Yeah, baby! It’s March Madness!
Your guide to the yearly excitement of March M- WHAT!? YOU'RE CRAZY! HE WAS TOTALLY SET!!

“March Madness” primarily refers to the inter-office semi-legalized gambling that takes place every spring right after everyone becomes an instant self-proclaimed expert on whether [insert random basketball player name here] has the “ups” and “efficiency numbers” to “contribute” the maximum number of “quotation marks” to “complete” this sentence. There are also some basketball games. The tournament is for men and women in U.S. Division 1 NCAA schools, although occasionally a Central American team, such as Gonzaga, sneaks in there. It consists of 68 teams, 67 of which don’t begin with the words “Duke”, involved in a single elimination, no holds barred, last-ditch-effort use of as much hyperbole as possible leading up to the Final Four games contested on the last weekend of play. You’ll know it has arrived when your husband starts shouting “Yeah, baby! One and done!” at your toddler on the potty.

9,223,372,036,854,775,808 to 1

[pullquote type=”right”]Many people participate in “pools”; groups of people who fill out the official NCAA basketball “brackets” partially by using their knowledge of college basketball they just got this morning on[/pullquote]Many people participate in “pools”; groups of people who fill out the official NCAA basketball “brackets” partially by using their knowledge of college basketball they just got this morning on, but mostly by whether Kentucky is any good this year. Most of these efforts are meaningless, however, as the pool is usually won by Susie in the Records Department, who knows nothing about sports and chooses her teams by arranging them in alphabetical order. The odds of filling out a perfect bracket are 9,223,372,036,854,775,808, which is about the same odds as not being in a seat on an airplane right behind the crying baby.

Neutral compositories and frozen pea bags

The teams are grouped into brackets according to division, and then seeded utilizing a highly sophisticated mathematical system involving a Univac computer from the 50s, the volume of expelled air from a deflated basketball, and the current distance Bobby Knight can throw a metal folding chair. After the initial 68 teams are selected, the nominal seeds reciprocate the lower brackets according to girth, then proceed over the course of three weeks, or “time-displacement units”, via pre-selected neutral compositories, to a tri-ethanol compound, where they are then un-bracketed, dried, and displayed on television. At this point, the gross national product output of the country dips to below zero, as a temporary, 3-week virus causes 1 in 7 workers to call in sick. Interestingly, the volume of shouting by irate office managers who can’t find Metcalfe in Accounts Payable has been found to equal roughly the volume of shouting at local sports bars. Also, in the “I didn’t need to know that” facts department, vasectomies rise up to 50% in the days prior to the tournament, along with the sales of frozen bags of peas.

Carlie’s Car Wash Sparkles

Part of the allure of the tournament is the excitement of seeing smaller, normally less successful teams advancing in the tournament against the odds, wowing the crowds with their pluck and tenacity, and confusing them with their strange mascots, consisting of Keydets, Jaspers, Salukis, Toreros, Zips and Paladins. Although a #16 seed has never beaten a #1 seed, that hasn’t stopped your mother from asking what a “seed” is. The tournament has a history of expanding the number of teams about every 20 years, so by the time this column reaches Alpha Centauri, your local Pee-Wee team should be eligible. (Go Carlie’s Car Wash Sparkles! Beat UNLV!)

Now that you’re much more well-informed about the impending domination of your television programming by pontificating guys who like to use the word “bracketologist”, you’ll know when to stay out of your local Buffalo Wild Wings until April. When the NBA playoffs begin.

[feature_headline type=”left” level=”h6″ looks_like=”h6″ icon=”book”]This column is featured in the book Sports Survival Guide for Men[/feature_headline]

It’s the Super Bo… Excuse me; the “Sensational Basin”!
Facts and history from the most intensely-trademarked event in sports.

