It’s March Madness — that wonderful time of year when the fans of 67 teams get mad because their hoopsters got knocked out of the bracket, while the fans of 1 team get to go completely berserk and set things on fire.
Back in 1941, the NCAA tournament included eight teams and nine non-televised games. There was no bracket, no Clark Kellogg, and no Vegas odds. Ah, the good old days.
Also, the trophy was way cooler than it is now.
Wisconsin won that year.
They beat Washington State 39-34.
It was the last time the Badgers won the NCAA championship.
My uncle was on that team.
Can you pick him out in this picture?
No, he wasn’t number 35 — that’s the big man, Gene Englund.
Nope, my uncle didn’t wear number 36 either. That’s Johnny Kotz, the tournament’s most outstanding player.
Uncle Morris isn’t in the first row or the second row.
He’s not number 26 in the back row.
In fact, he doesn’t have a number.
My uncle is the guy on the far left of the picture in the suit and tie, standing right behind Head Coach Bud Foster.
He was the team manager.
(At least he didn’t have to wear those goofy socks attached to what looks like knee pads. What in the world?)
My uncle, Morris Bradley, was a 22 year old college student and he was having the time of his life.
When the team got back to Madison in the wee hours of a rainy March night, they were greeted by hundreds of fans. The champions were given a ride around the Capitol in a fire engine. Unfortunately, the fire engine caught fire so the parade was cut short. A reporter from the Cap Times newspaper quoted my uncle as saying, “Everybody had to pile off, and we were on our own from then on.” So I guess you could say they started a fire in Madison that night.
This year, as we cheer on our teams, let’s tip our hats to the guys on the bench with the water bottles and clip boards. In honor of my Uncle Morris.