Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Whodathunkit?!: The 64 Best Things You Want To Know About the 2009 NCAA Tournament!

It's Whodathunkit?! for the NCAA Tournament! Maybe you like the Tournament, and maybe you like basketball. Me, I like the Tournament but I hate watching basketball -- so every year, I get excited about March Madness and follow who wins and loses, all without ever watching a single moment of the actual games.

Which puts me at a loss about what to say when people talk about, you know, actual basketball stuff. If you're like me, then you need Whodathunkit?! -- the only source of the stuff you actually want to know about the NCAA Tournament.

And I don't skimp, either -- I'm giving you not one, not ten, not 20, but sixty-four things you want to know -- one for each team in the Tournament. It's a long one, so get going:

The 64 Best Things You Want To Know
About the 2009 NCAA Tournament:

Louisville: With Louisville again making it into a college playoff, it's time for the annual review of how to pronounce "Louisville." This site will tell you it's "loo-uh-vul., and you can hear a voice that doesn't sound dumb in any way (note: sarcasm) say it that way. That site notes that many people outside of Kentucky say Loo-EE-Vill. But to most people, it'll always be pronounced "They really don't stand a chance of winning." (Note: if you use this joke in a conversation, you must immediately follow it with Trademark The Best of Everything All Rights Reserved.)

Morehead State: Morehead State raises this question: when does the Tournament begin? Morehead State won the "play-in" game, the game that's featured on the Tuesday before the Tournament. I say "if it's a play-in game, they're not in the Tournament until they win." The Boy says that they're in if they're in the play-in game. Considering the caliber of school The Boy goes to, I'm going to say I'm right. Morehead State raises other questions, too, like "Do they understand the meaning of the word 'famous?' I'm going to say no, because under "Famous Alumni" on their site, they list, among other people, Olympic Bobsledding Bronze Medalist Brian Shimer. On a site devoted to Shimer, the first couple of things they note about him are (a) he failed a lot, and (b) legendary football bust Herschel Walker was his bobsled teammate on what is described as "the most famous two-man team in history."

So it's not just Morehead State but their graduates who are a little unclear on the definition of "famous." Then again, it would not take very much fame, at all, to become the most famous two-man bobsled team in history.

Morehead would be better off highlighting their ghost: Phebe Button's ghost is said to haunt "Button Auditorium." Phebe was the mother of Morehead State's founder. And while she's the only ghost mentioned on the front page of the college's site, this site says there are scads of other ghosts at Morehead. And it includes this disturbing description:
"In the 1980's, a janitor was cleaning a large clock hanging off the balcony and apparently he fell off the balcony and a chair broke his back and sometimes if you're sitting in the area he fell on you get a crushing sensation and a very odd smell."

To which I say: Has somebody thought to remove the body?

Ohio State: Remember that UConn coach who asked that reporter if he's "really that stupid?" when the reporter questioned the coach's salary. (I'd have answered: If I was that stupid, I guess I'd only be qualified to coach a game involving bouncing a ball...")(Yes, it took me a month to come up with that, so I'd have answered the coach that, one month later.) Ah, "teachable moments," as educators like to say. That distinguished coach taught his athletes this lesson: when questioned, throw a hissy fit. But he could have said something like athletic departments have massive budgets and bring money into the community. Take Ohio State's athletic department budget: $109 million in 2007-2008 -- all of it raised by the department itself, no tax dollars at work whatsoever. $45 million of that was apparently gifts-- people who could think of nothing better to do with their money than to give it to Ohio State University's athletics department.

I think a neat thing to do would be to create a database to allow anyone to cross-reference the people who (a) gave $45 million to an athletics department and then (b) complained about the possibility of a 3% tax increase on quarter-millionaires.

Siena: Siena is a Catholic private college. As we go along, count how many Catholic schools are in the tournament, and then, the next time you want to get down on the Catholic church, think about what that number proves about whose side God is really on.

To give you an idea what life is like at Siena College, here is the actual listing of upcoming events shown on the college's website Tuesday:

That, though, doesn't answer the key question I have about any college, which is this: What kind of stuff can I buy from that college for less than $5.00?

To answer that, I've gone to the Siena Athletics Store, where I have learned that Siena is the only NCAA-Competing Catholic school in America where you can buy a "Chip Clip" with the name of the college for only $1.00:

So, Siena: Sell 91,000,000 of those, and you will be on an even footing with Ohio State. (Fitness alert: Siena's athletics department doesn't just promote fitness by selling clips designed to keep your Pajedas crispy; it also partnered up with Dunkin' Doughnuts. Expect the Siena basketball players to need about fifteen more "time outs" than their opponents.)