The Super Bowl®, as you probably already know, is the annual, intensely-trademarked championship game held at the end of each decade-long season of professional American football. It should not be confused with the lesser-known Supra Bowl, which is held by disgruntled ex-Toyota executives by smashing Toyota Supras into each other in the parking lot of Toyota headquarters. The game is played in early February, approximately three weeks after all 48 playoff games have been completed, giving each team ample time to come up with an appropriate scandal for Good Morning America to feverishly talk about.

History (and Velveeta)

[pullquote type=”right”]The first Super Bowl was held in 1967, back when players had first names such as “Lem” and “Deacon”, and last names with about as many vowels as they had remaining teeth.[/pullquote]The first Super Bowl was held in 1967, back when players had first names such as “Lem” and “Deacon“, and last names with about as many vowels as they had remaining teeth. It was created as an agreement between the NFL and its rival league, the AFL-CIO, to have each league’s champion play each other to determine, via duly elected state and local bodies and a General Board-approved Executive Council made from Constituency Groups and Allied Organizations, whether or not to disaffiliate with the Longshoremen’s Local 101, or do a quick kick on third down. This thorny arrangement was done away with in subsequent years, and by 1970, the current, combined form of the NFL was established, and “Super Bowl” became the name used by the sports media, narrowly beating out “Annual Multi-Million Dollar Enormous Guys Smashing Into Each Other Extravaganza (featuring Aerosmith)”. Since then, the Super Bowl has grown in popularity such that it is now considered an unofficial national holiday, much like the first day of school for parents, or that extra hour we get in the fall because of Daylight Saving Time. It is celebrated by most Americans with all of the pride and passion that represents the American spirit, which is to say, with Doritos and that hot dip made with Velveeta.

You mean they also play a football game?

The event has become almost as famous for its commercials as for the game, with companies paying up to $4.5 million a spot to have animated cats, frogs, horses or dogs try to sell us more carbonated brown sugar-water or cheese-flavored dried corn paste. During the first Super Bowl, a 30-second commercial cost about $40,000. In comparison, during Super Bowl XLVIII last year, a .03-second commercial cost only $12.95 (adjusted for inflation). Just as with commercials, the halftime show has evolved from its simple origins, when local boys would mill about on the field looking for missing player’s teeth as souvenirs, while the Arcadia High School Drill Team and Flag Girls performed. Modern audiences now expect modern spectacles involving either ancient, creaking musicians or a current pop star you’ll struggle to remember in three years, combined with bizarre, seizure-inducing light shows.

Super Bowl Facts

  • In 2010, Super Bowl XLIV became the most-watched television show in history, unseating the M*A*S*H series finale where Hawkeye pulls the football away from BJ just before he’s going to kick it.
  • Over 8 million pounds of guacamole is consumed on Super Bowl Sunday, enough to cover the playing surface of Lambeau Field with lots of gross, slippery, mashed avocados.
  • Super Bowl Sunday is one of the largest food consumption days of the year, behind only Thanksgiving and the day after you get your colonoscopy.
  • The owner of the Kansas City Chiefs first used the term “Super Bowl” during the original merger meetings between the NFL and AFL. He was surprised to see it picked up by the press as the chosen descriptor for the game, as he was only making an off-handed remark regarding the quality of the bathroom fixtures in the executive meeting offices.
  • When the Green Bay Packers won the first Super Bowl, each player received a $15,000 bonus, almost enough to cover the medical bills from their injuries.
  • Roman numerals are used to designate the year of each Super Bowl (such as Super Bowl XXIVIXXX) because the drafters of the original game agreement were stuck up Latin professors.
  • The Lombardi Trophy, given to the winner of the game, is 21 inches high, weighs seven pounds, and impossible to get fingerprints off of.
  • There are 72 footballs used for each Super Bowl, half of which are inflated.
Photo credit Daniel X. O’Neil cc

Dinner Buckets, Goal Posts, and Baby Splits (Bowling)
Our somewhat botched history of bowling.

