Archive for April, 2010

Happy 30th Empire Strikes Back

Friday, April 30th, 2010
Brian Golden

Those who know me are familiar with my Star Wars obsession, which began at the tender age of three, so I just had to write this when I discovered that May 21, 2010 marks the 30 year anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back, my favorite Star Wars flick and “the greatest sequel ever made,” according to my best friend Mr. Tozer, probably due to the fact that Boba Fett was introduced in Episode V (on Tozer’s list of “coolest things ever” Boba Fett ranks somewhere between ninjas and pirates). As to why this ranks as my favorite Lucas-produced work, please continue reading.

Luke Skywalker gets serious about this Jedi business
Throughout A New Hope (Episode IV for you not-so-geeky readers) we hear a lot about the force and how it “gives a Jedi his power. It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together,” as stated by Obi Wan Kenobi, but we never really see any proof that the force can actually do anything (except for Luke blowing up the Death Star, but that could’ve been a lucky shot for all we know). The Empire Strikes Back addresses this as we watch Luke fetch his lightsaber using the force (which he then uses to chop off the arm of a wampa, and yes, that is the correct terminology for the snow creature that attacks Luke on Hoth), train with Master Yoda and eventually challenge the dread Sith Lord Darth Vader.

Yoda, Jedi Master
Proof that not all things are as they seem, and that big things can come in little packages, Master Yoda (an absolutely brilliant creation by Frank Oz) challenges Luke physically, mentally and perhaps most importantly, philosophically. Yoda’s screen time alone can, and should, be used as proof that while computer generated imagery is glorious and all, sometimes the “old-fashioned” ways are best (compare the CGI Yodas of Episodes I, II and III to the puppetry of Episodes V and VI and you’ll see what I mean).

“Never tell me the odds”
Following their escape off the ice planet of Hoth, Han Solo, Princess Leia, Chewbacca and C-3PO take us on a wild ride with a pair of Star Destroyers in close pursuit. The ensuing chase is one of my all-time favorites, due primarily to the humorous yet tense dialog. Harrison Ford, as Han Solo (which almost didn’t happen originally), gives a performance that’s a perfect blend of cockiness, brashness, bravado and charm, as he and “her worshipfulness” Princess Leia add a touch of romance to the classic space opera. The subsequent betrayal and capture of the group sets up a terrific finale to the film.

Luke Skywalker versus Darth Vader
Of course I saved this for last, as it is the penultimate battle between Luke and Vader. Not only does Luke show off his recent Jedi training (you must admit he stands toe to toe with Vader at the beginning) but Vader drops the bombshell of bombshells with the now-famous phrase “no, I am your father.” In my opinion this lightsaber duel was easily the best in the original trilogy (I mean, come on, Luke gets his hand cut off) and the set-up for Episode VI is perfect.

Now some may disagree with me when I state that Empire is by far the best of the Star Wars movies, and an argument could easily be made that Return of the Jedi should outrank it (I would almost agree if it weren’t for the Ewoks) but I’ll stand by my decision. It will be curious to see how much attention Episode V will receive in the weeks leading up to May 21, and I, for one, think that it’s all well deserved.

May the force be with you, always.

Teach your children well

Monday, April 26th, 2010
Melissa Stagnaro

As I was racing out the door this morning on my way to work, I caught a snippet of something on the news. A new study, the announcer was saying, has identified a correlation between R-rated movies and underage drinking.

Curiosity caused me to pause on the threshold as I strained to hear the rest of what the television personality du jour had to say on this intriguing topic.

Middle school students who watch R-rated films are more likely to drink as teens, she warned me, adding that this impressionable age group is also more prone to violent behavior and smoking as a result of those same viewing habits.

The shocking discovery of the link between what kids watch and their behavior was revealed in a study conducted by researchers at Dartmouth Medical School, she explained, the findings of which are due to be published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs this May.

As a former market researcher – and thinking, functioning adult – I really couldn’t help but roll my eyes. Because, isn’t this something we already know?

