chris Hansen. Notre Dame has the greatest quarterback who ever lived and a guy whose pen I now have placed next to my brackets. Pen! Pen! Pen! Winner: Notre Dame
Semi-Final: Michigan’s got the genius playwright and Darth Vader’s voice. Illinois has a venerable movie critic and Ron By God Swanson. Even Ebert, I’m guessing, would not suggest he should go over Arthur Miller, and even Swanson would bow before Lord Vader. Winner: Michigan
In the real world, I’m taking Florida to beat Louisville in the finals.
But here – in the USA Today Notable Alumni Bracket we have:
Notre Dame v. Michigan
You guys know I’m from San Francisco, right? I mean, if it’s Montana vs. My Last Breath, I’m taking Joe. I didn’t hit Dwight in the back of the end zone. It’s only right.
National Champions: Notre Dame Fighting Irish.