By Tony Mangia
Nicest weather in five months and I'm stuck in bed all weekend with a chest cold. At least I had the NCAA brackets to tide me over and what a wild ride it was! I'm still holding on to seven teams in the Sweet Sixteen--amazingly I'm in a better position than most of my friends!
The Northern Iowa/Kansas regional was a classic Davis and Goliath match-up although the Iowans almost choked at the end. Forty percent of the ESPN Tournament Challenge had Kansas in the finals, so I guess there was a lot of hair pulling in the office pools. Speaking of Goliath; didn't a few of those Northern Iowa players resemble the 40 year-old men who played for the Soviet bloc Olympic teams of the seventies? It looked like half of them were balding and covered with facial and body hair that no teenager I ever knew had. Maybe it's that Midwestern, corn-fed farm-boy thing. Rural life makes a young man grow up strong, fast and hirsute. The Panthers really are a good team--"big, strong like yak," as Sergei would probably say. And some those Kansas players; where'd they get all the money for those $200 custom tattoos? One kid was covered with about 10 grand worth of body art. I guess those summer landscaping jobs pay well. Too bad the Jayhawks players didn't ink instructions on how to block out and hit three pointers on their forearms--it would have made the team booster's money well spent.
I'll make my comments on the mighty Big East Conference's NCAA Tournament brief: even shorter than Tiger Woods' Thanksgiving night explanations. Four teams went down in the first round--three of them to way-lower seeds! Funny how some people were griping that two or three more teams from that conference should have gotten in. Some pundits claim it's because the teams beat the hell out each other during the season and, by the 12th round (tournament time), they are out of steam. What, the other conferences play 'Dancing with the Stars?" I think they should let in more Ivy League schools anyway--less body art and furry guys.
The media--especially CBS's exasperated announcers-- make a big fuss about the 'Cinderella' teams. Everyone loves the underdog and upset teams like Northern Iowa, St. Mary's, and the Big Red of Cornell are about as rare as tourists in Times Square after the first round but, this year, with many of the top seeds already punched out, the little guys stand a chance of getting into the Final Four. Parity and neutral playing sites play big factors in affording mid-major conference teams their shots at glory and at least make the emo-end-of-night video recaps on CBS more heartwarming.
Speaking of the little guys, I was sorry to hear about the passing of He Pingping last week at the ripe age of 21. At 29 inches, the Chinese He was named the world's shortest man according to the Guinness Book of World Records--even though Khagendra Thapa Magar, 18, of Nepal has whined that at 20 inches, he is the rightful title owner. That's what set Pingping apart. He was who He was. Who could forget the little man hustling gawkers for cigarettes in exchange for a photo of himself or He checking out the ladies from the knees up.
TYSON MAY FACE TOUGHEST FOE
PETA, the animal rights group, is trying to clip the wings on Mike Tyson's upcoming pigeon-racing show on Animal Planet. PETA claims there are wages placed on the races and it violates New York's anti-gambling laws. The group has sent a letter to the Brooklyn DA in protest and claims it "disturbs the birds." I bet Tyson treats his rats-with-wings better than he once did a Robin--Robin Givens, that is. PETA should petition that Aqueduct Racetrack gambling quagmire, also known as racino, instead. Wonder if any of the PETA people have the guts to splash red paint on the ex-heavyweight champ?