Of course we are influenced by what we see on both the big and small screens. If we weren’t all those Madison Avenue ad execs would be out of their high paying jobs. It’s why product placement is all the rage on both TV and in the movies. And why those ridiculous shows like Jackass have to have disclaimers like “don’t try this at home, kids.” (Okay, by kids they mean rednecks and frat boys. But you get the picture.)

I found the correlation with R-rated movies – which, I might add, have already been deemed inappropriate for this age group – an interesting angle for this study. I mean why pick movies as the only model of bad behavior for kids? Because when it comes to young, impressionable minds, I’d argue that ads for fast food, sugary cereals and high-caloric snackfood can be just as damaging to the long term health and well being of our nation’s youth. (I mean, New York’s contemplating a tax on sugary beverages. I have yet to hear them propose a similar tax on movies which receive higher than a G rating. But this is Paterson we’re talking about. You never know.)

And let’s face it, R-rated movies aren’t the only way kids get exposed to violence, drugs, alcohol, smoking or sex. It’s all out there for the world to see on TV, in video games and on the internet.

Now, there are people out there in the position to limit a middle schooler’s exposure to these influences. And no, I’m not talking about movie censors. I’m talking about parents.

The study’s authors are quick to point out that their results were “controlled” for parenting styles. But I don’t see how you could possibly control for something that is so all pervasive in a child’s life. A parent doesn’t just influence what a kid does or does not watch (although they should certainly be paying attention to what their kids are doing in that regard.) They lay the foundation for how their children process what they see and hear. And by actually communicating with their kids, I’d argue they might actually be able to influence whether their offspring emulate the poor decision making and inappropriate behavior of their favorite actors on-screen persona, or view it for what they truly are. And by that I mean overblown Hollywood plots designed to get audiences’ hearts thumping and adrenaline pumping. And box office sales climbing, of course.

Even the study’s authors admit in their findings that the results of their research indicate the importance of a parent’s role in monitoring what their kids do and do not watch, and how they interpret the images they see on screen.

Maybe the numbers attached to the study are useful in that regard. Maybe they will help those who aren’t taking such an active role to start paying more attention. Because, according to the Dartmouth team that did the research, 25 percent of middle schoolers who said they watch R-rated movies “all the time” reported taking a drink without their parents knowing, as opposed to only 3 percent of those who were “never allowed” to see those types of movies.

Maybe, just maybe, with all the pitfalls of the teen years, it’s time for parents to pay head to the words of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.

“Teach, your children well.”

Follow me on Twitter … @evesunmelissa.

Bad hair day

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010
Melissa Stagnaro

I’m not really what you call a morning person. I’d much rather sleep in, than trundle myself out of bed before dawn to get ready for work. My line of work – what with our morning deadlines – isn’t exactly conducive to the former, so  I have resigned myself to the latter.

Even after close to years of the same routine, my body still hasn’t realized that resistance is futile. As a result, I end up hitting snooze a time or ten too many times trying to delay the inevitable.

Unfortunately, my reluctance to extricate myself from my comfy, cozy bed means I’m usually on a pretty tight time schedule in the morning. There is no time for dilly-dallying or delays of any kind. Thanks to Murphy and his damnable law it always seems to work out that the day’s I’m already running behind are the ones where things go pear shaped.

Take this morning, for example. When my hairdryer decided to go kaput when I was half way through drying my hair. Laugh if you will, but this is no small crisis when you’ve got hair as long and out of control as mine.

In it’s natural state, it is – as one of my numerous Farrell cousins once observed – something akin to broken bed springs. It’s one thing when I’ve decided to allow the entirety of my wild woman mane to dry au naturel, but when half of it has already been blown straight? It would be enough to give small children nightmares, and adults cause to visit their therapist.

Not wishing to scar anyone for life, I did my best to mitigate the situation. Luckily, there was a spare hair dryer tucked away in the bathroom. Unfortunately, it dated back to my high school years, and emitted as much hot air as a wheezing asthmatic. With emphysema.

