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March Madness

I was a young twentysomething working in Washington DC at the second professional job I'd ever had. I was the youngest person in the office and one of the only women. My boss asked me if I wanted to participate in the office pool for March Madness, and the other office dudes encouraged me to do so too, likely motivated by the additional $25 I would contribute to someone's winnings and comfortable that I'd lose.


I had never done a bracket before, but I do love a wager, so I agreed to participate. From my office phone in DC, I called my father at his office in my hometown. A huge basketball fan - particularly college - I thought this was my only chance. He patiently went through all the teams with me and made his picks. I turned in my bracket, paid the $25, and went on with my life.


And when I mean I went on with my life, I mean, I was a young professional living in a city with a reputation for its plethora of young professionals and their associated nightlife activities. I went to happy hours, went to dinner at the Mexican dive with the good margaritas and where you sometimes saw Marion Barry, went to shows at the 930 Club, attended catered events by lobbyists paying for drinks and food, went dancing at the gay cowboy bar, went for late night meals at Au Pied de Cochon, etc. I did not track the games or the schedule, I did not watch a single game, I didn't pick up a newspaper or watch the news to see how the teams were doing. I was *completely* oblivious to the entire tournament.


When I would come to work the next day after something bracket-busting happened, the men would be all worked up about it. "You picked Kansas!" (or whoever) they would say. "Did I?" I would say, quietly wondering why they thought I would know what teams I had picked (nope). "How did you know?" they would ask. "Um...lucky guess?" I would stammer and avoid eye contact.


After weeks of this (who knew this would take weeks?!), the guys had pretty much figured out that I did not care at all and was relatively clueless about all things college basketball, including my own picks. (Or...my dad's picks.) They were even more unhappy when I won the entire pot. My dad, however, could not stop laughing. He found it hilarious that the young woman scammed the old dudes out of $150 or so, and used her old man to do it.


Much later in life, my son would become a basketball fanatic. While he spent most of his energy following the NBA, he watched college basketball too, often with my dad, always while vacationing on his spring break. I learned more, and I paid more attention.


Earlier this week, however, I got an email about participating in the office pool. So I decided to visit the one who picked my first winning bracket decades ago. We sat outside on a lovely spring day, and he made the picks. He kept saying, "I don't really follow this anymore but..." as if he was apologizing for my inevitable loss.


But of course, I don't really care.


Man with dementia says Kentucky over Kansas


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