Hey, #Belding, go shoot your hopes and dreams . . .

You’ll have to excuse Nebraskans for terrible bracket performances this year.

See, we’ve been through the lifetime of a first-time driver since the last time Nebraska’s basketball team reached the NCAA tournament. That’s 16 years.

The last time the Huskers played in the tournament, diapers were made of cloth and the only way to get a close shave was to go to the barber.

OK, it hasn’t been that long. But cellular telephones were a luxury that only the likes of Zack Morris could afford. That blond Tom Cruise.

So pardon Nebraskans for pinning their hopes and dreams on the reconciliation of 16-consecutive hopeless springs. It’s not our fault that we didn’t understand Mr. Belding’s call for us to shoot our hopes and dreams had nothing to do with making our picks.

Or anything in the real world, for that matter.

But not only were the Cubs fans of NCAA basketball given a reason to come out of our basements for the first time since Y2K scared us downstairs, we were lured in even further by the Creighton trap.

Yep, our little brother — the one with the good job, the pretty girl, the sweet cars, the cool neck tattoo and the vacation home in the Ozarks (because, you know, the Ozarks are the coolest place in the world to Nebraskans) — was going to be waiting for us in round two (Oops, it’s the third round now). And, if we played our cards (or basketball) right, we’d be able to steal his cars, sweep his pretty girl off her feet and laugh at his stupid neck tattoo.

We never thought they were cool to begin with.

Of course we were going to pick Nebraska to beat Baylor. Asking us not to would’ve been like asking Jem not to be truly outrageous.

Nobody would dare do that.

So we all picked the Huskers, thinking that — despite the ghosts of tournaments past that fueled losses to Pennsylvania and Xavier and one of those stupid New Mexico teams — the idea of a Nebraska-Creighton matchup in the NCAA tournament was not truly outrageous.

Going a step further, even if our brains told us otherwise, how could we pick Nebraska to lose to Creighton? Even if they did meet, and Doug McDermott scored 137 points to lead Creighton to a win, the mirror would have served as a haunting reminder of that our image bears more of a resemblance to Benedict Arnold than Jason Priestley.

Oh, right, it’s not the ’90s anymore. Priestley isn’t America’s heartthrob.

Sixteen years, man, give me a break. I don’t even know what a Justin Bieber is or if I really need Miley Cyrus detection for my computer. I am — we are — stuck.

But after Nebraska beat Creighton and then topped the same Wisconsin team it got past in the season finale to secure a tournament berth, we’d no longer be stuck. We’d be in the Elite Eight — where anything is possible.

But, as Nebraska coach Tim Miles slowly exited the arena following the oddest ejection in the history of Nebraska basketball, we realized our bar was too high. We had forgotten that Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Yep, we got ahead of ourselves. We put Facebook before MySpace. MySpace before Hotmail.

We jumped on Twitter, told the world of our greatness and forgot to use a hashtag. Didn’t even know what hashtags were, most of us thinking they were the cards used¬† by customers at herbal medical outlets in neighboring Colorado.

And here we are now, staring at a bracket was shattered when Nebraska was penciled into the Elite Eight but could still be saved by the fact that Mercer is written into the Sweet 16.

It’s kind of like that new Alanis Morrisette song. What’s that called?

Oh yeah, Ironic. That one.

Yep, kind of like that.

Not really, but kind of.


Croutons, lard and rotary phones (Madness)


I’m going to step back here — get a little less serious.

Frankly, I’m not a serious guy. I’m so not serious that I find it difficult to believe any parents would name their son Frank Lee.

I also don’t understand a salad without croutons. Lettuce is OK, but the crunch factor provided by croutons is a must.

No croutons in your pantry?

I might let you slide with some crumbled crackers or Doritos. But not both.

And do people even have pantries anymore? Are they like rotary phones?

You know, grandma displayed them both with pride — her polished phone and her spotless pantry.

“Need to make a call?” she’d ask. “Come watch me methodically turn the slotted wheel on my phone.¬† Need a snack? I might have some Werther’s Originals in the pantry. Follow me while I grab them and point out all the other healthy options available to you. Just be careful not to knock over one of the 10 buckets of lard on the floor. I need that stuff.”

Pantries, rotary phones and lard. How I miss you.

When the three of you were a part of my life, everything was so simple. And croutons were always around.

That’s not the case anymore. Somewhere between He-Man’s final battle with Skeletor and Ruby’s last straw being pulled when Max left his right slipper in the kitchen, the world turned its back on croutons.

No, I’ll never get over it. But I will try and move on.

I’ve been trying.

But when something doesn’t go my way, my blame finger (left pinky) always points at how the world discarded croutons without regard. The world — and its lack of respect for a crunchy salad — is always at fault.DSC_0386

So, world, when I look at my NCAA tournament bracket, I blame you.

You’re the reason I didn’t go with my gut when I saw North Dakota State’s insanely high field-goal percentage matched up against an Oklahoma team that tends to rely on the 3-pointer too much. You’re the reason I let the Sooners slip through, thought they had favorable matchups through the rest of their region and would sneak into the Final Four. You’re the reason my bracket is busted.

Yep, Day 1 of the tournament, and I’m done. I’m like a crouton in a low-carb salad.

And that makes me sad.

The rest of my bracket is kind of nice to look at. My highlighter has touched the paper many more times than my Sharpie, meaning I’ve picked more games correctly than incorrectly.

I’ve nailed a couple upsets — both of which were the product of hours of studying, number-crunching and team-by-team comparisons. Ain’t no luck in my bracket, Andrew.

Name’s not Andrew? Then go watch the Indianapolis Colts. That’s right, my sentences all make sense.

They haven’t been croutoned, rotary-phoned or larded. Also haven’t been edited — like my tournament picks.

Wow, full-circle. That’s how I just brought it — like a cheerleader dominating the regional championships.

Too bad my regional championships will include, at most, seven teams and a thick blue line from the tip of my Sharpie. And we all know thick blue lines aren’t very good on the offensive glass, which is one of the keys to winning basketball games in March.

It’s also a key to winning games in November. Other months, too.

Like October or July or April or any month a basketball court is filled with players who are wearing shoes and dribbling balls — a condition that might require medical attention.

I’ve heard it’s caused by an abundance or lard, overused dialing fingers and crunch-less salad. Furthermore, there are no known cures.

And the best way to control it is to let the past go, forgive the world for its dismissal of your favorite salad topper and slide into a basketball-induced March coma.

When you wake up in April, the dribbling will still be there. But the madness that comes with it will nearly be gone.

Because, as sure as lard and rotary phones — and recognized through the lyrics of a band named after a state divided between three teams — dust is less common in today’s wind than yesterday’s crouton.

Or something like that.