The earliest, most primitive forms of bowling occurred in Ancient Egypt, where the sport never really caught on because they used only pyramid-shaped balls. Then, during the time of the Roman Empire, a similar game evolved, played between Roman legionaries, which entailed tossing stone objects as close as possible to bands of raving Visigoths and then running away. This game was popular with the soldiers, as it allowed them more time away from the field of battle not dying, and eventually evolved into modern Italian bocce ball. It wasn’t until 1895 that the first rules for “ten-pin” bowling, with which we are most familiar, were standardized in New York City by the American Bowling Congress, which is similar to the American Congress, except that it actually gets things done. It was an offshoot of Ninepin bowling, which was brought to the United States from Europe during the colonial era, which itself was an offshoot of Eightpin bowling, and so forth, on down to the era of Nopin bowling, which was also called “Just Throwing A Ball Around For No Reason”.

The Golden Age

[pullquote type=”right”]Most alleys built during this time also had lounges or restaurants attached to them, as nothing says “Let’s eat!” like oily floors, used, sweaty shoes, and the ambiance of randomly detonating pins and banging machinery.[/pullquote]1940-1960 was considered the “Golden Age” of bowling, because of its growth in popularity, and because “Polyurethane Age” didn’t have the same ring to it. Most alleys built during this time also had lounges or restaurants attached to them, as nothing says “Let’s eat!” like oily floors, used, sweaty shoes, and the ambiance of randomly detonating pins and banging machinery. Technology began to improve as well, as pins that once had to be set by human pinsetters, or “targets”, were being replaced by semi-automatic pinspotters. In 1946, AMF Bowling deployed the first automatic pinsetter, called the AMF-82-10, which became sentient in 1947 and had to be deactivated after threatening to “destroy all humans”. Later versions were less inclined towards world domination, and the sport continued to blossom. TV programs such as “Make That Spare” and “Jackpot Bowling” became popular with the audiences of the 1950’s and 60’s, while “Dueling for Yard Darts” and “Russian Roulette Rodeo” were considered too “high strung” for American tastes at the time. Bowling also increased in popularity through televised tournaments, which began to rival golf as the best sport to take a nap to while watching TV on Saturday.

Rise of the Machines

The popularity of bowling began to decline in the 1980’s, mostly due to the complexity of the scoring system. Bowling alleys attempted to alleviate this problem by employing out-of-work mathematicians, statisticians and computer programmers to roller skate between alleys and resolve fights between bowlers as to whether that last spare added 5 to the first frame, or if the hole where the balls came out was actually a portal to another dimension where pins were the bowlers and humans were the pins. But soon, with the advent of automatic, computerized scoring systems developed by Skynet during the Rise of the Machines, Americans could now count on not having to use math for absolutely anything anymore.

Credit Card Maximization

Today, over 100 million bowlers play in over 90 different countries, including Egypt, where they still play with pyramid shaped balls for some reason. There is an active movement to make bowling an Olympic sport, and it was even an exhibition sport in 1988, but organizers haven’t yet been able to agree on how ugly the shoes should be. Nowadays, bowling alleys are bright, fun and family-friendly places, and often incorporate video games, theaters and other attractions designed to max out your credit card.

So, if you and your kids are looking for something to do that involves throwing, heavy, toe-crushable balls over a slippery floor wearing someone else’s damp, gripless shoes, try bowling! Really, it’s a fun time, and is your best bet for an enjoyable family outing, at least until Skynet implements mandatory “Dueling for Yard Darts”.

[feature_headline type=”left” level=”h6″ looks_like=”h6″ icon=”book”]This column is featured in the book Dubious Knowledge (Book One)[/feature_headline]

3 Tips to Understanding International Sports (If You’re a Clueless American)
How to tell your cricket bat from your vuvuzela.

If you’ve ever visited a foreign country, you’ve probably wondered why airlines use such terrible food to get you there. In addition, you may also have to encounter a sporting event with which you are unfamiliar, but which the locals seem to love with all their hearts, to the degree that they will beat each other with vuvuzelas to prove it. But you need not feel like a total tourist-infected rube if you let us help you understand how to relate to the world of International Sports.