Utah: The Utah "Utes" has to be the worst possible nickname for a sports team. Ever. How's that meeting go?

Boss: What can we call the team? Let's see. Utah... Utah... gosh, that's tiring to say. Maybe I shouldn't say the whole name. Let's see. Ute... ute...

[interrupting underling/henchman]: Why not just go with ute?

Boss: Are you sure you're not just trying to get out of here to go Google "root beer" or "lingerie?"*

Henchman: Um.

Boss: Never mind. I'm tired. We'll go with it.

*Note: Utah was widely reported to rank number 1 in various pornography or Harry Potter related searches in 2007 -- but does anyone bother to mention that Utahns searched for "root beer" more than anyone else in the world in 2007? No-- until now.

The University of Utah is located in Salt Lake City, which did more searches in 2007 for "Frodo" than any other city in the entire world. So if your team is playing the Utes in the NCAA, and makes a good play, a great put-down would be "Let's see Frodo do THAT."

That put-down works less well in other walks of life, like, say, my employment review. As I've found out.

Salt Lake City appears to have gotten over its Frodo obsession; now the worldwide lead is held by Zagreb, Croatia. (In the US, Portland is number one in Frodo-related searches.)

Arizona: Here's what John McCain -- remember him?-- had to say about Arizona's heartbreaking loss in the Superbowl: "Where--the old guy, Warner, almost won. For a change, an old guy almost won. I'm proud of him."

For a change, an old guy almost won? Do you suppose nobody told McCain what happened in November?

People in and around the University of Arizona have a lot more important matters on their minds than remembering who won the presidential election, and who almost won, and more important, even than the NCAA tournament: Someone is stealing their lunches. That's what I surmise, anyway, from the fact that they're sponsoring a lecture on "Regional Food Security."

The fight song for the Arizona Wildcats is "Bear Down," and you can hear it played on something called a "tubaccordianjo" by clicking this link. Awesome! I can picture the Arizona Wildcats Jug Band playing that at halftime.

Wake Forest: The fight song for the "Demon Deacons" of Wake Forest is called "O Here's To Wake Forest." It includes this lyric: A glass of the finest red ruby rhenish filled up to the brim."

So Wake Forest, in its fight song, is saying that it is like "a glass of finest red ruby rhenish." Good work -- no other college is likely to make that claim, right?

Wrong: Hampden-Sydney College claims that it is like "a glass of finest red ruby rhenish." So which college, exactly, is more like a "glass of finest red ruby rhenish?" That's impossible to tell unless you know what rhenish is, and I did not. However, I did look it up and found that "rhenish" is...

... drum roll...

White wine from the Rhine River valley in Germany.

White wine.

So both Wake Forest and Hampden-Sydney College are like a red version of a white wine -- that is, they're like things that don't exist.

Did you know that a liebfraumilch is a "sweetened Rhenish wine?" I think the Wake Forest Demon Deacons should be the "Wake Forest Liebfraumilches." Unless those jerks at Hampden-Sydney have stolen that, too.

Cleveland State: Cleveland State's athletic department budget for 2007 was about $6.8 million - -and both they and Ohio State qualified for the NCAA tournament. But CSU did it for 0.07% of the budget that Ohio State did it, so at Cleveland State you're getting more bang for your basketball buck. Then again, CSU men's basketball coach makes at least $225,000 per year in base salary, putting him $25,000 over the limit I feel people can earn before they're simply hoarding resources. Since I don't know if he's married or what his wife makes, I'll cut him some slack; Thad Matta, the OSU coach, makes about $2.5 million per year, which means he is definitely guilty of hoarding resources. (The Angry UConn Coach who feels he should never be questioned? His Imperiousness makes about $1.6 million.)

Cleveland State students have the opportunity to pursue CLAM: The "Bachelor of Arts in Classical and Medieval Studies." Presumably, students who major in "CLAM" will not be moving into the lucrative field of "Making Up Acronyms That Make Sense," or, as CSU students refer to it "CNN/HLN." They will, though, have a vast knowledge of Chaucer's works. They'll also study Greek mythology. A better bet, career-wise, might be to major in something useful, and spend the weekends watching Disney's Hercules.

West Virginia: West Virginia U. is located in Morgantown, WV, which actually has kind of a fun website (as municipal websites go-- fun being a relative thing, here.) The entire budget for the city of Morgantown ranges between $22,000,000 and $25,000,000 per year , of which $14-$18 million is paid from property taxes-- so those people who gave $45,000,000 to Ohio State could have, for example, allowed everyone in Morgantown, WV, to get municipal services without paying any property taxes or fees for three years. Of course, if they'd done that-- donated $45 million to the City of Morgantown, WV, then the Ohio State Buckeyes might have won 2 or 3 fewer games each year, so it's probably for the best that they made their gifts to OSU.

