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Getting Some NCAA

April 9, 2003 Columns No Comments

Tonight, You Become a Man

by Brian Strong

My buddy Alex Bertsche, a senior researcher at CBS Sports and I have discussed a personal shortcoming of his on a private basis several times. But, he’ll have to forgive me, because for his own good, I feel the need to bring this situation to the forefront here today.

You see . . . for all his hoping and trying, “Berch,” as he’s affectionately known, just can’t seem to get any. And of course, pouring salt into his wounds–still sore from blows struck on behalf of a lack of success throughout the years–are his “experienced” coworkers and ex-coworker friends like me.

I admit that it’s been fun holding this over his head for the couple of years that I’ve known him. However, at this point, he’s 23 years old going on 24 for Pete’s sake and it’s just getting down right embarrassing. So, as much as it’s going to stain my ears to hear Berch screaming all summer, skipping around bragging about how he got the monkey off his back, I think tonight’s the night. Normally I root against the kid for fun, but it’s for a good cause. My buddy and favorite Syracuse alum has gotta get some.

It’s only fair really. Hoopville/CBS’ Bill Thayer and sideline reporter Bonnie Bernstein got theirs last year for the first time – while on the job no less. And although, no Dookie deserves it, Jon Segal from graphics has actually been getting his pretty regularly. Three times in the last decade or so doesn’t seem that great, but when it’s that good, that’s a respectable number.

My first time was obviously way before any of these fools back in 1982 at the ripe age of four. (There was actually another time back in ’57, but I don’t really count that.)

“Early,” you say? My response: Good times, but I was young and naïve then. It gets better with age and experience. Fortunately, since my dad went to Michigan State, I’m also a Michigan State fan and got lucky with Mateen Cleaves one Monday night before graduation in 2000. (Umm. You know, my high school English teacher once said, “Brian, there’s a fine line between clever extended metaphor and making people think you had an affair with Mateen Cleaves.” That line was crossed and I apologize if it was awkward for anyone. But I digress . . .)

Understand that every man needs this and they just don’t know exactly how much they do until it happens. They make excuses like, “Oh, I’ve waited this long, I can wait another couple years” or “almost got there once, but came up just short.” Please, please comprehend the magnitude of this thing. It has invoked violent battles and broken up marriages. It is an absolutely crucial element of the human experience.

So, why, I ask, with all these people getting all this love, does Bertsche not deserve to experience what every man dreams of? Alex is an upstanding member of his community and a professional, and I lobby for Karma to do right by him.

Exhibit A: Alex, in an effort to break cultural boundaries, once taught me how to correctly pronounce the word “Yeshiva” so that, I, a non-Jewish man, could look cool in front of his people (for the record, that’s Ye-SHE-vuh, I think). To that, I say, “Toda Raba, Bertsche.” This is a good man.

I mean, the deal looked done in ’87. It was right there for the taking, but Keith Smart stepped in and left Berch deprived. Then again, on the doorstep in ’96, Ron Mercer stole it away. So close, so close.

Anyhow, I’ve been seeing the pain in Bertsche’s face for sometime now but it’s just now getting to me for some reason. I’ve always had a hard and fast rule about never letting this get in the way of friendship, but I lost sight of that. That was wrong. So, tonight, I’ll sit in front of my TV and root for the Orange for the first time ever.

No one would have thought that Carmelo could have led these guys this far this quickly. But as a wise upperclassman at a mixer once told me, “Play it cool, man. It’s when you’re not out lookin for it, that it’ll come to you.”

We’ve got ours, Berch. Tonight, go out and get yours.


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