The following was an article I wrote for a magazine which went bust just before it could appear. I disavow any connection. Subsequently, it’s been included in the Bethlehem Writers Group anthology, Once Around the Sun. Amazon link
A Spouse’s Guide to March Madness
by Headley Hauser
Relating to a spouse during March Madness isn’t all that complicated, really. It’s all about laundry and Tic Tack Toe.
I’m not exactly Dr. Phil. The closest I’ve come to a long-term relationship was with a hardy Swedish ivy. It died after seven years of accidental neglect. So, how I am qualified to write a spouse’s guide to anything?
Well . . .I’m a guy. I know how guys think, and when I say spouse, I’m not talking about husbands, I’m talking about women, or as we single men call them . . . . We never really learned what to call them. That’s why we’re single men.
I’ll bet there are women out there saying, “I know a lot more about basketball than my husband/boyfriend/Swedish ivy.” Perhaps so, but do you have the capacity to lie on a couch for three successive extended weekends, and do nothing but ignore women, watch television, and build teetering towers out of dishes and beer cans?
Yup, there are some things we guys will always do better.
“So, Headley,” asks my fictitious female interrogator, “why does my normally active and moderately interesting man vegetate for an entire month listening to Dick Vitale?”
“It’s simple,” I say, squirting my underarms with breath spray (can’t be too careful), “it’s about laundry.”
My best friend growing up was Paul Sender, (not to be confused with Paul Westphal, Chris Paul, or the 1962 Elvis hit, Return to Sender.) Paul had a large open laundry hamper in his room.This hamper was the primary reason Paul consistently beat me at horse, pig, or any other barnyard animal-themed basketball shooting game. It was also why his room was neater than mine--an excuse I’m sticking to.
Every night before going to bed, Paul got into his PJs and lined up his dirty socks, underwear, pants, GI Joe tee shirt, and even his PF flyers (sneakers that made him run faster and jump higher.) Then, he launched each item into his laundry hamper from the foul line (roughly defined by a line of Legos.) If he went seven for seven, he tossed his little brother in as well, to celebrate.
Big brothers are supposed to do such things.
Now, my mother is a fine woman, but she understood nothing about the formative, therapeutic value of an open laundry hamper, nor did she understand its relationship to subsequent multi-million dollar NBA contracts. She had me put my laundry in a bag, much like those you might see a merchant marine carry--except for the Wild West pictures and the printed words encouraging me to “Ride ‘em Buckaroo.”
The thing about a duffel-type laundry bag is that, when hung from a hook, it has only a tiny opening at its mouth--not big enough to throw a sock in, much less a pair of dungarees, and certainly not Paul Sender’s little brother. With careful aim, you could toss in a marble, so long as it wasn’t a shooter.
Mom didn’t much like marbles in her washing machine.
So you see, basketball is all about our obsession with laundry tossing--that’s why we watch March Madness. If we didn’t, we might chip in and clean up around the house--something men just don’t do.
But if you live with a man, I don’t have to tell you that.
“So,” says my simulated female questioner, “what does Tic Tack Toe have to do with it?”
Isn’t she great? I could never have made this segue without her.
Each young boy’s obsession with Tic Tack Toe is well documented. All you have to do is look at any elementary school lunch table to see the familiar four-line grid, complete with Xs and Os. It’s as ubiquitous as that limerick about scenic Nantucket. But unlike that limerick (which just never gets old,) Tic Tack Toe grids disappear in middle school. Why?
Somewhere around 6th grade comes the great disillusionment. When played by two enlightened players, Tic Tack Toe always ends up in a draw. All you need to do after your opponent X’s a corner square, is put your O in the . . . . Well, I’m not really sure, but it always comes out a draw.
That’s why men created the March Madness bracket. All those lovely lines reappear in a format that we know will never result in a draw.
If you wish to relate to your significant male in the month of March, all you have to do is fill out your own bracket. It helps if you know nothing about basketball. Choose the teams numbered (that means ranked, but you don’t need to know that) 1 and 2 in each quarter grid to advance all the way to their respective regional finals. Men are too proud and stubborn to recognize how often that happens. Then choose the higher number to advance in every other match-up. Who cares if you lose 20 of your first 32 games? You’ll have all the upsets on your grid. When your man is on the phone with his buddy asking what genius predicted the Fighting Sarah Palins of Alaska Moose-skinning Techto beat Florida State in the first round, you can show him your bracket. Suddenly you’re a savant, a hero, one of the guys, with promising hours of conversation about the 2/3 Zone, and set shots off the screen for the rest of the month of March.
Hey, at least he’ll be talking to you.
What you want to foster a meaningful relationship during March? Read someone else’s article.
Here’s a video that warms those relational squishy, pumpy things we keep in our chests. At least is you love little yellow minions. I think the German makes them more understandable.