March Madness redefined

March 14, 2002|By Mark Cloud

ATLANTA - March Madness - the men's college basketball tournament starting today - is one of the sports world's most exciting events.

The tournament's pressure-packed lose-and-you're-out format, the oversized personalities of the coaches and the unpredictable last-second successes and failures of superb athletes make for great theater. And like any great drama or comedy - no real tragedies here - it has a language all its own.

For basketball lovers who like nothing more than to spend hours on the couch watching games, the lingo makes sense. But for the casual observer, it can be confusing. So to help the uninitiated follow the exciting action, here's a guide to some of the words and phrases you're likely to hear over the next two weeks of tournament play.

Final Four: The last four donuts left from a box of a dozen Krispy Kremes, which is the official snack of choice when slouched on the couch with glazed eyes at 1:30 a.m. watching the second overtime of some first-round game from Boise.

Sweet 16: A final four combined with a fresh 12-pack of Krispy Kremes.

On the Bubble: Where you end up immediately after successfully completing a Sweet 16.

Tubby Smith: Term of derision that your wife will smirkingly use when she sees the empty Krispy Kreme box on the couch and you waddling back from being on the bubble.

Bob Knight: Strange bird that is related to the more appealing bobwhite. The bob knight is identified by its potbelly, silver crown and red screaming face. Unlike its cousin's calm and melodious call of "bobwhite," the bob knight's call is characterized by an expletive deleted and wild flapping of the bird's extremities. Instead of the evolution typically found in the species, the bob knight has inexplicably devolved. In decades past, it would thrive throughout the winter, appear strong at the beginning of the spring tournament and survive until the very end. But for many years now it has struggled through the winter and then made only a brief March appearance before rapidly expiring.

Dick Vitale: It refers to an incessant bleating heard throughout the telecasts of some tournament games. The only remedy for a game marred by such dick vitale is the immediate hitting of the mute button.

The Big Dance: Climactic high school dance scene in the movie Footloose in which Kevin Bacon finally proves to repressed small town elders that his brand of big city dancing is not sinful. Mr. Bacon was also in the movie The Air Up There with Ilo Mutombo, whose brother, Dikembe Mutombo, played college basketball at Georgetown University, which is a frequent participant in the tournament.

Gonzaga: Scary little monster that, unlike its kin Godzilla and Mothra, defeats larger rivals with uncanny long-distance shooting, smarts and hustle. It's favorite weapon is called a "dan dickau."

Bracket: A support fastened to a wall.

Mark Cloud is a staff attorney for the Georgia Court of Appeals and a free-lance writer. He lives in Atlanta.

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