There is little to cheer for in these NCAAs


POSTED: Saturday, March 28, 2009

It's late March, and that means it's time for casual basketball fans in Hawaii to live vicariously through Jamie Dixon. Or, for the older folks, Rick Pitino.

While Pitt and Louisville remain alive every local sportscast will start with “;Former University of Hawaii assistant coach ...”; until you want to douse your head in lighter fluid, strike a match and run down the street screaming.

Now, I don't blame my colleagues in the electronic media; it's part of their job as well as ours to look for the local angles. And when it comes to college hoops, they're as obtuse as the one you get when trying to bank one in from the corner.

Other than a Derrick Low sighting in the Sweet 16, we've had to find our local stories with an electron microscope. Like the time the son of former UH football player Brian Norwood was George Mason's sixth man—good stuff, but a bit of a reach.

Of course, many folks here have an alma mater still in the hunt, or have developed a rooting interest in a school for any number of other reasons. Everybody into the (office) pool!

I still like North Carolina going back to the Dean Smith, James Worthy, Sam Perkins, Michael Jordan days. Don't know exactly why, just do. Maybe it's because the only pool I ever won was due to NC, back then when the tourney was 48 teams and you could chuck it in from 40 feet away and it's still a deuce.

And Tar Heel fandom, even as casual as mine, is always accompanied by disdain for Duke.

“;I'm not sure Coach K is a human being. He never ages,”; I said to my friend, Mike Fitzgerald, as we watched the Blue Devils pull one out last week.

“;Yes, he could very well be a robot,”; Fitz replied. “;He's the only guy from Chicago I don't like.”;

This was in Las Vegas, as we pretended to play video poker to suck up the free drinks. It was my first time there during the opening week of the dance. I went with the intent of throwing down mad money on the Madness.

But every time I tried to place a bet, the entire state of Wisconsin was in line in front of me (those Badgers sure do travel well, plus there was a big bowling tournament). And the only thing I stand in line for in Vegas is a buffet. So it was back to the poker tables, where I set the record for getting knocked out of tournaments by river suckouts.

Whether that's better or worse than losing to the spread because of a meaningless trey at the buzzer by some scrub walk-on, I can't tell you.

This I do know: While lots of people who work in sports like to bet on sports, I'm just not one of them anymore—even in a town where it's what you're supposed to do.

It's not an ethical issue, more like an occupational hazard.

Jim Alexander, veteran sports columnist at the Inland (Calif.) Press-Enterprise, enjoys Vegas, but doesn't care to gamble on sports.

“;I've done so once: a bet on a Kings-Oilers game during the Gretzky days,”; he said. “;I, too, have no interest. I'd rather play blackjack.”;

So now, headed into the Elite Eight, we're left with a lineup of the usual suspects. No George Mason fairy tale, no Cleveland State the next generation. Can I take Hampton and the 20 please? Oh, they're not in it?

Sorry, I'm allergic to chalk.

Unless it's powder blue, of course.