Friday, March 16, 2012

A father, a son and a college basketball tournament

For many college basketball fans, "March Madness" (known better to us purists as the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament) brings memories of great players, shining moments, and school pride. Especially when your alma mater is one of seven with three or more NCAA Tournament titles.

But this year - and for the rest of my life - it also brings memories of my son's birth. And it's something I hope we'll always share.

John will be 1 on Tuesday, and we're excited about celebrating with him, even if he has no idea what a birthday is. A year ago, we had no idea he'd be a "Bracket Buster."

He was born amid the madness - about four weeks earlier than expected. Fortunately, there were no major complications and we spent his first night watching college basketball in our hospital room at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas.

Because I took time off from work afteward, the rest of last year's tournament was in the background as John came home and we all began to settle in. Despite a tough loss for my team to VCU in the Elite Eight, it was a good tourney. Add in the Mavericks' run to an NBA title last summer, and basketball has been a big part of our life together.

So we hope that John will take in some basketball over the next few weeks. He even created his own bracket this year, with a lot of help from his mother. She named off the teams and mascots, and John made his selections.

Don't worry - we don't plan to turn him into a compulsive gambler. Instead, we hope the names, mascots and team colors will help him learn words, animals and colors.

And I'm proud to report that it has. My wife said John especially enjoyed picking Kentucky, or "Tucky," as he called it. Each time she asked him about a Kentucky matchup, John shouted out "Tucky!" - sometimes before the opponent was named.

Another popular team was Murray State, whose mascot is the Racers but has a thoroughbred on its logo. One of John's favorite toys is a plush horse that came from Wells Fargo bank. He calls it "Neigh neigh," since that's the sound the horse makes when I play with it.

So upon learning that Murray State had a "neigh," John picked the Racers to go far in the tournament.

Will his picks be as good as the so-called experts? If history tells us anything, perhaps. He was wise in picking "Tucky" to go further than "Neigh."

Either way, it will be fun.

And that's what watching sports as a family is all about. What sports traditions does your family have? What memories do they conjure up?

Tom Erickson is the web content specialist for Texas Health Resources and college basketball-loving Dad to almost one-year-old John. 

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