West Virginia students celebrate their victories by burning couches -- prompting the city to ban furniture from front porches in student neighborhoods back in 2005. Note that they did not ban burning couches -- they simply banned having the couch on the porch.

I wasn't able to find any statistics on "house fires in student areas in Morgantown in 2006." But you know the number went up. Drastically.

Along with counting Catholic schools, we could count "schools from Ohio" in the NCAA tournament; God likes people who fear the Pope/live in middle America, apparently. Dayton is a double whammy in that department: Catholic and located in Ohio. Beyond achieving the exact same basketball goals as OSU on a fraction of the budget, Dayton University is known for ghosts.

So we could keep track of Catholic Schools, schools from Ohio, and schools with ghosts to see which is more likely to land a school in the NCAA tournament.

Dayton has two ghosts, to be exact: One a disfigured old man with a limp and bad teeth. The other is a male ghost living in a sorority house. Strangely, the Theta Phi Alpha web page makes no mention of the ghost, but it does have this picture of hot sorority babes...

... circa 1912.

Kansas: Every year, The Boy and I bet on the NCAA Tournament. We each pick 32 of the starting teams, and the person whose team wins gets a t-shirt of that team. I'm undefeated in this bet -- I've never lost -- and I will be wearing my Kansas t-shirt this year to not watch the Tournament.

Whodathunkit? isn't about winning t-shirts, though. It's about giving you, the casual sports fan, the inside information needed to keep you ahead of your fellow tournament watchers, bracket-poolers, and partygoers, and I've got a doozy here. As everyone else is talking about whether Kansas suffered from losing all their starters, or some such nonsense, lay this one on them. Just say: "Did you know that members of the KU basketball team appeared in a porn film?"

It's true. Kansas U. basketball players appeared in Linda Lovelace for President, which was filmed on the KU campus. The filmmakers paid about $3,000 for the right to use the campus in filming -- so OSU alumni, you could have funded 15,000 porn flicks with one year's worth of donations.

Linda Lovelace For President isn't just a wry political commentary - -it's also the title of a rock album by "Marc With A C." Here's "Marc With A C"'s song, Bitchin In the Kitchen:

North Dakota State: North Dakota State somehow made the tournament despite the fact that nobody actually lives in North Dakota. But North Dakota actually has a strong basketball pedigree: Former, or maybe still, NBA Coach Phil Jackson is from there, and Phil proves that anyone, even a North Dakotan, can grow up to become a stellar basketball coach, provided that that person is not only from North Dakota but also has either Michael Jordan or Shaquille O'Neal on his team.

North Dakota is the only college I found that offered to give me an NDSU "ringtone." From their site, you can personalize your phone with the "sights and sounds" of North Dakota State. I assume it's a blank field with a cloudy, cold sky, and when someone calls you, your phone starts saying, over and over again, "You went Where? Why?"

You know what I wonder? Why nobody has yet managed to make ringtone into a double entendre. Let's get with it, people.

Boston College: Do you know what a college's "endowment" is? That's the money they've got just sitting around. People give to an "endowment" with the stipulation that the money they give will never be spent; it will be invested and held and the income can be used by the university. So basically, someone gives money to a college and says Hold this forever, use the interest, but deny humanity the benefit of this money for all time.

Just thought I'd mention that as we debate whether there is enough money in America to provide health care for people. Just thought I'd bring that up.

Another thing I thought I'd bring up? Boston College's "endowment" is $1.6 million. Boston College has $1.6 million dollars that people gave it to never spend. Ohio State's is $2 million.

Those pale in comparision, though, to what Harvard has. Harvard's endowment in 2008? $36 million.

Boston's basketballers have some stiff competition for attendance: The NCAA game will be going head-to-head with the BC "ALC Showdown 2009." Here's the description for that even:

The best dance groups on campus battle it out to see who will be the 2009 ALC Showdown Champions! Featuring performances by Synergy, PATU, Fuego, AeroK, Phaymus, FISTS, Masti, Bulletproof Theory, PSBC, Hawaii Club, Capoeira, SC and more! Doors open at 5:30pm. Show starts at 7PM but come early because seats go fast (no assigned seating). Metal detectors will be in use and take some time to get through as well. No food or drinks allowed in.

USC: As if life in Southern California is not awesome enough -- so awesome that former Trojan QB Matt Leinart sacrificed millions and a career to stay around an extra year, thereby proving that life as USC is great, but the education is... not so much -- the schooling made it a little more
awesome/less useful by introducing a major in video game design at the USC Gamepipe Lab.

