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Thursday, March 20, 2008

March Madness Tips

Here in the United States around this time of year, people are afflicted with "March Madness." The symptoms for this unusual malady consist of feverishly checking online brackets, the wearing of ridiculous college garb, and screaming one of the following phrases at one's telly:

1. That wasn't a foul, you stupid idiot!

2. That was a foul, you stupid idiot!

3. It went in! It went in!!

4. I can't believe you missed that easy shot, you loser!!

5. Will some one tell Billy Packer to shut the hell up about the ACC?!?

Yes, the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament is upon us and will be fervently watched by millions of men in America. In fact, the only ones not watching the tournament are the blokes who really fancy tall, lean, sweaty women in long shorts, as they will be watching the Women's tournament.*

The tournament is known for having several games going on at the same time, and for the number of upsets that occur. So, it's rather like the FA Cup in fast forward. It's exciting, the atmosphere is energetic, the announcing is magniloquent, and the adverts are the same ones from the Super Bowl and the Oscars, only played with even more alarming frequency.

If you're a novice at watching several hours of basketball on American television at a go, here is some helpful advice for getting through it all with your sanity only mildly impaired:

  • The referees will make bad calls. They will do this with surprising regularity. It's not just that basketball is a fast-moving game and referees have the average fitness of a ten-pin bowler. Referees like to guess and they like being on telly. That's why there's so much drama in the gestures they employ when they march to the scorer's table to explain how that 14th seed's guard's brush with the short fringe of the top seed's center was a flagrant foul. Just get used to the idea.

  • The top seeds will get all the calls. This is a corallary of the first tip known as Packer's Law. It's called this because Billy will then explain why the foul had to be called and why the top seed got 5 times as many trips to the foul line as the underdog or Cinderella teams. (Packer: "Jim, the underdog is simply not talented enough to play this team without fouling them all the time." Jim: (nods slowly and reverently) I agree completely, Billy.")

  • Some of the top seeds will lose before the Final Four anyway. This cosmically balances out the silliness of the first two tips and gives the announcers a chance to shout things like, "You gotta love it when the Cinderella teams win!" and "Boy, was I wrong about that team!" Just kidding about that second one.

  • The coaches will all dress like traveling salesmen or 70's-era newscasters. In fact, when I first saw the poster for Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, until I read the title I thought it was a film about college basketball coaches. These chaps are an episode of What Not to Wear just waiting to happen. Except the hosts of that programme wouldn't dare approach the coaches for fear of having to do laps and line drills, which is really difficulty in all that Armani.

  • You will see more perky, female cheerleaders at one time than you ever have in your entire life. They will all be wearing scandalously short skirts and bounce like kangaroos. All of them will have gigantic, muscle-bound, intellectually-challenged boyfriends on athletic scholarships. Except the Ivy-League schools, of course... no athletic scholarships.

  • Each team will have at least one enormous, slow player who will get in foul trouble and have had a CBS student-athlete profile done on them at halftime during the regular season. This player will inexplicably be his teammates' favourite and will occasionally put up shots as though he were competing in the shot put.

  • Some teams will run up and down the court at breakneck speed. Others will control the ball with maddening deliberation. When they meet on the court it will be like matter and anti-matter in the colour-commentator's brain.

  • There will be team mascots. Each will looks like a Hanna-Barbera version of a Disney character and do at least one hommage to Jerry Lewis on camera.

  • When they play "One Shining Moment" at the end of the tournament, Jim Nantz will silently cry on Billy Packer's shoulder.

  • Finally, someone at sometime near the end of a close game will hit a ridiculous shot and everyone will go completely mental. That is what it is all about. Enjoy it.
*And small percentage of us will tune out of basketball altogether to watch the Olympic qualifying for football (soccer) tonight, and Super Sunday in the Premier League this weekend (Beat Liverpool! Come on You Gunners!), in and around Easter services, of course.

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