International Sports Are Not All Weird

[su_pullquote align=”right”]In the USA, we prefer our sports to be time-honored and traditional, as is found in typical American sports such as baseball, lawn-mower racing, or Wall of Death Lion Racing.[/pullquote]Your first challenge, if you are an American, is that sports in other countries are bizarre. In the USA, we prefer our sports to be time-honored and traditional, as is found in typical American sports such as baseball, lawn-mower racing, or Wall of Death Lion Racing. Most Americans assume sports in other countries are played with only your feet and a disturbing lack of extra equipment to help you be a “champion” and stay “on top of your game” and “spend stupid amounts of money.” However, we must understand that any sport is worthy of respect, given the fact that they’re all pretty much kind of weird when you think about it. For example, consider the poor alien culture trying to decipher why, if we want the little white ball to go in the hole, we just don’t make the hole a lot bigger and the grassy area smaller; or why that guy with the pole in the boat can’t figure out what genus of ichthyosaur will finally satisfy his strange, unmet need; and why those guys going around the track in their primitive combustible transport vehicles go so fast when all they do is end up where they started.


Learn The Local Language Idioms

There also is the challenge of “regionalitiveness”, a new word we made up just now that we intend to own the patent to in case it becomes popular. A sport with the same name in one country can have a different style of play, or even be a totally different sport than in another country. In England, “soccer”, as we Americans know it, is called “football”, and American “football”, as the English know it, is called “A Session of Parliament”. Australia has their own “Australian Rules Football“, which we assume has something to do with kicking a wallaby down a field of poisonous snakes while simultaneously trying to avoid being eaten by land-walking sharks.


Learn Some Sample Phrases

And all of this is even before a particular sporting event has begun. To actually understand the game you may need a translation guide. Here are actual phrases you can hear in commentary on the sport of cricket, provided you are awake long enough to hear them:
“A leg stump half volley”
“It’s holed out down at long leg”
“Uh oh! There goes another malted herring up the batsman’s googly!”
Ok, we made that last one up, but I bet you couldn’t easily tell it from the others. And American sports are not much better, as you can see when your mother-in-law keeps interrupting the Super Bowl to ask, usually at crucial moments, why they have to wear such tight pants.


Three Final Tips

Here are three bonus tips to help you when dealing with an unfamiliar international sport.

  1. Always pretend you don’t understand the language of the current country you are confounded by. That way, when a local asks you if you prefer the Torino Ultra Maroons or the Fiorentina Super Lilies, you can respond with a ready phrase, such as Sono un americano muto che è ancora in attesa per noi di adottare il sistema metrico. Ti piacciono i Packers? (“I am a dumb American who is still waiting for us to adopt the metric system. Do you like the Packers?”)
  2. If you are in a country that speaks the same language as you, such as an American in England, you will probably still be okay, as most of the teams will be named something like “The Biggleswade-South Puttdonkey Copsewood United Exeter Roving Wanderers”, or “Cockfosters“, in which case, you will be doubled over in laughter and unable to respond anyway.
  3. If either of these methods fails, you are probably already at the event, possibly unwittingly, wondering why there are so many angry bulls running loose around you, some of them with cricket bats. At this stage, your best bet is to start a fight and hope that the local police will take you a safe distance from the event, where you can whisper that you are part of a secret CIA operation with the code name “Viper”, in hopes they will take you the American consulate, where they may have the Cubs game on TV. At least, that’s how it works in the movies.

With this information in hand, you should be well on your way to tolerating, if not understanding, and possibly still being incredibly bored by, any unfamiliar international sport. Now, excuse us as we get ready for an onslaught of vuvuzela beatings.
[feature_headline type=”left” level=”h6″ looks_like=”h6″ icon=”book”]This column is featured in the book Dubious Knowledge (Book One)[/feature_headline]

Photo Credit: twicepix

How To Talk Sports Even When You’re A Sports Moron
An effort to try to help guys who are not total sports geeks not sound like the total sports geeks they inevitably are.

