The Monthly Editorial Blog By Schlafly Beer Co-Founder Tom Schlafly
Alert readers (ARs) of a certain age may recall one of the musical highlights of 1973, namely “Basketball Jones” by Cheech and Chong. The song, a parody of “Love Jones” by Brighter Side of Darkness, tells the tale of Tyrone Shoelaces, whose dependence on basketball has risen to the level of a Jones (addiction): “Basketball Jones. I got a basketball Jones. I got a basketball Jones.”
For ARs and others who, like Tyrone, suffer from a basketball Jones, there’s no better time of year than March, when America succumbs to March Madness, aka the NCAA Men’s College Basketball Tournament. One of the most popular ways to participate in this madness is by filling out brackets predicting the outcomes of all the games in the tournament. This is a process that can be completed in under five minutes, as I have done; or it can take an eternity…literally.
There are nearly 148 quintillion different ways to fill out an NCAA bracket. If someone wanted to fill out a bracket according to every possible permutation, he or she could fill out approximately a million brackets per year at a pace of one bracket every 30 seconds, 24 hours per day, 365 days per year. This would allow less than half a second to choose the winner of each game. At this rate it would take 148 trillion years to fill out all the brackets, or more than 10,000 times as long as the age of the universe.
ARs looking for other ways to satisfy their basketball Joneses in St. Louis may want to attend Arch Madness (the Missouri Valley Men’s Basketball Tournament) from March 6 to 9 and/or the first and second round games of March Madness on March 21 and 23. To the coaches looking for an edge in these competitions I have some simple, but effective advice: Take your team to The Schlafly Tap Room for dinner.
That is exactly what the coaches of the North Carolina Tar Heels did on Thursday, March 31, 2005, before the Final Four at the Edward Jones Dome. The Tar Heels won the NCAA championship that year. In the final game they defeated the Fighting Illini from Illinois for whom it was essentially a home game. Nine years later I’m still convinced that the Tar Heels were able to overcome the disadvantage of playing on the road thanks to their training table meal at The Tap Room.
North Carolina, the alma mater of James K. Polk, is one of four colleges that have won the NCAA men’s basketball championship and have awarded an undergraduate degree to a future U.S. president. The other three are Georgetown (Bill Clinton), Michigan (Gerald Ford) and Stanford (Herbert Hoover). Two other universities that have won the NCAA championship can count presidents among the alumni of their law schools: Cincinnati (William Howard Taft) and Duke (Richard Nixon).
While several U.S. presidents have been basketball fans, perhaps none more than Barack Obama, the world leader with the greatest basketball Jones is probably Kim Jong Un from North Korea. Kim, who is known to much of the world primarily for his atrocities (including reportedly having political enemies killed by a pack of half-starved dogs) is a big hoops fan and a buddy of former NBA star Dennis Rodman. Rodman, who claims to be the oldest of 47 children, can best be described as “colorful,” in part because of the various neon colors he has dyed his hair.
Prior to Dennis Rodman the most colorful professional basketball player in the United States may well have been Marvin “Bad News” Barnes. As a senior at Central High School in Providence, Barnes was part of a gang that attempted to rob a bus. He was identified more easily than the others because he was six feet, eight inches tall and was wearing the state championship jacket with his name embroidered on the back. A few years later he famously refused to board a plane that was scheduled to leave Louisville (in the eastern time zone) at 8:00 p.m. and arrive in St. Louis (in the central time zone) 56 minutes later at 7:56 p.m. With the immortal words, “I ain’t getting in no time machine,” Barnes rented a car for the trip.
Marvin Barnes at the time was playing for the Spirits of St. Louis, which were owned by Ozzie and Dan Silna. Although the team folded back when Gerald Ford was president, it has turned out to be an extremely lucrative investment for the Silna brothers, who have received hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation for their team that no longer exists. It’s hard to imagine a better situation for guys with a serious basketball Jones. They’ve got a lot of extra money to put into NCAA pools and a lot of spare time for filling out brackets.