Local basketball fan may cut down net in online tournament

This Just In...

April 02, 2003|By DAN RODRICKS

SOMETHING LIKE a million basketball fans took part in the ESPN Men's Tournament Challenge, taking a shot at winning $10,000 by predicting the most bracket winners in March Madness. That's quite a challenge, with 63 games in the NCAA basketball tournament. But guess who's riding the top of the leader board going into the Final Four? A guy known on the ESPN.com Web site as Baltimore Dude, and to his friends as Kevin Blackwell. In the tournament so far, he's made only six bad picks. He's hoping Kansas and Texas survive the Final Four, and that Kansas beats Texas in the championship game.

If that happens, Blackwell collects the grand prize.

Blackwell, who played college ball at Bucknell, lives in Catonsville. He's a criminologist with the U.S. Sentencing Commission in Washington.

Like about a zillion March-mads, he's entered the ESPN bracket contest in seasons past -- as he did this season -- with no expectation of even getting his name listed on the leader board.

"I figured, with something like a million people entering the contest, you pretty much had to ace it to win," Blackwell said yesterday. "Going into last Saturday, I was listed as 34th. At the end of the day, I was listed as No. 1."

His toughest pick? Michigan State over Maryland. "That was really hard for me, because I love the Terps," he said.

Blackwell and friends will watch the Final Four on Saturday at Little Havana, on Key Highway, where the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation stages its annual March Madness fund-raiser -- tickets are $30 in advance (410-823-0073) or $35 at the door. One of Blackwell's friends has a 9-year-old daughter with diabetes, so he makes a point of attending the event and getting others to go. Jodi Ceglia, chairwoman of a group of young professionals affiliated with the JDRF, says she expects another sellout crowd, even with the Terps out of the Final Four.

Rick Dempsey of the Orioles should be there, she said.

But the bigger buzz might be for Kevin Blackwell, bracket whiz, Baltimore Dude.

Driving while occupied

I've seen them playing with drumsticks on the dashboard, applying mascara and lipstick, talking on cell phones, reading books and folded newspapers, doing crossword puzzles and writing checks. I've seen them playing the harmonica and working a hand puppet. I'm talking about drivers of automobiles. A lot of this has been reported in this space. In fact, we probably have enough such anecdotes for a small book, titled American Menace: The Multi-Tasking Driver.

Here's a new one, from TJI reader Beverly Rouzer:

"I don't know if you've ever seen this. I could not believe my eyes. Saturday we were driving to Hagerstown on 70 West. We came upon a car going below the speed limit, about 50-55. As we passed I looked over and the driver was hunched over the steering wheel, in her left hand was a bowl and she was eating with CHOPSTICKS in her right hand! Is there a law against this?"

I don't know, Beverly. We would need more information to make a judgment of the situation.

If the driver had been trying to eat fried rice with chopsticks, I'd say she was crazy and dangerous -- and I should think a judge would give her three points on her driver's license. On the other hand, if she was eating easily chopstickable chunky Asian food -- say tempura shrimp or sushi -- then you're talking about a more responsible driver, and I don't think the penalty should be as harsh.

But that's me.

Reeling in fishermen

I hear Maryland fisheries scientists have spotted the leading edge of the incoming hickory shad in the Choptank and the Patuxent. That means we're about a week away from the big run. Check all lines, reels and darts, get down to Tochterman's, the Fishermen's Edge or the Fishin' Shop and have them check your gear. Shad fisherman's credo: Always prepared, forever vigilant, catch 'em, release 'em and take your empties.

A programming note

Timing is everything, right? Coming on A&E on Sunday: Napoleon, directed by Yves Simoneau and starring Gerard Depardieu, a lavish depiction of the life of the French emperor and warrior -- just in time to cash in on American passion for all things French.

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