It's madness time in the bluegrass

March 16, 2004|KATHY JOHNICA

The dictionary on my computer says another word for madness is obsession. And I'm thinking the madness occurring here in Kentucky right now with the NCAA men's Division 1A college basketball tournament very well be could considered obsession. Blue face paint, oversized UK earrings and ragged UK car flags are sure signs that March is here.

Overnight, average basketball fans turn into experts. They quote statistics on every team playing in the tournament and offer brilliant analyses why or why not each squad made it past the first round. Everyone from timid middle-aged women to sports savvy executives can be overheard saying things like, "Gonzaga is looking strong this year," or "How did NC State make it this far?" And a less sports-minded person might not understand something as insightful as, "By the end of the game, their legs were gone."

University of Kentucky fans in particular rise to the occasion. They, or should I say we, begin our annual lambasting of Coach K., Billy Packer and John Clogherty. These men, for the benefit of those watching ER or West Wing, are the Duke University coach, an anti-UK sportscaster, and an anti-UK referee, respectively, though not necessarily respectfully.


Folks usually considered reserved or stoic turn into rude, brazen loudmouths when watching UK play basketball. I know of one grandmother who inadvertently taught her toddler granddaughter to say "in your face" while watching UK play on television. Just recently at a Sunday morning church service during the "meet and greet" time, the part where we shake hands and welcome visitors, a fellow church member and UK fan(atic) approached me, and as we clasped hands he simply said, "LSU by 20."

And the brackets. The tournament brackets are a bookie's dream. There are more basketball fans checking the odds and the spread on tourney games than there are eggs at Easter. Most offices, factories, businesses, etc., have contests to see who can come closest to predicting the winner of the tournament. The person in charge of this contest has to spend much of his or her Monday mornings in March scoring sheets to see who is ahead to win the "pot."

That is, unless their supervisor comes by. Then they are going over spread sheets related solely to the bottom line of the business.

Perhaps this enthusiasm is exclusive to certain areas of the country, especially central Kentucky. I say this because a number of people that live outside the bluegrass state don't quite understand the hoopla.

It seems as though in other parts of the nation, basketball is just a diversion until football season begins. Funny thing, I always thought it was the other way around.

Kathy Johnica lives in Lincoln County.

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