Students who major in video gaming - -that is, video game designing, or so you'll tell mom and dad -- get to take "Survey of Digital Games And Their Technologies," where among other things they'll study the history of game consoles.

Grading in the class is done by score -- and I expect that if a student scores high enough, he or she gets an extra life.

Michigan State: If you're not into basketball and go to Michigan State, what else could you do? Maybe join one of the more than 500 student organizations cited by MSU. Choosing the right one could be kind of tough, because MSU's website doesn't sort them by, say, areas of interest; instead, they're sorted only alphabetically.

Let's say you're interested in... music. So you click on "K-O" and hope that "Music" is the first word in your potential group's name. Hmmm... nothing. Maybe radio? They play music on the radio, right? Dang. Nothing in P-T. What about student radio? Hum-de-dum... Students for McCain? Didn't anyone tell them, either? What else could I try in order to find other students who share my love for music... band? A-E it is: But it goes from Baja SAE Racing to Ballroom Dance Club. Screw it. I'm doing this the old-fashioned way: getting drunk, pointing my speakers out the window, and blasting Sigue Sigue Sputnik:

Robert Morris: All schools named after a person get the same review: Who was this person and why does he get a school named after him but I don't? Robert Morris, it turns out, takes sole credit for winning the Revolutionary War: their website says this:

without Robert Morris, the American colonies’ bold attempt to throw off British rule never could have succeeded.

Morris was emceeing a party -- being, I guess, the 1700's equivalent of Brody Jenner -- when news broke out about fighting. Immediately, Morris the Self-Made Millionaire (and this was a time when a million dollars meant something) began plotting with Ben Franklin on how to get rich off the war.

It doesn't say that, exactly, on the site. It just says he helped smuggle in weapons, lent money to the army, and used his ships as "privateers," private pirates seizing goods. He was, in fact, accused of war profiteering, but was cleared... by the same people he'd helped put in power.

Morris ended his years in debtor's prison, being handsomely repaid by those he'd helped. They visited him in prison, and eventually got around to inventing bankruptcy so Morris could die, alone and destitute... but at home.

Connecticut: Connecticut's state animal is the sperm whale. They apparently picked that because they were proud of being second in terms of whaling back in the day. That explains their state motto: Connecticut: More than Content To Be Second Best.

Chattanooga: There's a joke I've always liked, and I will spare you the torturous set-up that leads to the punch line, and jump right to the good part: The punch-line to the joke is: Pardon me, boy, is that the cat that chewed your new shoe?

Think about it for a while. Or say it aloud. Also, if memory serves me correct, Barbara Eden was in a movie based on the song Chattanooga Choo-Choo.

BYU: BYU, up until recently, housed one of the finest collections of dinosaur bones anywhere -- keeping them under the stadium. They employed people called "preparators," -- "preparers" was apparently too mundane a title -- to prepare the bones, but faced a funding shortage. The bones were eventually donated to something called "Thanksgiving Point," but this past July, a life-size Tyrannosaurus Rex was made out of 2,500 balloons by a guy nicknamed "The Balloon Guy" to celebrate a dinosaur birthday party. The hardest part, according to Balloon Guy? The ankles.

Texas A&M: Texas A&M is, according to "Urban Dictionary," "often falsely stereotyped as being full of hicks." So if you're sitting near an A&M fan, turn to him or her and say this: I'm sorry that your school is often -- but not always -- falsely stereotyped as being full of hicks." Then ask him to take off his cowboy hat so you can see the game. Texas A&M also claims to be the the "Home of the 12th Man." That's only going to lead to trouble with Seahawks Nation -- which claims to be the official home of the 12th Man.

Purdue: Purdue's athletes are nicknamed the Boilermakers, but they weren't always called that. A reporter started that nickname in 1891; before that, the football team was, at times, called either the "haymakers," the "railsplitters," or, my personal favorite, the "cornfield sailors."

Northern Iowa: In close competition with Utah for dumbest nickname come the "Northern Iowa Uni Panthers." I was wondering how the "Uni Panthers" got their name and googled that question. Then, while waiting for my answers -- my computer is slow -- I figured it out: The University of Northern Iowa." See that? So officially, they are the University of Northern Iowa Uni Panthers, which is a short way of saying that they're the University of Northern Iowa University of Northern Iowa Panthers.

I bet Northern Iowa students also go to the ATM Machine.

Washington: Washington has a major identity crisis. Google "Washington University" and "Washington University in St. Louis" shows up higher on the page than the NCAA-Tournament bound Washington. Get yourself to their home page, and they identify themselves as "UW," which everyone whose anyone knows refers to the University of Wisconsin.

