I know I wasn’t alone out there. The lonely months had begun. This should not be confused with quiet months, because the screams emanating from our den were a constant reminder that the boys were present, just preoccupied. It was 1967. March Madness had begun. Most any free time was spent in front of the TV, hooting and hollering.
When Boston College made it to the East Region finals an image of Jim Carey in the movie Mask, when his eyes telescoped out of his head, cartoon-like comes to mind. My brother did a drop dead perfect imitation, reacting to the nightly news speculation of brackets that bore the names he had somehow “channeled”. He and my father immediately began planning their pilgrimage to the potential basketball shrine – the families only TV.
I have a brief recollection of this basketball addiction (affliction) while growing up. Being on the east coast, these men were pretty excited that some of the games were scheduled to play in New England. All the Hartley’s needed was for Boston College to win! I smile remembering my brother and all his friends crowded around, sharing popcorn, chocolate cake and bottles of Coke. My Dad always joked that he was the easiest one to find when they were all together. He swore that the only way into that gang was to be over 6’2”. Once Boston College lost, the men in this group flipped the coasts and rooted for UCLA. Any passer by would have thought that we had adopted Lew Alcindor into the family, or at least in the “tall boy” club. His name was on the tip of every bodies tongue.
Of course there were still three girls in this house. This was not a wasted time for people that do not share this crazy sports love. That March my sister made the longest chain of folded chewing gum wrappers that I had ever seen. Obviously this was a ploy to allow her to parade in front of all the boys in the den, measuring the chain so as to receive many accolades. We of the female persuasion used this time to catch up on our reading, take great Saturday afternoon naps and keep the home fires burning. What would our sports enthusiasts do without us!
Lew won Most Outstanding Player in the tournament. At 7’2” he most certainly would have been welcomed in our tall boy club. He went on to a great career, changing his name in 1971 to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Our guys new a winner when they saw one.