A couple of weeks ago I attended the 1st and 2nd Rounds of the NCAA Men's West Regional Basketball Tournament here in my hometown. (They are 1st and 2nd Round, no matter what the NCAA calls them.) It's a fun day of four games, with about 30 minutes between each game to stretch your legs and try food you may have missed at the State Fair. Just in case you're wondering, if you put your head down and don't speak to anyone, you can walk around the concourse of a major arena five times during halftime of a basketball game. And you can make it to the restroom during a television timeout, as long as the fans on your row are kind and accommodative, and you are willing to use the little boys' urinal.
My Oklahoma Sooners were kind of hosting the field of eight teams, which was lovely. Texas and Texas A&M were on a course to meet in the 2nd Round on Sunday. It would be only their second time to meet in any sport since A&M bolted to the SEC. I don't know who I dislike more- Texas for gutting the Big 12, or A&M for leaving. We'll just call it a tie for now. But standing in the way of their grudge match were the Northern Iowa Panthers from Cedar Falls, Iowa. If you remember, the Purple and Gold ousted the mighty Kansas Jayhawks just two years ago right here in OKC, and they seemed to always have a knack for pulling off big upsets during March Madness.
It was the late game and didn't get started until after 9 p.m., and since I was too tired to walk the concourse any more, I sat and watched both teams warm up. It was like watching David and Goliath stretch before battle. Everyone on the Texas squad could dunk, including the cheerleaders, while UNI looked like they had just come in from milking the cows. Because I have the gift to predict outcomes of games just from watching warmups, I told anyone listening that there was no way the Panthers would stay with Texas, and as soon as the Longhorns were up by twenty points I was bolting for home.
Then the game started. Within five minutes I realized these farm boys could play. And they could dunk too. In no time they jumped out to a ten point lead on Texas, and you could sense the excitement beginning to build. Could they pull the upset?
So I quickly did what every Sooner still left in the gym did. I became a Panther fan, joining in their chants, high fiving their loyal followers sitting nearby, trying to find something purple to wear. It was great fun, and for 30 minutes it looked like they might pull it off.
But then with around 10 minutes remaining Texas' size and athleticism took over as they staged a comeback and took the lead. Reality was finally settling in. The Longhorns were just too much. I didn't want to watch the bloodbath, and I wanted to beat the crowd, because we all know that downtown Oklahoma City traffic at midnight on a Friday night can be brutal, so I patted my new friends on the back, wished them a safe trip back to their corn fields, and left for my warm bed.
I walked in my door just in time to see one of the farm boys throw in a half-court shot at the buzzer to slay Goliath.
Yep, I missed it. My friends who stayed said it was an awesome finish. Never in a million years did I ever think they would win. I would have placed money on it.
So I resolved right then and there that come Sunday I was staying for the entirety of both games. I would never say never again. No matter what was to transpire, no matter how bad they were getting beat, no matter if the arena was empty, dog gone it, I would stay and root for my farm boys against those Texas A&M Defectors. Yep, I was staying to the bitter end, and leave with the satisfaction that I never abandoned the Panthers from beautiful Cedar Falls, Iowa. I could do this. Did I mention the game a couple of years ago when UNI beat Kansas right here in OKC? I stayed for that entire game.
The A&M- UNI game will probably go down as the wildest, craziest game in NCAA Tournament history, with the most improbable ending ever. It will serve as the poster game for March Madness until the end of time. A&M came back from a 12 point deficit with 35 seconds left in regulation (that's not a typo sports fans), and forced two overtimes before they beat UNI. Unbelievable is an understatement. The NCAA says it was the biggest final minute comeback of all time. There was no possible way for the Panthers to avoid winning, yet somehow, someway they were able to pull off one blunder after another in the span of one shot clock's worth of time. A truly remarkable ending to an epic game.
I wish I had been there.
33 seconds left. UNI was up 69-57. Even A&M fans were leaving. It was over. Never in a million years could the Defectors come back from this one. Heck, they had one foot on the bus. I was tired. It was late. So with under a minute left I climbed the stairs and from the concourse opening turned to watch a UNI dunk, congratulated a couple of whooping Panther fans, and quickly ran out of the arena so I could beat the heavy Sunday night downtown Oklahoma City traffic.
I arrived at my truck just in time to hear that the game was going into overtime.
Because I said "never", I got to listen to one of the greatest games in NCAA history sitting behind twenty fellow never ninnies trying to get out of a parking garage just three blocks away.
There is a top hedge fund manager recognized as a titan in the finance industry who last year bet the farm that a certain drug company would go much higher. He began purchasing the stock, immediately watching it rise just as he predicted. At one point when the stock reached over $200 he could have made hundreds of millions. But he was sure it would continue to rise. So he bought more. Then when the stock suddenly started reversing and heading south, he bought more. And then at $150 he bought even more, then again at $100, and again at $70. This stock market wizard knew what he was doing. He knew it would never go below $200, saying so on national television. Then when it did he said it would never go below $150. When it did he said it would never go below $100. It did. Now it's around $30. His clients have lost half their money in his hedge fund. He's quit doing interviews.
"Oil will never go below $60."
"Iran will never get a nuclear weapon."
"Tiger Woods will never shoot an 80 in a major."
"Our country will never allow gay marriage."
"A real estate mogul with his own reality show and a potty mouth will never become President of the United States."
Never is such an overused word, and such a negative word to boot. We would be better off taking it out of our vocabulary altogether. So let's remove it. When it comes to sports, or business, or politics, or anything else that involves people- especially when it comes to our investments, let's stop saying never. Let's resolve to never say never.
When dealing with Wall Street, the trick of the trade is to always leave room for the seemingly impossible to occur. Because when you least expect it, March Madness will ensue, and if you are on the wrong side of the trade, it can be devastating. Stocks can go from $100 to zero, just like they can go from $0 to $100. It's unusual, yes. Unlikely, unimaginable, unfathomable, yes, yes, and yes. But where people are involved, never should be removed from your vocabulary. Open your mind to possibilities, no matter how minuscule they may seem. Never say never, or you too may end up listening to one of the greatest games in NCAA history sitting at a stop light less than three blocks from the arena, crumpled ticket in hand.