DALLAS -- A tribute: I would never be able to do this 100 Games thing without Bally, my stuffed basketball. This is his fourth season with me, his fourth NCAA Tournament, and he's got his second Final Four coming up. He's been in thousands of photos and logged tens of thousands of miles. Bally is the kind of friend who never lets anyone down. When things get tough, I boing him and I'm instantly in a better mood. On long cross-country drives, I talk to him, and he talks back a lot more than you would expect.
But this March, there's been a third member of our travel team who's been just as important as Bally. He knows it, I know it, and Hoops Nation should know it too. It's the black 2011 Mazda 3 that we rented from Providence T.F. Green Airport on March 2. It has tirelessly and safely transported us to 21 games among six leagues during Championship Fortnight, including two consecutive overnight drives from New York to Cleveland, and then back to Atlantic City -- the latter trip through a five-inch snowstorm. And then on to Dayton for the First Four, then to Cleveland and Chicago for the Rounds of 64 and 32, and then Texas. Over the weekend, an additional 1,100 miles as we shuttled between San Antonio and Southeast Region final at New Orleans
. It got us safely back in time for the Southwest Region final
. Both of those turned out pretty well.
And we're not done. After calling up and extending the rental three times this month, we are driving back to Providence this week (via Chicago) instead of going straight to Houston. Rental agencies have rules, and most rentals max out at 30 days... or the company reports a car stolen. So we have another 2,200 miles to go, and a hard deadline to meet. When we return the Mazda and fly back to Houston on Friday, it will not only have some leftover salt under the wheels from the Cleveland snowstorm, it will have approximately 12,000 miles on the engine. As per my rental agreement, it left Providence with 4,066. Jiffy Lube would not approve, at all.
But as they say, all the miles are free in Mid-Majority country.
Honestly, we didn't expect to still be going strong at this point of the Tournament, and we didn't expect we'd actually
end up down south. I thought we used up two decades' worth of mid-major magic during Season 6. I initially reserved the car until the 17th, and banked enough dough for a possible Sweet Sixteen/Elite Eight weekend.
Thanks to the #AOUEOU efforts of the folks at Utah State
, we have plane tickets and a place to stay in Houston, but we could use some help with the rental car and gas. Some people have graciously gone in for Season 8 Memberships to help with the cause, but Season 7 isn't over yet (and S8 will have its own costs to cover). Others don't want to throw down that much or quite yet, and asked on the Twitter if there were alternate methods to donate smaller or additional amounts. I was trying to keep the donation box off the site this season, but here it is again -- like #ghostbrackets.
As per our longstanding handshake agreement, I don't make any money off this site, but I don't lose any either. That's why this works. So I'll take down the link when we reach $600 or so.
Thank you for your support. Stop throwing money at us!
And I know you were dying to ask, but the Mazda 3 is strong, nimble, handles and accelerates well. The legroom is decent, even for us point guard-sized dudes. It is a little tough on gas, but that's because it has the comfort of a midsize with the friskiness of a sports car. Cruise control is not standard, which has definitely increased the degree of difficulty of this journey. But overall, it's been a six on a five-star scale, and will never be forgotten for as long as this site is in existence. Zoom-zoom, baby.