March Madness – Married To The Mayhem

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The recent theatrical release “Table 19” opens with Anna Kendrick as a former maid-of-honor, recently fired from that role but invitation still in hand…questioning whether to RSVP to the wedding-in-question. She eventually makes the most of her invite and (spoiler alert) – with a little luck – goes from the disappointment of being seated at the least desirable table at the reception to putting the wheels in motion towards starting a family with the man she loves.

68 teams will also RSVP their invitations in the affirmative to this year’s NCAA Basketball Tournament and (spoiler alert) – with a little luck – look to make the most of their invites as well.

Why do so many get hitched each and every March to the marvelous mayhem this event provides? As easy as B-A-S-K-E-T-S…



Brackets, Brackets, Brackets – The Tournament’s schedule…the bracket…is the coat of arms of March Madness. Millions upon millions of brackets are ruminated upon and eventually completed (pencil and eraser recommended in the early stages). Even if there’s no wager on the line bragging rights are available against yourself, your family, your co-workers…even your pets. Your pets have as good a chance at winning a bracket contest as you do. I consider myself knowledgeable as far as college hoops are concerned and I’ve only picked two Tournament champions in the last decade. By the Final Four the people still eligible to win bracket pools are often those that picked squads based on their favorite colors or their perceived superiority of school mascots…or they really did let their pets pick. Hardcore fans look at predicting March Madness as a winning proposition either way. If their bracket busts badly they’re still having a blast watching because that means the Cinderella stories are even more plentiful. One pet peeve…sport a bracket of integrity. Do one bracket. Own it. Enter as many contests as you’d like but don’t hedge on your original selections.


America Loves Underdogs – We root like crazy for ‘em. We heart any story where the little guy or the unfavored emerge victorious. March Madness seedings bring clarity to even the most inexperienced fan as to who should defeat who. Underdogs and favorites are clearly defined.  We know by the end of the first round the entire nation will be talking about a player 99% of the country hadn’t heard of before the Tournament started. We know by the end of the second round the entire nation will have four days to chat up a team 99% of the country hadn’t been aware of before the tournament started. Surprising and spectacular stars emerge every March.


Shared Experiences – Watching the Tournament and participating in bracket competitions bring people together regardless of whether their politics are red or blue (yes, even now…). People of all ages feel universally connected to something much bigger. It is the ultimate live, unscripted reality show. Stories generated from the competition are positive, often heartwarming ones. Many people watch the Olympics for the same reason – the human interest stories. The emotions openly expressed by the participants while navigating wins and losses throughout March Madness similarly reflect what we all experience internally every day just navigating life.

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Knowledge (And The Absence Of It) – The basics of basketball are (contrary to the above) easily grasped. I think we can all identify with the concept of taking a ball and trying to put it in a target. Many growing up had a basketball as a treasured, on-call pal when no one else happened to be around…yours truly included. It’s an easy game to take in and doesn’t take long even for those with the shortest attention spans. Further, filling out a bracket and predicting results with predictably unpredictable outcomes provides a great, common equalizer for those who don’t follow college hoops at all. It is easy to get engaged and even play along with the play. (Trust me – those “experts” holding court about who’ll win on the court haven’t seen a third of these teams play an entire game. None of us knows exactly how events will unfold.)


Endless Endings – The first weekend of March Madness provides for a relentless tsunami of a viewing schedule with overlapping finishes stretching from early afternoon to late night. Memorable conclusions stream into waiting rooms and watering holes alike. Games are on at work…games are on at bedtime. And they mean everything to those participating…which makes watching as many as you can even more special. A #16 seed has never beaten a #1 seed…but we can’t wait for the moment they do. As CBS Sports’ Seth Davis is fond of saying “History repeats itself…until it doesn’t.”


Time Of Year– Most of the nation is trying to wake up from its winter hibernation…even when Mother Nature sometimes struggles to fully cooperate. Filling out a bracket, watching the games and tallying the results have become hand-in-hand with the hope spring is right around the corner. The timing on the sports calendar also fuels the fire and passion of March Madness as the Super Bowl is distant in the rear view mirror (except for Atlanta of course)…while months of NBA and NHL playoffs have yet to begin. Major League Baseball’s Opening Day even waits until most of the Madness has subsided.


Sudden Death, Sudden Victory – The overwhelming finality of it all…for both winners and losers. A nation fattened up courtesy of playoffs and series in other sports is presented instead with a rollercoaster of stripped down, lean, one-and-done competition. Do-or-die contests have great appeal for a viewing audience otherwise used to seeing teams get multiple chances to win a championship.