The results, I’m afraid, we’re much of an improvement.

I actually considered calling in to work, just to save my co-workers the shock, you understand. But after careful reflection, I thought better of it. Somehow I doubt my esteemed editor, Jeff, would have considered ‘hair dryer malfunction’ or a ‘bad hair day’ as a valid excuse for an absence. And I don’t get enough vacation days to write one off so easily.

It could have been worse, I thought as I mentally prepared myself for what could possibly the worst hair day of my life. I mean, at least my overworked hair dryer hadn’t burst into flames. My locks might be a bit a bit frizzy and frazzled, after all, but at least they aren’t singed.

It’s not so bad, I guess. As long as I don’t look in the mirror. The true horror will set in when I try to replace my fried hair drying apparatus. It’s so hard to find a good one at a reasonable price, and one is forced to weigh all kinds of options. You practically have to have a science degree nowadays to make sense of it all. I mean, what is super thermal ceramic ionic tourmaline and how exactly does it make my hair shinier and silkier without frying it or my brain cells?

And even if you do cough up the ridiculously absorbitant price of a top of the line model, you still run the risk of having it trying to scalp you. You know what I mean, ladies. You get that your fancy schmancy new blow dryer home, and the first time you use it, your hair gets sucked into the rear vent.

By the time you fumble with the unfamiliar controls and get it turned off you’re left wishing you’d never grown your hair long. There is no use trying to untangle your mane from the dastardly clutches of the blasted machine’s inner workings. No, your options are simply to cut or not to cut.

Well, maybe it was time for a new hair style anyway.

Laugh if you will, men, but these are the decisions we women are forced to make in the name of beauty. It’s almost too much to bear.

Maybe there is something to be said for the au naturel, wild woman look after all.

Follow me on Twitter … @evesunmelissa.

It’s a family thing

Monday, April 19th, 2010
Melissa Stagnaro

You can pick your friends, but not your family. For some that may be a lament, but not for me. I’ve never felt anything short of blessed to call myself a part of the sprawling Farrell clan. I’m one of 35 or so first cousins to fall under that umbrella on this, my mother’s side of the family. We’re all the result of the procreating efforts of my mom and her dozen brothers and sisters.

I can’t even begin to estimate the number of second cousins I have, but let’s just say that those in my generation have been doing their part to populate the world. That isn’t a bad thing, I assure you. Because basically wherever there are Farrell’s, there is a good time. It doesn’t really matter what the occasion.

This weekend, that occasion happened to be the Christening of Shane Robert, the newest addition to my cousin Julie and her husband Rob’s little brood. The sacrament of baptism is an important rite in the Catholic church, and, good Irish Catholics that we are, the Farrell’s were there in force. My parents and I were among those who trekked to Warwick in Orange County for the event.

The promise of seeing everyone made it well worth the trials and tribulations of traveling to and from the aforementioned event with my parents. Don’t get my wrong, I absolutely love my mom and dad. But traveling by car with them can be nothing short of torture. (Let’s face it, if my dad can’t fly somewhere, he doesn’t want to go.)

But, as I said, enduring those – the seemingly longest three hours of my life – was well worth it to see the aunts, uncles and numerous cousins which I cherish so much.

True to form, we arrived at the church without a second to spare. Okay, so we were actually close to a half an hour late, but we didn’t miss Shane’s big moment.

Clad in the what was no doubt the world’s cutest little Christening outfit, the man of the hour seemed a little disconcerted by his initiation into the Roman Catholic tradition. Now, I guess it could have been all the unfamiliar faces, but my guess was that the little guy’s complaints were due to the amount of water being sloshed around in the baptismal font – which sounded a little excessive to my ears.

I think Shane agreed with me. And, true to his Farrell heritage, he was not shy about expressing his consternation. As he demonstrated his full vocal range, my mother assured me that this was a sign of good luck. (The portent of a promising opera career, perhaps?)

