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Yo me voy a Pinar del Rio*; or, How I learned to stop rooting and secretly am kinda glad we didn't make the NCAA's.

So I'm done with my commitments working for the Daily, but, well, I'm not completely ready to begin writing on the site on a daily basis yet. There's one more thing I have to get out of the way before I can wrest back control of this mofo from Loretta. 

You see, I've got a really cool opportunity. A few months ago - right in the heart of working the basketball beat - I applied to go on a trip to Cuba, and shonuff, I got to go on that trip. It's the type of thing I couldn't turn down.

You see, people generally see me, and get a pretty good understanding of what I am in terms of ethnicity right off the bat: a white Jewish dude. Actually, most people don't spot the Jew right off the bat, given my waspy name and lacking nose, but still. Well, white Jewish dude is a highly accurate description, but it doesn't tell the whole story. You see, over the course of the 20th century, Jews went a lot of different places, because Jews weren't too welcome in some parts of the world. A lot came to the US, a lot of others tried to and got turned away, because of quotas. It was easier to go other places where immigration laws were less strict, especially in South and Latin America. There's a crapload of Jews from Argentina, the Dominican Republic was actually the only country in the world to legally accept Holocaust refugees. The Sherman family went through Cuba, staying for two generations and exactly long enough for me to be able to say that I'm half-Cuban, but not long enough for me to actually be able to look or sound it. I'm a Jewish Cuban, or, as they say in Miami, Jewban. (people from out of Miami just tend to laugh at this.) My grandparents were lucky enough to be able to leave the island with my dad and his brother in the early 60's, and until this upcoming Sunday, nobody from my family has been back. 


I'm really excited about this. You're probably bored crapless. But here, folks, is my tangential way of linking my trip to Cuba next week to sports. 


When I realized I was going on this trip over spring break, my  thought process went like this: Great! Awesome! Sounds a lot better than last spring break, when I just hung around in New York, met up with my friends and watched the NCAA Tournament all day, and then we wou-



NCAA Tournament?

Over spring break, when I'm-

While I'm in Cuba?




I'm about as big a Northwestern fan as they come, even when I was sitting on press row. Journalists say they're impartial, but find me a guy who doesn't want the team he's covering to be successful. Players and coaches are better quotes and easier to talk to when their team is winning, and, hell, who doesn't want to cover important games? When I found out I was covering the team, I had this image in my head of being able to cover NU's first ever tournament team.

Around the time I found out I'd be going to Cuba, I realized that this would be impossible- not with a really logistically difficult to execute trip beginning DURING the second round of the tournament. And around the time I found out I'd be going, NU was trickling its way up the Others Receiving Votes board, getting closer to eking out a No. 25 ranking for the first time in decades. Through my head immediately cascaded a variety of far-fetched ideas that in retrospect, were pretty silly, naive, and now that NU is clearly not a tourney-caliber team, kinda depressing, but such is life as a way-too-intense sports fan.

I'm pretty pumped about going to Cuba. That takes precedence over everything. But yo: what if Northwestern made the tournament? Let's put it this way: Cuba is a communist country. They ain't getting CBS over there. Cuba has bigger issues than whether somebody pulls the 5-12 upset. I'd get to watch the first game - I don't leave for Cuba until Sunday, which is the second day of the second round.

But what if they won that game? - yes, I was thinking about all this stuff in November and December, don't blame me for jinxing it - I'd be staring at going an entire week with no access to any sort of sports scores or information, and no way of finding out what was going on. And like I said, I'm a big NU fan. There's no amount of mojitos, Cuban cigars, or personal rediscovery of my roots that could distract me from thinking at least once every ten minutes about whether or not Northwestern's purple glass slipper still fit.

There's no way in hell that I'd be able to live with NU making a tournament run and me not being able to watch it. Do I pull for NU to lose that first round game? Hey, we made the tourney, maybe I should just be happy to be here. Maybe I'm selfish for even wanting to win that first round game. Maybe I'm more selfish for wanting NU to lose just so that I wouldn't spend a week losing sleep over how my basketball team was doing in a country that has a free market economy.

I developed a mental contingency plan. From the day I touched back down in the US - next Saturday - to the hypothetical time I reached my frat's TV screen, with Tivo - next Sunday night. I would be in NO INFORMATION WHATSOEVER mode. I've done this before: I was on a plane during a Jets playoff loss to the Pats two years ago, and made it from JFK during rush hour to my couch, having set my TV to record the game 8 days in advance when I left. And one of our chapter meetings this year was during the Jets-Chargers playoff game - I made sure nobody said anything, and recorded it, although I figured out what would happen when all the Chargers fans in the house were like "eh, I'm thinking maybe I won't stick around for the second half - that alright with you, Rodger?" But a day and a half of no sports news mode? It would take strict instructions to all my friends and family, no checking of email, no checking of the internet, and no looking at newsstands, and I'd have to tell whoever it was to record every NU tournament game, win or lose.

And what if I finally got to the Tivo to watch NU's imaginary cindarella run through the tourney, flipped through the listings to "College Basketball" - and there was only one game recorded, revealing that NU indeed, did lose their second-round tournament game? Would I even bother watching? My solution I'd tell the guy taping stuff for me to tape at least two games - oh, but that would ruin the suspense of the second one.


It soon dawned on me that all this was a pipe dream. IF Northwestern made the tournament, and IF they won their first game, and IF they went on a miraculous tournament run - I was going to have to give all that up. There was just no logistical way that I could watch those games. I'd have to forgo seeing the team I'd followed more closely than any sports team I'd ever been around - a team where four of the starting five say "hey, Rodger" when I see them on the street - I'd have to miss them make history. Hope one of the games made it to ESPN Classic someday. 




Or, alternately, I could watch the team lose four of its last six games against the conference's weakest opposition, eliminating them from any plausible NCAA banter, and recommence the talk about next year. Ahhhh, next year, when I'll be comfortably seated on a couch, watching basketball run its course for two lovely weeks in March, letting an HDTV bore a hole into my retina.

I hate to put a positive spin on a disappointing end to a coulda-been season, but from my perspective, NU's crash-and-burn finale to the regular season provided the best of both worlds for me. From the perspective of Rodger the basketball fan, I can spend the next 12 months dreaming of Northwestern making a tourney run during my undergrad career without having to freak out about whether or not I would be able to watch their first run in school history. And from the perspective of the other 8 percent of my brain, I'll be able to spend next week can enjoy what should be one of the cooler experiences of my life without having to think about something as unimportant (in the grand scheme of things) as basketball.



* - I'm totally not going to Pinar del Rio at all. But that song is my jam. 

So, long story short, I won't be posting - at all - next week. My chances of using the internet in Cuba are about as slim as my chances of stepping into an American car built since 1964, so until next Sunday, this is Loretta's turf. He'll have you guys covered for the NIT. Enjoy it.