Thoughtful NCAA Tournament Commentary From A 9-Year-Old

bob knight digger phelps applebees

The gentlemen on the left once got fired for choking a dude, and now he sells mall food.

GateHouse — As is customary, I’ve been watching a lot of the NCAA tournament with my sons: the 18-month-old, who for the second consecutive year failed to turn in a bracket I could read, and the 9-year-old, who is making observations nearly as astute as those offered by professional sports commentator people. (So, to recap, you need to come back *after* halftime and play another 20 minutes? Will you need to shoot baskets during this time?) Several of them follow:

• I graduated from Indiana, so naturally they’re the house favorite. But the 9-year-old seems to consider a 1 seed as an incontrovertible golden ticket to guaranteed dominance, not only this in tournament but basically those in the next four to 30 years. And no evidence can convince him to the contrary, because 9-year-old minds are not equipped to process logic; happily, they make up for this shortfall by also being 100% unchangeable. I once had an argument with this kid about which pronunciation of the word “tear” I was supposed to be reading. I cannot tell you how right I was in this argument, nor can I convey how badly I lost it. I guarantee you he’s still upstairs shaking his head sadly and calling me a nincompoop.

• “No, see, Indiana is in the East even though they’re in the midwest, and Kansas is in the South even though they’re in the Great Plains, and there’s no North because the north sucks at basketball, and you’re right this doesn’t make any sense. This is why I haven’t explained the BCS to you yet.”


San Diego: Not a state since 1897

• “Why is there a Michigan and Michigan State?” Well, see, some schools are state schools. “So there are 100 of them? Hmm, no, that would make sense but it’s not how it works. “So Alaska and Hawaii don’t have them?” Well, no, they don’t, but that’s because… “Wait, there’s a SAN DIEGO STATE UNIVERSITY?” God this doesn’t make any sense either. Three days of tournament-watching and my entire sense of reality is bent.

• To a fan, the commercial with Bob Knight and Digger Phelps at a chain restaurant is a cute joke, because when you’re thinking “fresh” and “new” in regards to basketball jokes, definitely go with Bob Knight throwing a chair, man, that just never gets old after 25 years.

But the boy didn’t know this story, so I explained, you know, he was a coach, and he got mad, because he got mad all the time, especially when losing in the first round of the tournament most of the years I was in college, and he threw a chair across the court, and he got in trouble. The 9-year-old paused and asked, “Did he throw it into the basket?” Hmm. No, no he didn’t. “It would have been funnier if it went into the basket.” Yes, yes it would have. I’d never thought of that.

• “I’m rooting for Illinois because I was born in Illinois, and also Ellie’s dad really likes them.” It’s this kind of rock-solid logic that explains why his bracket would be destroying mine.


Related, sort of


• The 9-year-old has decided, and I agree with this implicitly, that he likes food commercials the least, because “food commercials” are boring. We’re watching almost entirely online this year, so I don’t know how it is for you TV people, but all we’re getting here is Bob Knight, Alec Baldwin, dinosaurs and the hardware store that can remember you once bought blue paint, or as Amazon calls it, “Things We Did in 1997.”

• While we’re on the subject of advertising, the family that’s activating its SUV from the plane is letting that damn thing idle in the airport parking lot for like 40 minutes while they fetch their stupid luggage. Wasteful.

• It’s difficult why you have to play all 40 minutes and never give up, while at the same time switching between games regularly because there’s no chance in hell that team’s gonna make up a 20-point deficit. Life is confusing, buddy.





About Jeff Vrabel

My writing has appeared in GQ, Men’s Health, Success, the Washington Post, the official, Indianapolis Monthly, Billboard, Modern Bride and more. View all posts by Jeff Vrabel

5 responses to “Thoughtful NCAA Tournament Commentary From A 9-Year-Old

  • Leeann Vrabel

    Love this. Tears laughing so much ( trying to do it quietly as to not wake you) 🙂 Sent from my iPad


  • Michele McGovern


    In regard to Michigan, the only thing that Michigan State and University of Michigan grads have in common is that they ALL got into State. (Go Blue!)

    No kidding on the SUV ad. It starts your car. It doesn’t clear it completely of snow and ice, and get your entire family and luggage in and settled without the appropriate drama. Puh-lease.

    And hey, at least your kid is “rooting” for someone. Up until just recently, my boys were constantly talking about which team was “versing” who and how they would be “voting”. But now they’re bball and football rock stars so I can’t complain. Even though I just sort of did.


  • Jeff Vrabel

    ZING. With your permission, I am totally stealing that joke and deploying it constantly during football season.

    Also who the hell wears shorts when they’re landing in sub-zero temperatures? That’s just bad planning. ALSO how is that an approved electronic device? Does anyone even fact-check these things? I’m writing a very sternly worded email to Buick.


  • Michele McGovern

    Permission granted.

    And I fully support your letter. I think the NTSB needs a copy, as well. Major safety breach going on in there during descent.

    I smell a formal apology coming (and maybe a new Buick for the inconvenience!).


  • AnnaDango



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