March Madness comes down to survive and advance. Teams that successfully adapt and adjust to each previously unscheduled opponent in front of them…as well as have luck staying healthy and benefiting from results that clear a slightly easier path…get a shot at winning it all.

I recently heard someone comment “Luck is a construct for the untalented.” I don’t believe that. Certainly not in the case of March Madness. We all need luck towards achieving objectives and the eventual NCAA Tournament champion most certainly requires it. You don’t survive a field of 68 without good fortune.

The classic English writer Charlotte Brontë wrote in her novel “Villette” that “Life is so constructed that an event does not, cannot, will not match the expectation.” I don’t believe that. Certainly not in the case of March Madness. The core expectation, the very essence of March Madness is being beautifully unpredictable. Frenzied, fan-tastic mayhem.

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RSVP in the affirmative to March Madness if you haven’t already. You’re guaranteed a great seat at any table (or nest) of your choice.

And…it never disappoints.

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Posted in Basketball, College Basketball, College Sports, Comics, Entertainment, Life, Media, NCAA, Peanuts, Sports, Television, Thoughts, TV | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 56 Comments

The Woodpecker Appraisal

In 24 hours an appraiser arrives to assign value to our home as part of a refinancing “journey.”

An hour or so ago…a woodpecker assigned itself to our cherry tree.

Or maybe it’s a plum (tree).

I initially thought nothing good can come from this coincidence. You want everything to go smoothly at an appraisal. Make sure there’s nothing unusual going on nearby. Draw no unnecessary or unusual attention to your environment. Clean. Straighten. Repeat.

At one end of the spectrum the bird is banging away 24 hours from now and that repetitive, rhythmic sound will be unsettling during the appraisal.

At the other end of the spectrum the bird brings the whole tree down during the appraisal…a tad more unsettling.

Thank heavens the house doesn’t have wood siding.

Perhaps some background on the family tree of the cherry (plum) tree is in order here…for example, it had a living mate at one time.

When we bought our home about twelve years ago we also inherited two cherry (plum) trees curbside between the front yard and the street. They provided some spectacular blooms each spring, followed by a relative handful of cherries (plums) either devoured by the local bird society or gathered up by my wife and I.

Until the spring of 2012 that is.

The winters of 2009-10 and 2010-11 were two of the worst in recorded history around here. 70-plus inches of snow both of those seasons. Brutal. The winter of 2011-12 was the exact opposite. The snow blower never even left the bullpen that go-round. It was cold at Halloween but that winter…not at all.

Apparently the weather trifecta planted the seeds for the cherry (plum) trees to pollinate so vigorously in the spring of 2012 we can safely rate their fertilization activity as “XXX.”

(You may be wondering by now why I’m not sure about cherry/plum. One of the two trees failed to bloom a year ago and was put out of its misery. The consultant for the tree service, while agreeing the tree lived a long and…fruitful…life…couldn’t figure out why the developer put actual fruit trees so close to the street as the surface tends to radiate heat and bake them out in the summertime. He also couldn’t figure out why I was calling them cherry trees as he insisted they were plum trees.)

In the late spring and throughout that summer of 2012 my wife and I were picking up on average 50 new cherries (plums) a day off our property, many far removed from being intact as they were but birdy leftovers if not outright victims of physics – gravity versus ground.

Our bird community enjoyed this all-you-can-eat buffet early in the process but clearly struggled with dining out as the warmer months slogged on. We inadvertently committed them all to Weight Watchers for the balance of the year as my wife and I picked up hundreds of pounds of fruit in various stages of decomp.

Picking fruit off the ground daily is rather labor intensive, proportionate to one’s age and physical condition of course.  I considered myself to be in reasonably good shape but being bent over for a 1/2 hour straight a couple of times a day revealed a whole mess of muscles I didn’t know were available. My wife felt the strain of this never-ending harvest as well.

We were going to trim the cherry (plum) trees back anyway but the situation got so sticky we had a tree service come out sooner and trim both back to stop the carnage…better leveraging our chances of not having any reoccurrence in the years to come.

Back to the present day now with the one remaining cherry (plum) tree now under appraisal from a woodpecker…mind you the VERY FIRST woodpecker we’ve ever seen or heard in these parts…a day before the home appraisal.

This remaining cherry (plum) tree is still very much alive so the objective was to keep both woodpecker and tree alive…for at least 24 hours.

Off to Ye Olde Internet to find out how to deal with the woodpecker…

“All species of woodpeckers are at least somewhat protected by federal and state laws. This means intentionally killing woodpeckers is illegal.”