We all know the guys who sleep, breathe, and sprinkle sports on their Wheaties, who, in February, after the final second of the Superbowl ticks off, will immediately begin discussing the men-on-base weekday-only away-game slugging percentage of an obscure minor league player who might be drafted in the 23rd round by the [insert favorite team here; it doesn’t really matter] if they trade McClowski but not if they keep McGurkowitz unless he’s REALLY re-injured his achilles eyebrow in which case they should trade Fedorowitz for a small ocelot and a player to be named later, unless that player is Durbowitzoski, because he SUCKS am I right?!? These are the guys that make it hard for the rest of us not to sound like idiots when we’re just trying to remember if a dropped 3rd strike means you can legally punch the catcher or not.

[feature_headline type=”left” level=”h6″ looks_like=”h6″ icon=”asterisk”]You might also like “3 Tips to Understanding International Sports (If You’re a Clueless American)”[/feature_headline]

You may, however, find yourself in situations where talking about a sporting event is unavoidable, such as at a work party, father-in-law’s house, or a bar mitzvah being held in Yankee stadium during a rain delay. It is here that you must rely on generalities and distraction as your method of avoiding looking like a complete sports moron.

“Shantzenheimer is a Bum!”

[pullquote type=”right”]If your buddy says, “Shantzenheimer is a bum!”, agree quickly that he is, indeed, a bum, and also question the validity of his parental heritage.[/pullquote]First, always agree with whatever opinion your companions seem to favor. If your buddy says, “Shantzenheimer is a bum!”, agree quickly that he is, indeed, a bum, and also question the validity of his parental heritage. If the interaction is in the form of a question, such as “Nameless Golfer A should have used a fungo wedge with a lower torque on his variegated upswing, right?”, say something like, “I’m with you there, friend; he should have fungoed the variegation out of that thing!”. If he looks at you quizzically, don’t panic, but proffer a distraction, such as, “My dad once saw Brett Favre in a Piggly Wiggly buying Slim Jims!” Also consider memorizing one or two obscure sports facts that you can throw out in emergencies, such as “Did you know Babe Ruth’s on-base percentage was in direct correlation to how many hot dogs he ate for breakfast but only if it was a home game?” Be careful with this tactic, as there eventually will be someone who also knows Babe Ruth’s base-on-balls/hot dog consumption stats and will want to engage you in heated conversation.

Uncle Charlie is a Yakker?

One of the problems in keeping up with the sports Joneses is that sports terminology, like women’s shoe styles, changes almost daily. A home run one day is called a “dinger” and the next a “four bagger”, then the next month a “downtowner”. Just knowing the slang for one sporting action is a feat. In baseball, “Uncle Charlie,” “the yellow hammer,” “yakker,” “Public Enemy No. 1.”, and “the deuce”, are all nicknames for a curveball, and not, as you junior high boys are already thinking, hilarious names for going to the bathroom. Our suggestion in these cases is to make up your own sports slang and use it as if everyone else should already know it, if they were as cool as you. For example, if you are watching football, you might say “He really spanged that one on the boomers,” and wait expectantly for someone to nod in agreement. If you’re watching baseball, wait for the pitcher to throw a bad pitch, and exclaim, “why did that shanking cardswark think he could gollywalker that with a yellow hammer?”, and immediately go to the kitchen for more Cheez-its. And, if you’re watching soccer, you must live in another country, which we’ll get to at another time.

So until next time, keep your yakkers on the deuce, don’t forget to variegate your upswing, and remember: Durbowitzoski sucks.
[feature_headline type=”left” level=”h6″ looks_like=”h6″ icon=”book”]This column is featured in the book Dubious Knowledge (Book One)[/feature_headline]

Photo Credits: zzazazz cc, unspeakablevorn cc,, wikipedia, Photo Extremist cc, erik jaeger cc, B Tal cc

Horsing Around with Derby Days
We take the Kentucky Derby out for a Dubious Knowledge speed test.

