Meanwhile, on the Hallmark Channel

Published 5:03 pm Saturday, March 12, 2016

For college basketball fans, today is a very big day. Invitations are extended today to the Big Dance, the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s annual men’s and women’s basketball tournaments. For many sports widows around the nation, it’s time to switch the second home television to the Hallmark Channel.

I know that sounds sexist, so let me just say that I’ll be — at least figuratively speaking — right there on the couch with the wives, handkerchief in hand, crying over the guy in the hat who came back home planning to tear down the old schoolhouse to build a shopping center but changed his plans when he fell in love with the spunky librarian who stood up to him during a town hall meeting.

Anyway, men (and plenty of women) around the country will be suspending regular television-viewing habits, date nights and healthy eating for approximately the next 49 days, while the collegiate gladiatorial melee unfolds in the Big 12 Conference, the Big Ten Conference, the Big West Conference, the Big South Conference, the Big East Conference, the Big Sky Conference and lots of other conferences that apparently haven’t yet found the self confidence necessary to add “Big” to their names.

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At some point during the next three days or so, you can be sure someone will approach you at work or at church or in passing on the sidewalk and ask if you’ve “picked your bracket.” Depending on how much money is at stake and whether the preacher is within earshot, they might whisper the question while glancing furtively toward the pulpit.

I’m a terrible gardener, so you can be sure that I haven’t even planted my bracket yet. I’d rather just share some of yours when you’ve picked it. If brackets are anything like squash, you’ll have way more than you planned for before the season is up.

What the heck are the Elite Eight and the Final Four, anyway? The former sounds like a Quentin Tarantino movie, and the latter sounds a bit apocalyptic — though, now that I think of it, some of Quentin Tarantino’s films have a whiff of what the Four Horsemen’s steeds left behind, if you know what I mean. And I don’t know anything about Sweet 16, though I could tell you a thing or two about Fretful 49 or Fractious 51 — or maybe you should just ask my wife, who always seems to use the word “crotchety” when she’s describing me lately.

Many of my good friends will be glued to their televisions between now and the championship game on April 4. They’ll argue the comparative qualities of the Rhode Island Rams and the Wright State Raiders, as if any one of them has a clue when Wright even became a state. They’ll cheer or boo the University of Virginia, and some of them will even call to say I should have capitalized the word “the” in this sentence.

Meanwhile, over on the Hallmark Channel, a woman who’s losing her grandfather’s farm to a heartless developer will be saved by a freelance nature photographer with a small portfolio and the big idea of turning the ranch into a sanctuary for rescued kittens.

Please pass the tissues. I think my allergies are acting up.