Immediately learning this was helpful in that I no longer needed to waste my time chasing solutions that could lead to its demise. I was simply trying to get it to find another tree to hang with.

“Just because you see a woodpecker pecking on the tree does not mean that there will be damage.”

More helpful news…the tree might not suffer any long-term damage after all. So…why was this bird even out there in the first place?

“Woodpecker holes in trees happen for a variety of reasons. In many cases woodpeckers are going after insects in the tree which means not only do you have a woodpecker problem, you may have an insect problem. Other types of woodpeckers may be creating holes in your trees so that they can get at the sap. Other reasons a woodpecker may be pecking on trees is to build nests, attract mates and even store food.”

I’ve never seen any insects on the tree (flying around the fruit on the ground was another story entirely). There is sap on the tree on occasion. Geez, I would feel bad if the little dude or dudette was just hungry…or trying to find companionship. Maybe a temporary solution?

“Decoy predators, such as plastic hawks and owls, can be used but stop working quickly once the woodpecker determines they are not actually a threat.”

Clever woodpeckers.

“The best way to stop woodpecker damage is to keep the woodpecker from getting to the tree in the first place.”

Clever Internet.

“Loud noises such as hand-clapping, a toy cap pistol and banging on a garbage can lid have been used to frighten woodpeckers away from houses.”

“Hi there Mr. Appraiser…”

“Yes, I am VERY happy to see you.”

“Noooooo, it’s not a real gun.”

“How DID you know “Stomp” is my favorite musical?”

Fortunately, after what sounded like forever the little one ceased its loud, highly focused excavating operation and moved on.

Until tomorrow? We’ll see.

Before it departed I kind of got a picture of it in woodpecking mode. (Zoom function only…the woodpecker is at the base of the tree on the right-hand side)

Though the woodpecker apparently did not appraise our tree at a particularly high value here’s hoping in 24 hours the appraiser does the opposite with our home.

Knock on wood.


Have you ever experienced any unforeseen realtor/appraiser challenges?

Have you ever hosted woodpeckers?

Are cherry and plum trees really all that similar?

Posted in Blog, Blogging, Home, Humor, Life, Thoughts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 55 Comments

At The Center Of It All – America Hugs It Out

(Image Credit David Hale Sylvester)

Twenty-four hours ago I had never heard of David Hale Sylvester.

Twenty-four hours ago people he was high-fiving and hugging had never heard of him either.

A story by Jenice Armstrong in the Philadelphia Daily News got me up to speed on “Big Dave” (as his friends call him…6-3, 260 Lbs., all muscle) who bills himself as the “HumanHigh5.”

Dave was in Lebanon, Kansas yesterday high-fiving and hugging strangers. Why? On 9/11 he lost a friend working in the World Trade Center. A second friend was also working there but managed to get out safely. A third was out of his WTC office on a business trip to Japan. A fourth overslept that morning.

Shortly after the memorial service for his buddy he decided to trek across the US on his bike to raise awareness and money for charity.

He’s still at it having biked across 15 states and 21 foreign countries. Last year he drove around the US, stopping in places touched by gun violence…high-fiving and hugging folks. This year he wants to bike across all 50 states, high-fiving and hugging as many people as possible.

How did the intersection of Lebanon, Kansas and Valentine’s Day come into view on Dave’s radar? Another friend mentioned to him last month how frustrated America seems to be with itself lately – Dave takes it from there:

“A friend was talking about how divided we are as a nation and how we need some good news. I got the idea of being in the center of the country on Valentine’s Day and giving hugs and high-fives to everyone.”

Lebanon, Kansas is the geographic center of the lower forty-eight states. Mayor Rick Chapin on Dave’s plan:

“Anymore, not too much surprises me. He’s traveled quite a bit of the world spreading unity. You’re always a little skeptical but everything seems OK. The premise is good. We are pretty divided right now. One side sees it one way and another sees it the other way. This may not help but it won’t hurt.”

Lebanon only has a couple hundred residents or so but they’ve seen other visitors on-location of late as its unique location makes for a symbolic storyline…where the country divides in half.

This is not my first “visit” to Lebanon…the little town is featured on the CW series Supernatural as the adopted home of Sam and Dean Winchester, living there in a former base of a secret society known as the “Men of Letters.”

A man of hugs, on Valentine’s Day Dave wasn’t in Philadelphia serving as a personal trainer at a fitness center. He was instead in the middle of the country serving as an example…looking to make strangers feel good…as well as those learning of his visit.

Getting people to smile. Giving them some peace.

Dave summarizes it in six words:

“We just need a good story.”

Posted in Culture, Faith, Family, Life, News | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 39 Comments