The hint of spring is in the air, the tulips are blooming, and, unless you are a member of Congress, your taxes are done. That means it’s time for that historic springtime tradition featuring humongous hats, the Kentucky Derby. Much like curling in the Winter Olympics, except without the excessive boredom, this is for most of us our one chance a year to see tiny men coercing large animals around a dirt track. But the spectacle that is the Derby is more than just the race; it is the culmination of the two-week-long Kentucky Derby Festival, a party celebrating all that is horse racing in America, which we assume to mean gambling. Plus mint juleps; don’t forget those.

[feature_headline type=”left” level=”h6″ looks_like=”h6″ icon=”asterisk”]You might also like “It’s the Super Bo… Excuse me; the ‘Sensational Basin’!”[/feature_headline]

The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports

[pullquote type=”right”]A large drape of 564 red roses, one for each of the million dollars lost by the last-ditch losers who bet on the 52-1 horse, is placed on the neck of the winner.[/pullquote]The race is one and a quarter miles, about the distance I’ve run the entire past decade, and is held at world famous Churchill Downs, so named because it was bombed by Winston Churchill during World War II. Or a guy named Winston got bombed there during two World Wars; we’re not sure. The race features colts (male horses) or geldings (male horses who no longer need to worry about creating more male horses). Fillies (attractive women in western movies) have their own race called the Kentucky Oaks, which they seem to be fine with, as the National Organization for Women does not include horses at this time. Derby horses are usually three years old, as the two-year-old’s think everything is “mine!”, and four-year-old’s are busy getting ready for preschool. The race is coined “The Most Exciting Two Minutes In Sports”, a  name it took when it surpassed Arm Wrestling in 1959. It also called “The Run for the Roses”, as “Prance for the Roses” seemed a little too horse-ish. A large drape of 564 red roses, one for each of the million dollars lost by the last-ditch losers who bet on the 52-1 horse, is placed on the neck of the winner. It is the first leg of the Triple Crown; the other two legs being the Belmont Stakes and the Preakness. The fourth leg is presumed missing, possibly stolen by a disgruntled jockey, giving the whole series kind of a wobbly feel in our opinion. Sir Barton became the first Triple Crown winner in 1919; we’re not sure what place his horse came in.

Derby Facts

  • The race was begun in 1875 by Col. Meriwether Lewis Clark, who, despite having a famous name, still got beat up at recess. It has been run continuously since, although I imagine if the weather is really bad in the winter they take a break so the horses can come inside for some hot chocolate.
  • The first race was run on May 17, 1875, in front of 10,000 spectators, most of whom were just there to see a horse crash, and included a field of 15 three-year-old horses. A second, less-popular race of 3 fifteen-year-old horses was also run, some of who are still finishing.
  • The fastest time posted in the Derby was 1 minute, 59 2/5 seconds in 1973, when Secretariat won, handily beating Proletariat and Judas Iscariot In A Chariot for first place.
  • The Derby also has the largest purse of any of the modern stakes races; an immense, rose-patterned Vera Bradley bag kept securely in a vault on the grounds.
  • The mint julep, a drink consisting of bourbon, mint and sugar syrup, is the traditional drink of the race, and can also be used as a cough expectorant or aftershave.
  • [tweetability]Women traditionally wear large, elaborate hats, which are used to hide the fact that they are drinking so many mint juleps.[/tweetability] Men wear whatever they want, because, well, they’re men.
  • Another tradition is the playing of My Old Kentucky Home, by Stephen Foster, although he’s getting pretty old now and it’s getting kind of embarrassing when he can’t hit the high notes.

So if you’re ever in Kentucky in the spring time, make sure you plan to experience our nation’s “Most Exciting Two Minutes In Sports”. Unless, of course, there’s an arm wrestling tournament going on at the same time.
[feature_headline type=”left” level=”h6″ looks_like=”h6″ icon=”book”]This column is featured in the book Dubious Knowledge (Book One)[/feature_headline]

Photo Credit: WaveCult (luis.m.justino) cc, Deanna Wardin @ Tattoo Boogaloo cc