ORIGINALLY WRITTEN JOE KLEINSASSER
There I was, minding my own business, about to embark on another scintillating Sideline Slants column when my agent I.M. Slick rushed into my office.
Slick: Stop the presses. We’ve got to talk.
Joe: What is it?
Slick: You need to write about March Madness.
Joe: In April? What more needs to be said about March Madness? It’s old news. You’re wasting my time.
Slick: Now you’ve hurt my feelings. After all I’ve done for you. Who got you this gig with the Free Press anyway?
Joe: OK, OK. Enough, already. What do you want me to say about the NCAA basketball tournament?
Slick: Tell people that the tournament produced a first.
Joe: First what?
Slick: Have you ever seen a team protecting a lead, commit two hard intentional fouls in the last couple of minutes of a game?
Joe: You’re talking about the Illinois/KU game. Yeah, that was kind of unique. And those were hard fouls.
Slick: Hard fouls? That’s an understatement. I was impressed with that Illinois bunch, though. They make the World Wrestling Federation look like a bunch of pansies.
Joe: Do you have anything else to add?
Slick: I’m glad you asked. I’m still having nightmares.
Joe: How so?
Slick: Every time I close my eyes I see another KU free throw clank off the rim.
Joe: Is that it?
Slick: Glad you asked. Can you believe how out of shape basketball players are today?
Joe: What do you mean?
Slick: It’s amazing how many players were bending over to catch their breath after one or two trips up and down the court. Then, every few minutes, a TV timeout lasted two to three minutes.
Joe: That is quite a break.
Slick: You know how I like to go to the kitchen, grab a favorite beverage and some snacks during time outs. Well, there were so many time outs and they lasted so long that I gained 10 pounds during the tournament.
Joe: I guess you have put on some weight.
Slick: Anyway, KU coach Roy Williams was quoted as saying, “If you can stay out of foul trouble you can get by without depth in the NCAA tournament. Those blessed timeouts are so long that I tell the guys, ‘Just get your rest; just catch your breath,’ because I can’t talk that long.”
Joe: Anything else?
Slick: How about the performance of Jackie Stiles and the Southwest Missouri State women’s basketball team? Did you know she played high school basketball in Claflin, Kansas?
Joe: I think I’ve heard that somewhere.
Slick: I’ve heard she practices by making 1,000 shots a day.
Joe: It’s old news.
Slick: Stiles outworks almost every athlete on the planet. In fact, K-State football coach Bill Snyder said he would love to have football players as dedicated to football as Stiles is to basketball.
Even that doesn’t guarantee success though. Did you know Jackie never won a state high school basketball championship?
Come to think of it, Snyder has never won a national championship in football either.
There’s a story for you.
Joe: Oh, brother.
Slick: Well, you can do what you want, but don’t say I didn’t try to help. Just one more thing. Did you know I had tickets to the NCAA Final Four in women’s basketball?
Joe: How were the games?
Slick: From what I saw on television, they were pretty good.
Joe: But I thought you had tickets.
Slick: Yeah, but I scalped mine for more than $1,000.
Joe: You didn’t.
Slick: They don’t call me Slick for nothing.
Joe: There’s something wrong when some 19,600 tickets were available to the women’s NCAA semifinals and each university received only 800 tickets. So much for making the game available to those who faithfully support their team.
And out of about 45,000 seats available for the men’s Final Four in Minneapolis, the student bodies of the four participating schools each get about 600 tickets. The reason for playing in a domed stadium must be based on money because there are lousy sightlines, bad shooting backgrounds and the lack of an arena atmosphere.
Slick: Well, I gotta run. You can carry on the moral crusade and liberty and justice for all. I’ve got to deposit these checks.