Taking a Fast Break From Politics for Basketball

It’s time to take a break from politics. Let’s talk March Madness.

Now that the NCAA basketball tournament is under way, millions of people have completed their brackets and many of us have favorite teams because of personal ties to a particular school. This is not the most rational way to pick a winner but it is deeply satisfying to root for a school with which you identify.

The beauty of the NCAA tournament is that virtually no one gets it 100 percent right – not even the most informed and ardent basketball fans and professionals. Conversely, even the most casual basketball fan will pick a few winners and, with a little luck, more than a few.

Most of us start with the college or colleges we attended. In my case, my law degree is from Georgetown and its team plays serious basketball in a serious conference, the Big East. That was easy.

My undergraduate school, the University of Missouri, made a great basketball run for many years but has reverted back to being a football school. So much for Mizzou. Missouri’s arch-rival, Kansas, is a No. 1 seed this year but somehow didn’t make my pick for the Final Four.

Then there are the schools my children attended. Basketball prowess was not the primary criteria for their choices but they wound up attending schools that have a real shot this year.

My oldest daughter, Alanna, graduated from the University of North Carolina in 1993, a year they won the national championship. They are a No. 1 seed this year.

My middle daughter, Mariel, attended Ohio State for her first two years and transferred to the University of Texas from which she graduated in 1999. Ohio State is a No. 1 seed this year and Texas is a No. 4 seed. Not bad.

Of course, both schools also play serious football. I called Mariel at halftime two years ago when Texas and Ohio State were playing an early season football game with national championship implications. She told me she was rooting for Texas. They won and finished No. 1 that year.

My third daughter, Camille, doesn’t make the basketball pool. She graduated from the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park, N.Y. They don’t field athletic teams but she’ll probably wind up making more money than both her other sisters combined.

So where does that leave me? This column is being written before the first weekend’s games have been completed, but all four teams – North Carolina, Georgetown, Ohio State and Texas – entered the first round with legitimate chances of reaching the Sweet 16 and several could make the Final Four. Unfortunately, Georgetown and North Carolina are in the same region (the East), so only one could reach the final weekend.

I love it. I almost always pick a sentimental favorite when I complete my bracket even though this usually means I don’t win. What’s the point of spending March following college basketball if you can’t root for the home team? If all I want to do is place a bet, I’ll go to Vegas.

So which did I pick? I selected Georgetown and North Carolina to meet in the East regional finals as did just about everyone in the country.

My heart said pick Georgetown because I love what John Thompson the father and John Thompson the son have done for the program and for the school; however, since Alanna enrolled at Chapel Hill I have become a serious Carolina fan due to its almost constant level of excellence.

Also, North Carolina has an additional pull on my heartstrings since the starting point guard on the 2005 national championship team, Raymond Felton, was from my wife Kathy’s hometown, Latta, S.C.

A final word about North Carolina. Each year that Alanna was in school there I went to Carolina games at the Dean Dome. There’s nothing better.

And when North Carolina and Texas Tech won the men’s and women’s championships in 1993, the entire Texas and North Carolina congressional delegations were invited to the White House where the two teams were honored by President Clinton. I spent virtually the entire time talking to North Carolina’s Dean Smith, a wonderful coach and a good Democrat.

Ohio State and Texas both have exciting programs this year but I didn’t select either one for the Final Four. On my card it’s Florida vs. North Carolina in the finals with North Carolina winning a second national championship for Roy Williams. My other two Final Four teams are UCLA and (gasp) Texas A&M.

I don’t ever expect to make a living as a sports journalist but there is nothing wrong with rooting for a team you care about. It’s really nice when you have four teams like that. We’ll get back to the affairs of state next week.

Martin Frost served in Congress from 1979 to 2005, representing a diverse district in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area. He served two terms as chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, the third-ranking leadership position for House Democrats, and two terms as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Frost serves as a regular contributor to FOX News Channel and is a partner at the law firm of Polsinelli, Shalton, Flanigan and Suelthaus. He holds a Bachelor of Journalism degree from the University of Missouri and a law degree from the Georgetown Law Center.

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