The school is carving out a niche for itself, though: The website's front page has a link to an article about Curtis Ebbensmayer, a Washington Alum who is the world's leading expert on "flotsam."

"Flotsam" is the wreckage that floats after a ship has sunk, such as the 61,280 sneakers that started Curtis on his career. (Curtis tested the floatability of some sneakers in a hotel spa, making him even less romantic on a honeymoon than I am.)

"Jetsam," by contrast, is the stuff that's thrown overboard to lighten a ship in distress. So Kate & Leo were flotsam, not jetsam.

Mississippi State: Mississippi State's most famous alumnus is John Grisham. There's even a room at the school's library in his honor. The school also gives out MSU Grisham Awards, links to Grisham's intro to other books, and serves Grisham-and-eggs for breakfast. (Note: I made that last one up. But I'm sure they've thought about it.)

Marquette: Remember when Marquette gave into to protesters and changed its school team names from "Warriors" to the bland "Golden Eagles?" I do, because I lived in Milwaukee when they did it. I've gotten over it -- I never cared much, beyond thinking it was stupid to change. But the debate continued for more than a decade. Or longer. Or longer still. Seriously? More than 13 years later, people are still debating what the team should be called? Isn't it time to pack up and graduate? Get a job? Begin worrying about what pro teams are called?

Utah State: How bummed do you think the people at Utah State were that "Utes" was already taken as a nickname? Not very, I bet. Then again, the Utah State folks didn't do much better, coming up with "Aggies," -- which is also the nickname for Texas A&M's team. That explains Utah State's entry in Urban Dictionary: "Often falsely stereotyped as being full of copycat hicks."

Other schools nicknamed Aggies include New Mexico State and UConn (until 1933).

How unoriginal is the nickname "Aggies?" New Mexico State is in the same conference as Utah State -- so Utah State isn't even the first school in its conference to be called that.

Missouri: Contrary to popular belief, most Missourians do not pronounce their state "Missour-uh." In two polls, "Missour-ee" won by 60% or more. (That fact brought to you courtesy of The Big Book of Beastly Mispronunciations." That book was recently updated to include "bruschetta." (Correct pronunciation: garlic bread.)

Cornell: Cornell is named for "Ezra Cornell," who gets a university named after him because he came up with a special kind of plow that would dig a ditch, lay telegraph wire in it, and then cover the pipe and wire afterwards. Wasn't "ditch digger" a sort of insult at some point or another?

Cornell offers a service called "Ask Uncle Ezra," which allows students to ask questions and get answers, and the questions are archived. The first question ever? Dear Uncle Ezra, My girlfriend is frigid, what can I do?-- Chilly Willy. To which Uncle Ezra replied that the student could get help being a better lover from the Health Education Office. Seriously.

California: Just to clear up the matter, because it's always confused me: When sportscasters say "Cal" they mean the University of California-Berkeley -- not UCLA, or any of the other California schools, or University of California schools. I was never quite sure what they were talking about.

"Cal" has tons of famous alumni. My own personal favorite: Philip K. Dick, who wrote the book Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. You know that book as "Blade Runner." My second favorite? Jerry Mathers. I loved that episode where The Beav climbed into the billboard to see if there really was soup in the cup.

Maryland: I bet people in Maryland are excited their team made the Tournament. Or not. Probably not, considering the official state sport of Maryland is... jousting. Get this: Maryland was the first state to pick an official sport, so they had every single sport in the world to choose from, and chose jousting.

But they've stuck with it: they've had state jousting championships and everything. The season doesn't start 'til May, so there's still time to sign up.

Memphis: Apparently, Memphis losing last year's final to Kansas was considered shocking in the sports world. What was shocking to me was that Memphis had a university. All I ever knew about Memphis was that it was home to Graceland, and that Marc Cohn went Walking in Memphis, walking with his feet ten feet off of Beale.

Although it's not generally known, we have Memphis' first student class to thank for saving our country. They picked Blue and Gray as the school's colors in commemoration of the reuniting of the country after the Civil War.

They did that in 1912. No word on why they picked the tiger as a mascot -- probably to commemorate the way America totally got owned by Canada in the war of 1812.

Cal St. Northridge: Here's a song I like:

It's "Give a Little Love," by "Noah and The Whale." I realize this has nothing to do with Cal St. Northridge. I just was getting a little worn out here and needed a palate-cleanser.

Pittsburgh: Forget Pittsburgh's men's basketball team; Pitt has a website devoted entirely to "Shavonte Zellous," who is apparently a women's basketball player there. Thanks to that site, I know that Shavonte (a) likes shrimp pasta, and (b) can't read all the way to the end of a question. Here's an actual question and response on her site:

If you could relive one day over and over, what would it be and why?
The day the coaches go recruiting. :)

ETSU: "Etsu, Brute?" You know you're cool when you can just rip out a Shakespeare quote, right?


