March Madness not the same

Watching the University of Northern Iowa’s win over UNLV took me back a few years.

20 to be exact, when UNI shocked the nation with their upset of Missouri in the opening round of the 1990 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. Here’s the clip to refresh or see UNI’s best basketball moment before Thursday night.

Maurice Newby’s shot was almost from the exact same spot that Ali Farokhmanesh hit from Thursday.

Thursday’s game wasn’t an upset like that, because UNI was supposed to be there. BTW, Ali Farokhmanesh is the cousin of Jesse Fredrick Beranek and Andre Fredrick, both Wartburg alums.

I remember sitting in Mr. Kramer’s science class when we were able to watch the game. Mr. Kramer was a basketball coach as well, so he had a strong interest to see the team to the west of us play in the big dance. I guess that was my first big bite of March Madness.

Living in Iowa, without cable and only knowing the Big Ten and Big 8, my scope of the nation’s basketball knowledge was limited. I watched as a kid on Selection Sunday when the teams I’d never heard of get picked. Actually, that still happens today, where exactly is Murray State? I think Vanderbilt knows now.

But it was my best friend growing up that got me started on the bracket racket. He also introduced me to rotisserie baseball, or fantasy baseball as it is called now.

Brent Weber showed me my first bracket and the fun competition it can be and a chance to keep an interest long after the Hawks or Cyclones got bounced.

Oh, and we could make money at it.

Brent knew how to set up the point system, tie breakers and he knew the teams. He watched ESPN all the time before that was cool. He knew the conferences Old Dominion, St. Mary’s and Richmond were in.

We watched the show, hand-made the brackets, and typed in the teams and accidentally got them to a copy machine and bumped the start button. There was no waiting for the newspaper the next day to photocopy the bracket. We already had 20 bracket distributed before 8a Monday.

My part was sales. I would go after people and get our bracket into their hands. Since it was hand-made, ours stood out. We started our freshman year and by our junior year, we were ‘the’ bracket at Jesup High School. We collected our brackets, money and then watched the basketball.

Drawing of Brent Weber as done by Chad Cleveland for the Weber family. Presented in 2009.

Brent, for some reason, would have a doctor’s appointment on the first Thursday of the tournament. His luck was terrible that way. Then, to make matters worse, he got sick AFTER the doctor’s appointment. That meant he HAD to spend Friday at home as well. I sure hope he was able to watch the games. He always seemed get that March Madness bug.

Since we lost Brent in 1996, the NCAA tournament has not been the same.

Or ribbing Cub fans.

Or life.

We miss you, Brent.


5 thoughts on “March Madness not the same

  1. What a great story Paul! I definitely remember not seeing much of Brent in homeroom during this time of year! I remember watching UNI play that day in school and I remember all the excitement at school during March Madness. I’m sure Brent is up there with the big guy still cheering on all his favorite teams =)

  2. Nice story Paul. Sounds like an awesome guy. I used to draw up those same brackets. Got out the extra large paper, the ruler. Made sure those teams fit…just right. Never thought of the “sick” excuse, though. Genius.

  3. Touching story, Paul. That 1990 tournament was the first pool I ever entered through my mom’s workplace. I won the pool and $225. I have not come close since. I picked UNI to beat Missouri that year as well, and I thought it was the greatest thing in the world.

    I’m also glad that there were other enterprising high school students running gambling activity. I did that at Sherrard and even had teachers involved in my pool.

    I remember some of the stories of Brent at your wedding. I know he’s still a big part of you.

    1. Sorry about the above post. After reading the article about my son, It made me cry and it made me laugh. Thanks Paul, everyone should have a best friend like you.

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