Once Shane’s rite of passage – and the impromptu photo shoot which ensued – was complete, the Farrell’s got down to what they do best: Having a good time. We were joined by another, larger contingent of the clan at the reception which followed at the Warwick Valley Country Club where Julie’s parents, my Uncle Mickey and Aunt Julie, spend a lot of quality time. (I certainly don’t blame them, the course is nothing short of spectacular.)

For the uninitiated, it might have seemed a little overwhelming, but it was par for the course for a Farrell function. It’s an art, really. Balancing all of that good food and free-flowing drink while catching up with each and every relative. Stories and laughs always abound as we reminisce, and there is plenty of that good-natured ribbing that goes along with being a close knit family – no matter how much time or distance separates you.

When it was time to go, I had a hard time tearing myself away. (And not just because I was reluctant to get back in the car with my dear, dear parents.) Thankfully, there was the promise of a few summer get-togethers to ease the pain of leaving.

And as we merged back onto Route 17, homeward bound, I knew that Shane wasn’t the only one blessed on that special day. We are all blessed to be a part of such a wonderful family.

Follow me on Twitter … @evesunmelissa.

Robert Jordan…R.I.P.

Monday, April 19th, 2010
Brian Golden

I’ve been a fan of the fantasy genre ever since I first struggled through the works of J.R.R. Tolkien as a child, a fascination that has not diminished as I’ve grown older. His novels were the foundation upon which I built my collection of favorite authors and storytellers. David Eddings, Elizabeth Moon, Robert E. Howard, Ed Greenwood, Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman immediately spring to mind. But in the last ten years one author in particular sticks out as a personal favorite, Robert Jordan and his Wheel of Time series.

Now to be completely honest, when a former roommate of mine brought home the first two books of the series after perusing a local garage sale, I was not at all impressed. In fact, I didn’t even make it all the way through the first novel, something that rarely occurs whenever I pick up a novel. I found the story slow and uninteresting, unlike any fantasy story I’d ever read. One year later and a nasty bout with the flu changed all that.

About ten years ago, while spending the better part of a week home sick, I vainly searched through my Henry Street apartment for something, anything, to read. When I stumbled upon “The Eye of the World”, book one in the Wheel of Time series, I remember shrugging and thinking to myself what the heck, maybe it deserves another try.

Ever since that day I’ve been hooked, and have read and re-read the entire series, 12 books released to date, several times, necessary due to the unbelievable number of characters, sub-plots and political maneuverings involved. However, when tragedy struck on September 16, 2007, I sorrowed that the tale would never be completed.

Robert Jordan, whose real name was James Oliver Rigney, Jr., lost his battle with cardiac amyloidosis that day, and while my heart went out to his family and friends, I also felt a deep loss of my own. After spending ten years with the characters of the Wheel of Time I felt a connection to them, and a unique depression set in as I realized I would probably never experience the end of Jordan’s epic tale. To think that I had spent the better part of a decade reading a story with no ending was frustrating and unthinkable. You can therefore imagine my relief and excitement when fantasy author Brandon Sanderson was announced as the “perfect writer” to finish the final books in the series, according to Jordan’s wife and editor.

After finishing “A Gathering Storm” for the second time last week, book 12 in the series and Sanderson’s first effort at its continuation, I must say I agree wholeheartedly with the choice. Without changing the flavor or pace of the story (at least not much), Sanderson has restored the sense of apprehension and excitement that has accompanied the series all along. Never in my life have I been so attached to a work of fiction and I’m extremely pleased with the way Sanderson has embraced such a challenging and monumental task. I’m sure it can’t be easy to step into a story overflowing with such depth without trepidation, and I can’t begin to imagine the pressure he’s under to deliver. What I can say is that he’s off to a great start.

So now, as I sit and wait for the release of book 13 (due out this coming fall) I suppose I might as well start all over again. Now where did I put that copy of “The Eye of the World”?