"ETSU" stands for "East Tennessee State University," a school that boasts that it is "...becoming the best regional university in the country." ETSU's school motto is, apparently: Aim Sort Of High, Or At Least Middle-Range, And Loudly Proclaim Your Progress Toward Your Goals."

Oklahoma State: Investments not doing so good these days? Maybe you should hire the people who run Oklahoma State's endowment fund. They got a 31.4% increase in their fund last year. So either they convinced people to donate 1/3 more than they had the year before, or they managed the fund so well it returned 31% on the investments. Either way, I'm hiring them to manage my money. I hope they have someone who can carry large jars of change.

Tennessee: I wonder if the folks at Tennessee are looking over their shoulder at ETSU, wondering what if we become only the SECOND best regional university in the country? That's not likely to happen, though -- Tennessee, after all, is the only college in the country that will let you buy, for only $12.99, a flattened version of the Wheaties box featuring "Pat Summitt and the Lady Vols." It is, as the site suggests, "Perfect for Framing!" (exclamation point in the original.)

Florida State: This just in: Six FSU scientists were among the elite few who were the first humans in history to view the "elusive top quark." Anyone can view pairs of top quarks; viewing a single top quark is quite an achievement. (Apparently, quarks mate for life.) The top quark, which is totally not made up, has a mass of 200 times that of a proton -- but no size. No size at all. It has not a single dimension, which to you and me would mean that it doesn't exist, but to FSU scientists means "several more years of cushy research grants."

Also, the evidence of a single top quark, called an "event," occurs only about 1 time in every 20 billion particle collisions -- while false evidence of that thing is, and I quote, "easily mimicked by other processes, referred to as "background," that occur at much higher rates."

So, to recap our top story: Six FSU scientists have viewed evidence of an object that does not exist, but they are absolutely certain that it is the only-rarely occuring actual evidence and that it is not the far-more-frequent false evidence.

Back to basketball:

Wisconsin: Bo Ryan, UW's basketball coach, makes $1.25 million per year. I've seen his house -- it's very nice. Ordinarily, I would say something snarky about how much he makes (and he makes at least 5 times what any person should be allowed to make, constituting resource hoarding) but I'm giving Bo Ryan a pass, for two reasons:

1. I met Bo in person once, and asked him to autograph a basketball for my father-in-law. He did so -- even though I was wearing a North Carolina Tarheels shirt, and doing so when the Tarheels had just beaten the Badgers in the NCAA, so he's a nice guy, and

2. Bo Ryan used to coach at the UW-Platteville, where he was paid so little money that his family had to be on food stamps for a while.

Xavier: Another Catholic school, another Ohio school. But do they hit the trifecta? Do they have ghosts? Sadly, a search leads nowhere, and if googling "Does Xavier University have ghosts" doesn't answer the question, nothing will.

They do have a class offered by a master puppeteer, but that's small consolation. Although it does let me ask: what ever happened to Mummenschanz?


Portland State: At first, I thought "Portland State" must be in Oregon. Then I noticed that their nickname was the "Vikings," and so I thought this: Well, the Vikings never made it to the West Coast, so maybe Portland State is in Maine, where maybe the Vikings were? But, no, it's in Oregon. You learn something every day. I also learned that you can learn Swing Dance, for credit, at Portland State. In case that video-gaming degree from USC didn't open a lot of doors.

UCLA: Like many schools, UCLA's website offers an "interesting facts" section of its site. Like many schools, UCLA seems to not really be able to distinguish what an "interesting fact" really is. Here's one question on that site:

Who caught a tipped pass and ran 50 yards for the winning touchdown in a 20-17 win over USC in the 1980 game?

The answer: "Freeman McNeil."

Note that it's not a big game, or the title game, or anything. Just "who caught a pass and UCLA won?"

But just saying that it was Freeman McNeil doesn't do the actual answer justice. So here is the actual, full answer UCLA gives to that question:

"Freeman McNeil. Jay Schroeder's pass was tipped by Jeff Fisher (later the head coach of the NFL's Tennessee Titans) and landed in McNeil's hands. He then rambled down the sideline for the winning score. JoJo Starbuck was an ice skater who was later married to Terry Bradshaw.

No. I don't know why that last sentence is there, either.

VCU: Don't you get tired of always hearing how Virginia is a "Commonwealth" and not a "state?" You know what the difference is? Not a darn thing. So shut up, Virginia.

