There are two things you can be sure of when you begin penning a sports column, even if most of what you write, like in this column, is intentionally childish, mostly ridiculous and deep-fried in sarcasm. The first thing is, a few people will really like what you write, and maybe a few of them will tell you so. Secondly, a few people will really not like what you're writing and all of them will tell you about it.
For example, here's what happened on Thursday:
First the phone rang in our office, as it does at least 10 times a day. Then, someone told me I had a call. I answered jovially, because that's how I greet the people kind enough to call me.
The voice on the other line was gruff, terse and not unlike a mostly drunken Nick Nolte. I can't rule out the possibility that this wasn't actually Nick Nolte on the other end of the line. But I'm not sure if Nolte loves UConn basketball more than his family, pets or chosen deity, like this guy, who after confirming my identity as the author of this column asked, "Do you know anything about UConn basketball?"
"Of course," I said, because I do. I've been watching them since they made asses out of the entire ESPN basketball commentary fraternity by rampaging through the Maui Classic in November. But why was he asking this? I hadn't written much about UConn in a while, other than by way of an off-hand reference in last week's column to the dichotomy between the new guard and the old guard of college coaches seen in the weekend's Final Four games.
And, that's what riled this guy up.
"How dare you say that about Jim Calhoun. He's one of the greatest men to ever walk the Earth and you're saying that all he'll be remembered for is recruiting violations?" yelled the fan, the din in the background suggesting he might be at an establishment that could provide the amount of rot-gut whiskey needed to allow one to decide that a column that doesn't include the words "UConn," "Jim" or "Calhoun" is nevertheless an affront to the integrity of Jim Calhoun.
I listened politely, even after the man informed me that he knew what I looked like because my picture is "all over the place" and that I should watch out for him. I'd know who he was because he'd be the guy in UConn apparel. It's nice when your potential assailant describes his clothing before the attack.
None of this influenced my cheering for Butler on Monday night. It's not because I think that this man was representative of all UConn fans, but because cheering for Butler was the American thing to do, of course. However, I have to admit that I was looking forward to calling my assailant a "sore loser" as he rained blows upon my skull.
Unfortunately, Butler decided to disappoint us by somehow shooting 18 percent from the field, giving Calhoun and his grumpy face a third national championship (which won't be tainted by recruiting violations, right?). Somewhere, my potential assailant was celebrating wildly - hopefully not as wildly as UConn's car-flipping student body - wearing all his UConn gear, and likely beating the living piss out of anyone in the bar who may have uttered anything disparaging about Saint Calhoun.
It was a fun college basketball season, even if the finale was painfully lackluster. Give me a call sometime and let's talk about it.