And the March Madness winner is…

Thursday, April 8th, 2010
Patrick Newell

And the winner of the 2010 Evening Sun March Madness Contest is…me!
Okay, so I am a so-called “professional,” and employed by the company that offered this money-making opportunity for NCAA men’s basketball enthusiasts. Employees of Snyder Communications and their family members were not eligible to enter, but I, like so many other people, filled out a bracket before the tournament. I had a side bet with my stepson in which I would give him a sleeve of brand-new golf balls if he had more correct picks. If I won, he would be his mom’s helper around the house for at least one hour at his mom’s discretion.
I assured “Joseph” that college basketball is not my expertise, and rarely have I put together a decent bracket. This year seemed no different. I had a respectable first round – better than President Obama – and was red-hot in the West Region. As that region played out, I had the entire bracket correct up to the regional finals. There, I made my lone mistake with Butler upending Kansas State.
In the other three regions, I had a fair amount of missed calls, but managed two of the four Final Four teams – West Virginia and Duke. I missed on that Final four semifinals game picking WV, and Duke, of course, went on to win the national title Monday night.
I tallied up my final record: 42-21 (excluding the play-in game between Winthrop and Arkansas-Pine Bluff). When going through the 80-plus tournament bracket entries from our readers, I used my entry as a litmus test. As soon as someone had more than 21 wrong, I tossed the entry aside – but not in the trash.
One by one, I piled up entries in a “losers’ pile,” and in the end, ALL of the entries were heaped in one big stack. I had no clearcut winner, although I remembered a handful of entries that seemed fairly close to my effort.
Wednesday, I ran a notice in our sports section that the results of the March Madness Contest would appear in the Thursday, April 8 edition. It was my personal bail-out to go back through and re-check every single entry to find a winner.
How could this be? My pedestrian 42-21 mark (well below any previous year’s winning total) was superior to contest prognosticators who surely knew much more about college basketball than yours truly. I confess to my strong affinity to Syracuse and the Big East Conference. Outside of the Big East, the extent of my men’s college basketball knowledge is not nearly in the vicinity of experts such as Digger Phelps, Dick Vitale, and Jay Bilas. I am a typical layman who catches a few tidbits of wisdom on ESPN every so often.
If I was such a fantastic prognosticator, why do I struggle so mightily in our Evening Sun Football Contest each fall? This year I’ll cling to my ephemeral basketball wisdom, and rest assured that occasionally a lifetime of sports knowledge sometimes rears its head.

On Lent and Library Fines

Tuesday, April 6th, 2010
Melissa Stagnaro

Most Christians consider Easter to be a day of celebration and renewal. On one hand, it is one of the holiest of days, celebrating the resurrection of Christ. On the other, it is resplendent with brightly colored eggs and  candy-filled baskets of goodies left by everybody’s favorite rabbit. I refer, of course, to Peter Cottontail.

I know. The son of God and a mythical giant rabbit don’t seem to have that much in common. But for all those church-going Catholics who swear off sweets during the Lenten season, the two may has well skip hand and hand down the bunny trail. (Yeah, I know, that feels vaguely sacrilegious to me, too. But once you get the image stuck in your head, it’s kind of fun.)

So enough about blasphemy. Back to Lent. The forty (plus) days of fasting, prayer and self-sacrifice which seems to stretch interminably between Ash Wednesday and Easter. Temptation is the name of the game, during that 6 and a half week stretch, as Catholics the world over try to abstain from something dear to them.

On Easter Sunday, that  self-deprivation is over. It’s as if the Catholics of the world breathe a collective sign of relief, as they reach for that soon-to-be-earless chocolate bunny (or a chocolate martini, depending on what they gave up).

I gave up neither chocolate nor booze, however, but something much more dear to me: buying books. And I’m happy to say that I made it through the entire Lenten season with nary an indiscretion in that regard.

Okay, so there may have been a Friday meat-eating incident or two, but I feel I threw in enough meatless Wednesdays – not sufficient Hail Mary’s – to make up for my failings. And I would like to stress for the record once more, that I purchased no books during the 47 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday.