Villanova: Catholic: check. Ohio? close-- Pennsylvania. Ghosts? Check: The town has a lady with a spear sticking out of her head, a sack-headed lady, a partially transparent man, and the "ghost of a bum," among other ghosts. Plus, there's "Hell's Tunnel," where one can hear a father calling out for his son, who hanged himself there. Look for Villanova to go far in the Tournament.

Villanova was founded by the Augustinians, who follow St. Augustine of Hippo. St. Augustine wrote a lot, but that alone doesn't make you a saint. St. Augustine converted from a life of partying (he's the patron saint of brewers) who experienced a powerful conversion when he heard a child singing "Take up and read!"

It's St. Augustine who came up with the concept of a "just war," but he also said that we should not interpret the Bible literally when it conflicts with science and reason.

Sort of makes you wonder why people choose "literal interpretation of the Bible coupled with rejection of science and no drinking or dancing" when they could have chosen "Party a lot and believe the parts of the Bible that make sense."
American U. Man, there are a lot of teams in this thing. I've got to move it along. Here's a quick one: American University has a tailgate policy that includes specifically designating the tailgate area for fans of visiting field hockey teams. Don't you sometimes get the feeling that some people don't have enough to do in their jobs? (Present company excluded.)

Texas: Did you see where Chuck Norris said he might run for president... of Texas? Texas stopped being an independent country in 1845. Doesn't anyone tell Republicans anything?

Minnesota: Minnesota's nickname is the Golden Gophers. Because that makes it cool, right? I mean, gophers would be just lame. But golden gophers. That's a name you can tie your shoe to. Or put on a bar -- especially a bar that's described as what it would look like "If Liberace and the Rolling Stones got together in the '70s to do an extreme makeover of a downtrodden dive bar."

Duke: I ask the question nobody else asks, like Why Is Duke Called Duke? And I get answers, too -- like the answer that it's called Duke because it was founded by the Dukes. The Dukes were a tobacco-growin' family; that's where they got their money before going into a business that didn't deliberately kill its customers (see also: Iams' pet food.) The Dukes did focus on philanthropy, though, giving away millions over their lifetime.

: Binghamton's nickname is the "Bearcats." I hear that a lot -- Bearcats are the mascots for something like 50 schools -- and so I wondered what a "bearcat" was and whether it actually existed. Turns out it did - -as a 1971 TV series. "Bearcats!" (exclamation in original) was described as "Two tough guys looking for adventure at the turn of the century in their fancy Stutz Bearcat." They don't make TV shows like that anymore. Although if they did, they'd probably still put Charlie Sheen in them.

North Carolina: Time for my annual feature, "Let's Point Out That The Legend Of The Tarheel Makes No Sense And Maybe Makes North Carolinuses Look Like Cowards." The "tarheel," according to popular myth, came about because North Carolinites, having fought bravely while others retreated, teased other troops about how, in the future, the North Carolinocks would put tar on the heels of other soldiers to make the soldiers stay and fight -- thus earning the North Carolinopottamuses the nickname "tarheels."

But... but... wouldn't the other soldiers be the Tarheels? And isn't a tarheel someone who won't stay and fight unless he's glued to the ground?

Radford: Radford is another Virginia school in the Tournament -- Virginia rivals Ohio in getting schools into the tournament, what with VCU and Radford and Duke and North Carolina all hailing from Virginia. (I'm guessing on a few of those.) Radford began it's life as "The State Normal and Industrial School for Women at Radford" and when it first opened, people could get either a high school or college degree there. The school was created in 1910, but construction on its first building didn't begin until 1911, and took 14 months-- so classes started a little late.

LSU: Louisian State U. students may like their basketball team -- but they love their ultimate frisbee. The campus features not one, but two groups devoted to it: a league, and a club. Not interested in frisbee? Join one of the four clubs devoted to martial arts.

Butler: Who's Butler, and why does he have a school named after him and I don't? Ovid Butler, the school's namesake and founder, was an abolitionist and lawyer who appears to have done nothing more significant than simply founding a school. Not that I'm much better; I only founded a blog. And a hot dog. If by "founded" you mean "ate for lunch."

Illinois: Like with "Cal," you have to ask Which Illinois are we talking about? In this case, it's the "University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign" that gets to be called "Illinois." The Fighting Illini of Urbana-Champaign practice and study on a campus from whence 11 Nobel laureates have graduated, and at which 10 Nobel Laureates have taught. This being an institution of higher learning, that fact is naturally all over the website's front page, right?


