Rabid sports fans crave March Madness

Sports commentary

Hey, is that a pumpkin?

I could have sworn that I saw this year’s latest Cinderella story, the Wyoming Cowboys, parading through downtown Albuquerque in an overgrown squash mobile, sizing up their glass slippers.

It’s tourney time, and much to the surprise of NCAA fanatics around the country, the Northwest’s favorite Cinderella, the Gonzaga Bulldogs, had their bubble burst in Thursday’s first round by a whirling dervish from Wyoming named Josh Davis.

The Cowboys join a long list of “nobody” teams that have shocked Final Four contenders in the first round of the Big Dance. Thursday alone, four other double-digit seeds made off with upset wins. But Kent State, Tulsa, UNC-Wilmington and Missouri are only the beginning of the madness that is March.

Some way, somehow, every top program has to cope with the same disappointment the Zags are feeling right now. Even Duke, Kansas, Stanford and UCLA have felt Cinderella’s sting somewhere along the way.

Rarely — if ever — do the results work the way you envisioned when filling out the bracket for your office pool. Upsets are just part of the madness; part of the allure.

Underdog bandwagon-jumpers like me can’t get enough of the excitement that is the NCAA tournament.

For every shoo-in, there is an odds-killer like Hampton, Siena, Holy Cross and Florida-Atlantic trying to become the next Chatanooga, Valparaiso, Butler or Gonzaga — lower-seeded teams who have reached the Sweet 16 in recent years.

Though they can’t be considered an underdog, it’s a good thing the Oregon Ducks didn’t overthink their first-round matchup versus Montana. Behind Freddie Jones and Lukes Ridnour and Jackson, the No. 2-seeded Ducks systematically and hydromatically broke down the Grizzlies to put an end to their 42-year tournament hex.

Saturday’s second-round contest against nationally ranked Wake Forest won’t be a Duck walk, but if the Big Three launch their patented air attack — or, as I like to call it, the “Quack Attack” — Oregon should fly into the Sweet 16.

Of course the Ducks would like to put together five more wins and become the only team in the nation (besides the NIT champ) to finish on a winning note. Getting by fellow Midwest regional powerhouses like Kansas and Florida won’t be easy, but that’s why they play the games.

And that’s what makes this tournament so special. Whether each team really has a shot or not, everyone involved has the same license to dream. Think Wyoming believed they could beat the highly touted Zags?

You better believe it.

Rabid college hoops fans from Oregon to Ohio, Maryland to Mississippi, and Kansas to Kent State are beginning to foam at the mouth this week. Face and body paint are selling out fast. Dick Vitale is taking his blood-pressure meds.

It’s a common affliction known as March Madness.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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