Please do not underestimate this accomplishment. For me, it was nothing short of an incredible feat requiring an inordinate amount of self-restraint. And, unfortunately, it was not without its consequences.

For one thing, I had to change my whole routine. For the duration of the Lenten season, I had to virtually avoid any establishment which sells books. There were some I couldn’t totally avoid, however, such as the grocery store. So those shopping excursions had to be carefully planned so that my chosen route did not take me too close to temptation. (i.e. the book/stationary aisle.)

If perchance there happened to be an end cap or point of purchase display near the register, I had to carefully avert my eyes. And think of baseball.

I felt strongly that preparation was the key to success in this, as in any venture. It was a pre-emptive measure, really. I knew the tendrils of temptation would be beckoning.

So I made several trips to the library to stock up prior to making my vow. Now, the Oxford Memorial Library is my book-lending establishment of choice. I’ve been frequenting it for basically my whole life, and the lovely ladies there always take excellent care of me. But as they say, any port in the storm, and I did end up paying a visit to the Guernsey stacks on one occasion.

As it turns out, I prepared a little too well, and ended up with more books than I could read in the allotted time. And unfortunately, with my mind on other things, I neglected to return or renew the unread tomes in a timely manner. And you know what happens when you engage in irresponsible book borrowing. Yep, you start racking up the fines.

Last week, I gathered up the latest of my late books (as in most late, not most recent ) and went to pay the piper. Or in this case, the library clerk.

Of course, I was hoping no one would be there to witness my transgression. But as fate would have it, there were a cluster of library patrons around the circulation desk when I arrived at the historic structure which houses my favorite little library. And they all listened in rapt attention as I explained the situation.

And then they proceeded to rib me mercilessly about it.

The librarian had a friendly smile on her face while she tallied up my fine, but the others were ruthless. In some places, they actually arrest people for not paying their fines, they said. There was even a kid there. Ugh, as if I didn’t feel bad enough, now I’m a bad role model, too.

In the end, I rounded up, just to assuage my growing guilt. Because, apparently, my conscience is just as Catholic as the rest of me.

Happy (slightly belated) Easter, everybody!

Follow me on Twitter … @evesunmelissa.

The return of the king

Monday, April 5th, 2010
Brian Golden

As expected, the upcoming Masters at Augusta National should prove to be one of the most intriguing sporting events in recent history, if for all the wrong reasons. No story, no matter how much more it actually has to do with the sport of golf, can compete with the recent Tiger Woods scandal, his fall from grace and subsequent return to a sport he has forever changed.

In all honesty I had very little use for golf on any level until I reached the age of 24, yet all it took was a beautiful Sunday afternoon, spent indoors due to an early spring head cold, to hook me for good. I’ll never forget watching the final round of that Masters while huddled under a pile of blankets and sipping on a bowl of chicken noodle soup. From that point on, a sport that I once considered dull and boorish became an obsession, and it was game on.

Another transformation in my formative years of golf fascination would have to include my personal opinion and appreciation for Woods, who I originally cheered against no matter who the competition might include (I was and continue to be a fan of Phil “Lefty” Mickelson). I found Tiger to be cocky and distant in regards to spectators and fellow golfers alike, and while I was always impressed by his talents, I just couldn’t find it in myself to be a fan. However, after several years of improving my game I just couldn’t help it, he was just too good, and it became impossible for me not to experience his numerous victories feeling anything less than awe. Let’s face it, the guy is probably one of the greatest athletes of all time and certainly deserves the legendary status he’s achieved.

But now all of that has come into question.

While I’m a firm believer that celebrities, whether athletes, musicians or actors, deserve a degree of privacy and should not be placed upon pedestals, I’m also of a mind that such status comes with a price. Whether they like it or not, fame and fortune come with a responsibility to accept the scrutiny of the public eye, something that Woods either forgot, or never understood in the first place. To put it bluntly, a high profile marriage, to a model no less, and two beautiful children should be reason enough not to cheat and he should have known the truth would eventually come out. How anyone could think to have numerous affairs, and I doubt we’ll ever know just how many, without being caught, is ridiculous.