I guess people just aren't as into reversible protein phosphorylation as they used to be.
W. Kentucky: Why are universities so modest these days? ETSU was becoming pretty good, while Western Kentucky is a leading American University With International Reach. With billions in endowments, couldn't they maybe hire someone to come up with a slogan? Get the guy that did the slogan for Tang. "Tang: It's a Kick in A Glass." Now, that's a slogan. It even works here: "Western Kentucky University: It's a Kick In A Glass."

Gonzaga: Catholic: check. Ohio? Not...quite. Gonzaga is located in located in Spokane, Washington -- so Washington, too, ranks right up there with sending schools to March Madness. Gonzaga's mascot is the "Bulldogs," although it's website notes that they go by "Zags," too. So the "Zags" will play...

Akron:... the Zips of Akron-- Ohio, again -- in what promises to be the most fun-to-pronounce game of the tournament. The "Zips" are called that because they took their name from "Zippers," which were said to be a popular shoe in the 1920s and 1930s. Naturally, the Zips' mascot is... a kangaroo.

Arizona State: When I first read ASU's website, I noted that it said that Phoenix is America's fifth largest city. And my first thought was really? I was going to google it, but then I thought, do I care? So instead, I googled this:

did anyone really famous and good-looking come from Phoenix, Arizona?

And the answer is: no.

Temple: Everyone knows that the Temple Owls for a while there had the longest losing streak in college sports. But I bet you didn't know that the world record for most basketballs spun simultaneously is held by Michael Kettman of the UK -- 28 at once. Unless you are Michael Kettman. If you're him, you probably knew that already.

Syracuse: Used to be the Orangemen, and then became just the Orange. But jettisoning (remember jetsam?) part of the nickname shouldn't indicate to you that Syracuse doesn't care about tradition. They do. They've even got an exhibit, "The Spirit of Tradition," in which you can learn about "Dot Grover," the star of "100 Men and A Girl."

No, it's not that kind of show. "100 Men and A Girl" was apparently a halftime show featuring a band and majorette Dot Grover, who along with that lists these accomplishments on her resume:

  1. National sweetheart of Sigma Chi.
  2. 1951 National Drum Majorette.
  3. Look Magazine cover girl.
  4. Old Forge Winter Carnival Queen.
  5. Miss Syracuse - 1952.
  6. Barnstorming Queen for the College All-stars.
She was so hot that their website says: "there are a lot of guys... who'd trample down a Maxwell prof just to open those 20-ton doors for you."

That probably made sense once. I'm going to go home tonight and try it on Sweetie: Sweetie, I'd trample down a Maxwell prof just to open those 20-ton doors for you."

I'll let you know how it works.

Stephen F. Austin: No need to look this one up; everyone knows that Steve Austin not only founded a college, but also was the world's first Bionic Man. na na na na na na na.

He deserves a college named after him.

Clemson: Go to the Clemson website today and you'll see an article on the "CSI of WMDs", an article about two people who are "literally" making the world safe from weapons of mass destruction. Which is not to be confused with practically making the world safe, or poetically making the world safe from WMDs, or some such. The article also describes, as I noted, the scientists as "CSIs," but "CSIs" are crime scene investigators. They don't prevent crimes; they investigate the crimes that have occurred. So it would be more accurate, I think, to say: "Meet Two Clemson Alumni Who Are Literally A Kick In The Glass."

Michigan: Michigan's nickname is the "Wolverines," which naturally prompted me to wonder: Did Wolverines ever live in Michigan? I'm not the only one questioning that, as shown by this actual question posed on the Internet:

Where their ever wolverines in Michigan?

And here is the actual answer posted on the Internet:

"Yes! And there is one currently living in the Thumb also just south of Bad Axe!! " (Exclamation points in the original.)

So, that settles that. No need for, say, proof or facts or attribution.

That question, by the way, was posted in Pets. So the questioner was a little more confused than might have originally been thought.

Oklahoma: Looking for that perfect gift that says "I love you, almost as much as I love the Oklahoma Sooners and being on time?" Look no further:

The "Oklahoma Sooners Silver Tone Double Heart Clock" sends exactly that message -- and sends it in style. With "Oklahoma Sooners" and the clock on the larger heart, there's no mistaking where she fits into your world-- just to the side of your beloved Sooners. And why not pair it with a stylish set of Sooners Bobby Pins?

Nothing's too good for your Sweetie. Plus, she'll be so busy fixing her hair and watching the second hand on the clock, she'll leave you alone for the entire Tournament!

Morgan State: I'm going to finish up by celebrating the Morgan State University Cheerleaders -- the All-Girl Champions of their conference 12 of the last 14 years. They cheer at every basketball game -- so while you're watching a bunch of guys dribble around, I'll be watching this:

1 comment:

lisapepin said...

It's official: I'm calling in sick with "March Madness."