March 28

Excerpt: The Madness of March

The following is an excerpt from The Madness of March: Bonding and Betting with the Boys in Las Vegas (Nebraska, 2009) by Alan Jay Zaremba.

Tuesday Night, March 13, 2007

I Love Virginia 

I’m waiting for my flight to Las Vegas at a long narrow table in an airport bar. A tall, lean fellow is seated to my right. He’s wearing navy slacks and a pinstriped button-down shirt. A well-worn suede leather jacket is draped over his chair. He has pushed a half-eaten sandwich away so he can stare at a document in front of him. Every now and again, he takes an absent-minded swig from a beer in a pint glass.

The document he’s studying and scribbling on is an NCAA tournament bracket sheet. I engage him and discover, not to my surprise, that he too is going to Las Vegas. We will be taking the same flight this evening. He introduces himself as Buddy. In a short time, he tells me that he does not really “do basketball” in Vegas, but instead spends time on the gaming tables.

“Every year I go meet up with college buddies during March Madness. They’re nuts,” he says. He waves his right arm forward like he is tossing a crumpled piece of paper into a wastebasket, not pretending to shoot a foul shot, but rather emphasizing his “you can have it” attitude toward his college buddies’ habits.

He shakes his head and waves his arm again in the same way.

“They’re nuts. I swear they’ll watch every single game. Sit in the sports book for twelve straight hours. Only budge to get beer. Occasionally go stuff themselves at a buffet. Forty-eight basketball games. You think I’m kidding? I’m not kidding. I mean, how much basketball can you watch?”

“That’s a lot of basketball.”

“Sure is. Not for me. I play blackjack.”

“Blackjack, eh?”

“Blackjack. Not even going to sleep tonight.”

“Not sleeping? What do you mean you are not sleeping?”

“Not sleeping. Get to Vegas and it is time to play blackjack. We land, I grab my bag, go directly to the tables.” He waves his arm, this time like a football referee signaling a first down. “Directly to the tables. I’ll sleep tomorrow morning. I’m not watching forty-eight basketball games.”

I point to the tournament bracket sheet he has been completing. “Hey,” he says, “as long as I’m going, I’ll fill them out.” Then he pauses a few seconds before asking a question. “You like Virginia?”

“I love Virginia,” I say.

Find out what happens next in The Madness of March, on sale now for March Madness!