But in the end I could honestly care less. These mistakes are his to deal with and the only people he truly needs to apologize to are his wife and family, because I never cheered for Tiger based on his personal life, only his professional one. His return to Augusta is bound to be a media circus of sorts, although his choice of the Masters as a stage for his return was a smart one due to its noted security. I just hope he plays up to par, no pun intended, and maybe, just maybe, a solid performance will take the focus away from his terrible mistakes.

In the end, I just want to see the man play some golf.

The Madness of March

Monday, April 5th, 2010
Melissa Stagnaro

Once more the basketball-tinged madness of March has trickled over into April. But, thankfully, “March Madness” will officially be over after Butler squares off against Duke tonight in the NCAA finals. I, for one, can’t wait for it to be over.

The game is set to start at 9 p.m., and before I wake up in the morning, the dust will have settled on the college basketball tournament to end all college basketball tournaments. I honestly don’t care who is crowned the victor. I’m just happy that the end is in sight.

Sure, I’ll have to deal with the seemingly endless recaps, commentary and highlights for a few days. But that is a small price to pay for the end to the frenetic energy and bizarre behavior exhibited by college basketball fans the world over.

Behavior that includes, but is not limited to staying up until all hours of the night glued to the television, jumping up and down screaming in either celebration or protest, depending on the particular play, call or outcome. The canceling of all other plans to stay glued to that damned set. The pouring over the sports page on a daily basis, studying the details of each and every game. Then there is the incessant chatter about this team or that. The almost encyclopedic knowledge of each match-up played, which is wont to pop out of nowhere even when a completely unrelated topic is being discussed.

Heaven forbid you actually asked who their pick to win is, you’ll be “treated” to an hour long diatribe, featuring a comprehensive analysis of how each team has performed against their potential opponents over the last decade or so. Plus a synopsis of each player’s individual history and their idiosyncrasies.

I know you think I’m making veiled references to a co-worker or other male acquaintance. Or perhaps my dad or one of my brothers. If only that were the case. No, the most fanatical of all college basketball fans that I know is none other than my mother.

Those who know her may find this slightly hard to believe, but I assure you this is no jest. My mom is a huge sports fan, and come March, her sport of choice is college basketball. She obsesses over it, can’t get enough of it and thinks of practically nothing else for the duration of the annual NCAA tournament.

My father seems to find this endearing, and delights in telling people about how he took her out to dinner one night and she couldn’t wait to get home to watch whatever game was on. For me, however, it can get embarrassing. Like when I have to make excuses for my mother’s absence at planned events during this time of year. Or if a guest happens to time their visit during game time and arrives to find my mother “watching” a game. (Which in her case is a very participative sport, involving an almost continuous commentary and plenty of hopping up and down.)

My mom doesn’t have a particular team she follows, in fact, she would watch every game if she could. She does have a thing for the underdog, thought. This year, for example, she was thrilled by how far Cornell made it in the tournament. I can’t tell you how many times she’s related to me that they are the first Ivy League school to make it to the Sweet 16.

After Big Red’s defeat at the hands of Kentucky, she started rooting louder for West Virginia, who she said had a lot of heart. Never having been a fan of Duke, she was disappointed when the Mountaineers lost to the Blue Devils this weekend. (Grudgingly, she admitted that Duke’s performance was far superior in the match-up, and even complimented them on their 3-point shooting.)

For my mom, the closer a game the better. So she really enjoyed the other Final Four match-up, between Butler and Michigan State. She tried to give me a blow by blow of the action, but I’m afraid all I can recall from the conversation is that Butler was victorious by a narrow margin. And she’d like to see Bulldogs go all the way.

I love my mom, I do. Which is why I can’t wait for the finals to be played. Sniff, I want my mommy back.

Not that it will be the end of my mother’s antics, of course. No, far from it.

As you know, baseball season is just getting under way.

Follow me on Twitter … @evesunmelissa.