Tonight is the NCAA Men’s basketball championship, or as it is better known – March Madness. For me March Madness always brings with it talk of busted brackets, the inevitable singing of One Shining Moment (an event bordering on the sacred), and a trip down memory lane to the time that beautiful girl broke up with me, and beat me in March Madness.
The year was 2004. George W. Bush was President. War raged in Iraq. John Kerry had just wrapped up the Democratic nomination for president. People were going to the movies to see Hellboy and Scooby Doo 2 (Okay, not many people were going to the movies). American Idol and CSI were kings of television. And internet company Google released something called Gmail.
Things had been good for me. I had been dating a girl for a couple of months, and while we were far from serious, things seemed to be progressing. I was at about the nine-month mark in my recovery from ACL replacement surgery, and I was on the road to recovery, although there was definitely more work to do. I had applied for an RA position at the seminary where I attended. I was hopeful of getting the position. If I was hired it would help out tremendously with finances, especially after paying for major knee surgery.
That March, as was my annual tradition, I filled out a bracket with a
group of my buddies from the men’s dorm, and as a joke I had my girlfriend fill out one too. She chose teams based on their location, mascot, uniform color, and a variety of other criteria that had nothing to do with one’s ability to shoot free throws or defend the pick and roll. Then, my own version of March Madness hit.
Thirteen years later I don’t remember the exact sequence of everything, but in rapid succession the following things happened. I did not get the RA position. My girlfriend broke up with me. And I came down with a combined case of strep and mononucleosis. Almost every area of my life seemed to have bottomed out at once. Physically I was a mess. It was the first time in my life that my throat had been so sore that I had to put both of my hands to my chest and brace myself to swallow. Knee rehab stopped because I could hardly get out of bed. Mentally I was in a fog. I was back to relationship square one with a great girl, and I wasn’t even totally sure why we had broken up. I was scrambling to figure out how to work out my finances with medical bills stacking up and no RA position to help. I was a mess. Not a hot mess, just a mess. More like a cold, clammy mess.
Before I was diagnosed with the plague I went to see my great aunt. She took me out for soup, which I was barely able to swallow, and then we went back to her house and watched the movie Radio. I broke down in tears at Radio’s plight. Something I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have done if I didn’t feel horrible. I mean Radio was a pretty sad move, but not really worth any tears. Let’s just say I was pretty low.
As if things couldn’t get worse a new torturous thing happened to me. My former girlfriend’s March Madness bracket started doing really well while mine went in the dump.
Over and over again I had this conversation on campus.
Random friend/acquaintance/person: “Hey your girlfriend is beating you in March Madness!”
Me (bracing myself to talk through intense pain): “No, we broke up. My x-girlfriend is beating me in March Madness.”
Random friend/acquaintance/person (now very awkward as they try to escape quickly): “Bummer.”
Graciously my former girlfriend is the one that took me to the doctor. She might have been concerned that whatever I had was contagious since we had only broken up a few days before, but I like to think that she still cared. On the Monday of the championship game she took me to the doctor, and when we found out what it was she took care of me that day. She even watched the game with me in the men’s dorm. If the team she chose as champions (Georgia Tech) would have won she would have finished in second place beating a lot more guys than just me. Alas, the Yellowjackets lost. I lost to my x-girlfriend, but it could have been worse.
Eventually, I started feeling better. I got the finances figured out. Things with the former girlfriend improved, no doubt my pathetic physical condition played on her heart strings. Thirteen years later she and I still fill out brackets in a March Madness competition every year. Of course, now it is harder to watch the games with taking care of our three kids (with one more on the way) at night. And at least this year, the former girlfriend who has now been my wife for over a decade, didn’t do as well as I did.