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March 21, 2004

The Fog of Infirmity

FROM THE BEDRIDDEN EDITOR OF COLLEGE ATHLETICS CLIPS come medication-blurred observations of the CBS TV coverage of Rounds 1 and 2 of the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament.

Stricken with a nasty case of bronchial asthma, I have been forced into the horizontal attitude for 72 hours, quarantined in the master bedroom, with only meds, pillows and the TV remote as my companions. I have seen only fleeting glimpses of my family, as they are fearful of the germs floating in my infirmary.

And what meds these are: industrial-strength antibiotics in dosages big enough for sumo wrestlers. And the size of the pills—half as big as my pinkie—makes me gag just looking at them.

My wife was a little suspicious of the timing of this affliction, which came out of nowhere, and sucked me into its unyielding grip on the very day that the tournament commenced.

And to think that wallpapering had been penciled in for this weekend. What unfortunate timing.

So there was I, splayed out in a feeble pose, wheezing, unable to swallow, with barely the strength to breath, and with seemingly a gazillion basketball games to keep me company as I drifted in and out of consciousness.

What can I say? It was all there. Inspiration, passion, skill and wonder. And that was just the commercials, which were shown in dizzying repetition until I developed a severe dislike for the advertised products.

The dumb promos plugging the lame CBS shows—“What do the Survivors do when they think the camera is not on?”—had me pulling hair out of my already bald head. And the beer commercials and the soda commercials and the SUV’s driving through sand dunes in slow motion.

Meanwhile, the NCAA ads did what they were supposed to do, in split-screen and black & white, lulling the viewer into believing the two sides that (almost) every student-athlete has. The ads (there were four or five different ones) signed off with a voiceover intoning: “The NCAA is 360,000 student-athletes, and just about all of us will be going pro in something other than sports.”

But the non-commercial portion of my viewing left little to be desired. There was ample speed and slickness, pizzazz and power, might and mobility. There were blowouts and buzzer-beaters. There were exuberant cheerleaders and bands and fans. The CBS switching coverage of this multitudinous, simultaneous event was executed with a minimum of confusion.

The commentators did a fine job. And the halftimes back in New York with Gumbel, Kellogg and Davis were great as usual. I wonder what those guys do between halves?

As usual, my picks were a shambles after the first round, even though I collaborated this year with my savvy 11 year old son.

Herewith, the observations of one man, albeit fogged with infirmity, debilitated with fatigue, via my 27-inch illuminated window to the world.

I’m all for the little guys, but what happened to Gonzaga? St. Joe’s and Texas got lucky; they shoulda / coulda got beat. I think that next game they will. Manhattan and Monmouth were sentimental Metro NY favorites; Manhattan lost a squeaker, Monmouth got clobbered. Stanford suffered another embarrassing oops. Florida A&M; gave #1 seed Kentucky an awful scare, staying close in a run-and-gun 60-52 first half before running out of gas. Oh yeah, Duke and UConn played like Ferraris with all 12 cylinders humming in demolishing their cowed opponents.

I was not able to view all the coverage, but I managed to wake up at about midnight on Saturday to view all the highlights.

It is tough to be sick.

Now, I wonder how I can get another TV in my sick room to view the women’s tournament simultaneously?

By press time, Clips Editor Nick Infante had graduated to applesauce, lemon sherbet and chicken bullion, and he’s looking forward to a cheeseburger and a root beer float by Monday night.