A Doug's Life: There's Nothing Like March Madness on the Big Screen(s)

I enjoy March Madness as much as the next guy, but I do not participate in office pools.

For me, trying to predict the upsets in a college basketball tournament is as frustrating as trying to play the game myself. As a teenager, I tore my Achilles tendon playing hoops. As a college newspaper sports editor, I took a Basketball Theory class and was laughed off the court.

These days, after three foot surgeries, I'm lucky I can walk. I doubt I could beat Betty White in a game of HORSE.

Unfortunately, I'm not much better at predicting the outcome of a tournament that pairs off 72 teams from across the country. I mean, what makes one decide that an upset win by No. 15 seed Lehigh over No. 2 seed Duke is more likely than No. 15 Detroit beating No. 2 Kansas?

Whether you hang on the outcome of every game in your carefully completed bracket or simply enjoy fast action and a good game, one thing's certain:

Thanks to the tournament's mass exposure through multiple TV networks, watching the tournament on a big screen is incredibly convenient and enjoyable.

To get through the first two frantic days of the tournament last week, CBS partnered with TBS, TNT and TruTV to make sure every game was covered. As long as you kept fresh batteries in your remote and had a quick trigger finger, you didn't miss a thing.

Most notably, there were the upsets. There always are upsets. But two No. 15 seeds beating No. 2 seeds on the same day? Norfolk State beating Missouri was surprising enough, but Lehigh defeating Duke was a real shocker.

Upsets occur in every NCAA tournament. In a seven-game series, Duke would dispose of Lehigh like yesterday's trash. But in a single-elimination format, the underdog always has a chance.

So how does one handicap the remaining 16 teams? Because I don't gamble on upsets in trying to win office pools, I usually go with the No. 1 seed that seems hottest in the tournament -- unless one of my personal favorites is still in it and I think they have a shot.

Being a North Carolina fan, I thought I had the best of both worlds this year. The Tar Heels are seeded No. 1 and they're playing well. After relatively easy wins over Vermont and Creighton, UNC is headed for a Midwest Regional semifinal with Ohio on Friday.

Now for the bad news. Tar Heels point guard Kendall Marshall, the team's offensive leader, broke his wrist in the Creighton game and underwent surgery on Monday. Suddenly, I'm not so confident about the Tar Heels taking the trophy. Being realistic, I would now go with Kentucky, seeded No. 1 in the South Regional and playing Indiana on Friday.

So you've got four games on Thursday and four more on Friday. Each night, two games will be going on at once. If you don't want to deal with the remote and have a craving for food and beverage better than the stuff languishing in your fridge, The Beer Hunter in Menifee's Countryside Marketplace is the place to go.

The Beer Hunter serves much more than beer -- although it certainly has that, with a fine selection of craft beers including offerings from Craft Brewing of Lake Elsinore and Black Market Brewing of Temecula. It also offers a menu of food choices including appetizers, burgers, pizza and salads. Although it is considered a sports "pub and grill," The Beer Hunter caters to families and people of all ages.

"The atmosphere here is a great mix for all kinds of people," said Bill Gillette, manager at The Beer Hunter. "There's no extra loud music, lots of families, and like our saying goes, 'If it's not on at the Beer Hunter, it's not on.' "

That's in reference to the 32 big screen TVs, which feature a variety of sports events every night of the week. This week, although patrons will be able to watch all kinds of NBA, NHL and motorsports action, the focus will be on college basketball.

On Thursday, the Beer Hunter offers Happy Hour from 3-6 p.m. and again from 9 p.m. to closing. So if you want a place to relax, get some grub and drinks and watch the Wisconsin-Syracuse and Louisville-Michigan State games on adjacent screens, this is the place to be. And if you want to stick around to catch both Cincinnati-Ohio State and Florida-Marquette later in the evening, The Beer Hunter has you covered.

Then if you want to check back on Friday night and see how my Tar Heels do against Ohio, you're guaranteed to have a good time. I can't promise a North Carolina victory, but I can personally vouch for the Beer Hunter Burger.


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