Single page view By Brian Murphy
Special to Page 2

March Madness: The antidote to the steroid blues!

When this old sports world is getting you down, when Congress turns Big Mac into a small fry, when Barry reminds us of the old George C. Scott line from "The Hustler" – "Feel sorry for yourself ... it's one of the best indoor sports" – all you need is to swing by The Cooler, draw yourself a cold one and say to your nearest compadre:

"I'm living large this week – I had the over on 3.5 overtimes in the Regional Finals this weekend."

Kevin Pittsnogle
It was the kind of weekend that left you screaming for more.

Just when you question your worth as a sports fan, just as you listen to yet another polemic on how Mark McGwire ruined it for the kids, or how Barry Bonds refuses accountability, you find yourself on a drizzly March afternoon in your living room in Northern California, unshaven, unshowered and unglued.

I think my hound, Oscar, was the best barometer of my weekend emotions. By the end of the Kentucky-Michigan State game, when I was jumping out of my seat, shouting for two teams about whom I couldn't, theoretically, care less, Oscar the hound was scurrying around the room, grabbing toys in his mouth and running them over to me, double-time.

During one commercial break, as sweat coated my back and I found my voice getting scratchy, I asked my lovely bride, "Why is Oscar running toys over to me, double-time?"

"Have you seen yourself?" she said, laughing. "You're going nuts! He's all excited just watching you."

The only thing that could jar me from a reverie that started Thursday night with a Salim Stoudamire fallaway and ended in the gloaming of a Sunday evening when Kentucky couldn't get a shot off – not a single shot! – in a tie game in overtime was the continuing, odd sight of Darius Rucker crooning about the ubiquitous Tender Crisp Bacon Cheddar Ranch.

The Tender Crisp Bacon Cheddar Ranch ...

You'd be glazed over during a commercial break, wondering how Tubby Smith would X and O the next possession, or how your bracket hinged on North Carolina fighting off the never-die Wisconsin Badgers, and there would be Rucker, crooning in that white cowboy hat and purple blouse. After a while, I found it oddly soothing. Cheddar paves the streets. Ranch dressing up to my knees. Those Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders. It was like a Dali painting, had Dali inked an endorsement deal with BK.

The Tender Crisp Bacon Cheddar Ranch ...

And then, Rucker would stop crooning and I'd snap back, light sweat covering me, voice hoarse, hound running toys over to me, up, out of my chair, screaming: "How can you NOT get a shot off!" or "My Lord, I am naming my first child Kevin Pittsnogle Murphy!"

Steroid blues were a galaxy away. It was the purity of sport, renewed in my soul -- setting aside, of course, those nettlesome graduation rate statistics. But no grey clouds on this day at The Cooler, amigo. Those kids can get to Study Hall during the week. In the meantime? Garcon, more college hoops!

On, then, to the Weekend List of Five:

1. The Fame Game
Who will you remember from this orgy of March Madness?



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