Herald Journal Columns
March 20, 2006, Herald Journal

The sweet sound of silence in March

By LIZ HELLMANN

Warning: this column is about sports. For those of you who do not care for sports, don’t stop reading, yet. You should be able to extract some humor from it, and I have outlined FYI sections to help you out with any unfamiliar jargon. So relax, you can do this.

It is time.

This month dozens of orange leather basketballs will be batted around by ridiculously tall and talented young men who have practiced their whole lives for a time affectionately termed “March madness.”

For those strange people who do not like basketball (I mean it’s practically like saying, “I don’t think I’ll breathe today. Oxygen just isn’t for everyone.”), you must understand the drama, the anticipation, the unexpected.

But what is truly unique about this time of year, is the humble mood it brings to the sports community, and the opportunity for the sports illiterate to join in the fun.

Three weekends full of free-throws, game-winning shots, fouls, and jump balls loom before us.

I understand that this sort of sport might not be everyone’s bag, but that’s the beauty of March madness.

It doesn’t matter how much you know about the teams, or if you even know what a 3-point shot is – OK, if you can’t figure that one out, you might want to check your not-so-critical thinking skills.

The spirit of the tournament is what it is all about.

The spirit is getting together with friends, watching the games, and picking who is going to win.

Of course, some people like to invest in their tournament interest with a little green to back up their bracket picks.

(FYI – a bracket is what you fill out to guess who will win the tournament. It starts with the first round. All 64 teams are listed and grouped in their first games. Then, you write in the winner of those first 32 games, followed by the winners of the next set of games, until you are left with one champion.)

Given the nature of the sport, a retired grandma who thinks Oral Roberts is a dentist has about the same odds of guessing the winner as Dick Vitale.

(FYI – Dick Vitale: “That was awesome, baby!” There’s no other way to explain him.)

Because of this, the whole bracket picking, March madness process is very humbling.

Not for the teams, but for the sports announcers, and general sports-know-it-alls.

You know, the person who always has to not only talk about sports, but tell about sports.

Let’s call him Luke.

Luke walks into the diner.

You ask, “So, did you hear about the Culpepper trade?”

(FYI – Daunte Culpepper was quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings – that’s the football team, you know, they play in winter with the funny-shaped ball and shiny pants – he was recently traded to Miami, meaning he will play on their team, not ours.)

Luke flies off the handle, throwing his eggs in the air.

“It’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard!”

Sports-know-it-all reaction number 1: Disagree with anything that is commonly accepted as a good idea. Example, it is largely believed Culpepper wasn’t going to do much good here after a season-ending knee injury last year and attitude problems continuing into this year.

Luke continues his rant.

“He was their only decent player this year. They’ll never get anyone good out of the draft.”

Sports-know-it-all reaction number 2: Make blanket statements about some event in the future. If they are wrong, no one will remember. If they are right, everyone will hear about it.

Then, there are the professional sports-know-it-alls. I believed the politically correct term is “sports announcers.”

While they may be gifted in stats and have a knack for remembering names, I think a monkey could write some of their commentary.

“Well, Steve, I think the team that has the most aggressive offense, a solid defense, and comes up with more points at the end of this game is going to win.”

There’s an FYI for you.

And they say these sorts of things with a straight face.

What does this have to do with March madness?

Almost just as entertaining to watch as the games, are the sports-know-it-alls who must write in black and white (FYI – pen and paper, blue or green ink is acceptable. Oh, right, these are supposed to be sports-related.) whom they think will win.

No amount of tough talk, statistical gibberish, or impressive name-dropping will make up for the fact that they only picked three of the 29 teams to advance.

This is supposed to be their area of expertise.

It’s not their fault. That’s the beauty of it.

These teams are playing with everything they have, and they all want one thing.

Injured key players, slippery floors, a hot underdog (FYI – team not expected to win, but who is playing above average. Not the warm underside of a canine.) can all sway the outcome of a single game, and the tournament.

So, in the spirit of March madness, grab your bracket, some food, and watch, basking in the glowing light of the TV screen, and the welcomed once-a-year silence of sports-know-it-alls.


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