For Jeff, March Was All About Birthdays, Basketball And Brackets

12 Mar

“Oh, and one last thing: a 16-seed will knock off a one-seed in my lifetime.  It’s gonna happen.”

–Jeff Klein, J.K. Rolling Column, The Middlebury Campus, April 11, 2007

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In the last March Madness bracket of his life, Jeff finished second in what our town affectionately calls the “Domershick Pool”, which is named after its organizer, our friend Mitchell.  Ironically, it is the only time in his life that Jeff ever finished that high in the standings and won that much money, as he usually finished toward the bottom given his love of picking underdogs.

I do believe, as Jeff wrote in his column on April 11, 2007, that a number 16 seed will one day beat a number one seed.  However, with one impulsive and misguided act, Jeff insured that it would not happen in his lifetime.  And that is a tragedy beyond words.

I pray that this year’s tournament will feature several enormous upsets of the type that Jeff so craved, because as always, I know he’ll be watching.  I have received signals from Jeff that one such upset will be pulled off by Villanova, the school at which his little brother Brett is a freshman.  Jeff has given me even stronger signals that he expects Gonzaga to go all the way.  It is the type of small school (less than 8,000 undergraduate students) that Jeff loved to see topple larger rivals, and the fact that the younger brother of his Middlebury friend Logan Rutherford is a current student there makes the choice of Gonzaga compelling.

And so when Villanova pulls off a big first round upset and Gonzaga storms through the tournament en route to a stunning and historic championship, leaving much larger basketball programs in its wake, give a nod to Heaven above where the biggest March Madness fan of them all will have a huge smile on his face.  I, for one, intend to fill out my bracket according to Jeff’s signals and then sit back and see if my son is right.

-Rich Klein

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