The victory lap of my 40th birthday celebration is upon us. Perhaps you remember back to December 18, when Robbi gave me the birthday surprise of a lifetime by flying me out to LA and planning a scavenger hunt at 30,000 feet.
The prize at the end of the scavenger hunt was actually my 40th birthday present from my mom, a Duke t-shirt and two tickets to the ACC tournament. Back then, March seemed impossibly far away. But days have a way of marching forward, one at a time.
And so we are here, mom and I, ensconced in Greensboro, NC, for a mighty gathering of basketball powers.
If you are not aware, the Atlantic Coast Conference is the greatest conference on the face of the earth. Mostly because it is home to the world’s greatest team.
Once a year, around this time, the various teams gather to see which among them is the best. It is a very festive occasion.
In which no small amount of helium is involved.
And no small amount of mylar.
There are currently 15 teams in the ACC, which has been in expansion mode of late. Of those, 14 are present. Although it was possible to purchase a sign to express one’s support for the Syracuse Orange, the team itself was not present, the result of some recruiting violations that we really do not have to get into at this moment.
All stadiums are not created equal. Some have horrible, indifferent cuisine. The Greensboro Coliseum has mac and cheese with pulled pork, green onions, and bacon.
If you are wondering whether or not I had some, you do not know me very well.
Beyond outrageous macaroni, the Greensboro Coliseum is an attractive, light-filled venue that has been honored with an appearance by Taylor Swift.
As we did a lap around the perimeter, my macaroni slowly disappeared.
Eventually, it was time for the games to begin.
Our seats were not in the front row. Nor were they in any of the first hundred or so rows in the middle.
Our seats were in the next to last row.
And yet, the view was magnificent.
Because this is a tournament with 14 teams and because Duke is the #2 seed in the tournament, they did not even play on the first two days. Which meant there was a lot of preliminary basketball to enjoy in a purely recreational, no-stakes kind of way.
There were also such hard-hitting distractions as the mascot game, a time-honored ACC tournament tradition.
Occasionally, between games, Mom and I would venture out into Greensboro to eat. Yesterday, we selected Jake’s on account of its being so very polite.
The hookah bar, being less overtly cordial, did not earn our favor.
Eventually, yesterday evening, with four games under our belts, and a full 9 games into the tournament, the Blue Devils took the court for the first time.
We watched them warm up.
And as we did, took a moment to document mother/son togetherness and my desperate need for a haircut.
And then we took a moment to watch a documentary on the loved and loathed Duke great Christian Laetner.
It was finally time to really start focusing. Suddenly, the results mattered. Suddenly the tournament proper was about to begin.
The lights dimmed.
And the Duke players were announced.
The game began, and within minutes, my worries about a nail-biter were put to rest. Duke came ready to play and rolled through the game in dominating fashion. Notice the scoreboard. I had the rare sensation of feeling bad for the opposition.
That was yesterday. Up next, a semifinal match up with Notre Dame and hopefully a trip to tomorrow’s finals.
Regardless of the outcome, I am having a wonderful time. Truly, 40 has been the most wonderful year to date.
And as long as I limit my macaroni/pulled pork/bacon consumption to one bowl per ACC tournament, there’s a chance I’ll make it to see 41.