March Madness

Like all red-blooded American men who pay their taxes and love their wives, I have March Madness. I get it every year. I feel fatigued and nauseated, and it burns when I urinate. It’s either March Madness or syphilis, one.

At any rate, I am a pretty big basketball fan, particularly in the sense of “fan” that means I don’t pay any attention to it. It’s lately been hard not to follow it, though, as our newsroom TV has been showing the NCAA playoffs 24 hours a day, and everyone connected with the paper, including people who just use it as bedding when they sleep in the park, has been hanging around, whooping and cheering while people like me slave away at our desks and try to decide where to go to lunch.

Speaking of big losers, the other kind of March Madness that afflicts many people is the kind where you get upset about the Academy Awards. This year’s case was mild, as most of the bothersome things happened not in the awards but in the nominations. (“Chocolat” gets nominated for Best Picture, while “Angel Food Cak” and “Hot Fudg Sunda” languish in obscurity?!) And while there were a few surprises among the winners, there were no absolute travesties like there were last year, when that sleep-walking fossil Michael Caine beat the kid from “The Sixth Sense” for Best Supporting Actor.

So this year’s March Madness came not from the winners but from the telecast itself. Creepy Icelandic singer Bjork looked like a fjreak with that dead swan wrapped around her neck, and it was interesting that John Travolta introduced the “People Who are Dead Now” montage, since his career could have been included in it.

But the most alarming thing? That new Pepsi commercial starring a scantily clad, rump-shaking Britney Spears. It was effective, though: It really made me want to go out and buy a six-pack of cleavage.

Speaking of people whose 15 minutes of fame are about up, another kind of March Madness is the one where people get mad at you because you made fun of former pop star Tiffany in your March 7 column. On March 8, I received a phone call from a female with a trailer-parkish voice who began the conversation thus:

“I just wanted to call and tell you what a [richard] you are.”

Many people would have hung up on her right there, being offended by her use of brackets. But since nothing turns me on more than a woman with a potty mouth (I imagined she was beating her kids and smoking, too), I said, “OK.” She went on to say, “What gives you the right to make fun of Tiffany?” I explained that what gave me the right was the First Amendment, the same thing that gave her the right to call me a [richard]. I also explained, as I had explained in the column, that I wound up respecting Tiffany for staging a comeback, despite my initial skepticism. The woman was not to be pacified, however, possibly because of my use of the words “skepticism” and “pacified.” She continued to rant and rave and watch Jerry Springer, so I hung up the phone. For all I know, she’s still talking. March Madness can have strange effects on people. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go.

This column is more vulgar than usual. But, then, we live in vulgar times. The Britney Spears comments were a direct result of her shaking her potatoes on TV, and of course the [richard] story was a true one, too. I hope neither story was too offensive to anyone.

Hard to believe I said Britney's 15 minutes were about up in 2001, and yet she was still famous as of 2007. What's up with that?

The syphilis joke, well, yeah, that was unnecessary. Funny, but unnecessary. My sports-writer friend Scott Bell can verify that I'd made the joke to him and other sports guys every March since 1998. I'd been wanting to slip it into a column for a long time, and here was my chance. I ran it past an editor first, figuring I wouldn't even bother with the column if I couldn't use that lead. He said go for it. And here we are.

In publication, the first paragraph was altered to end "one or the other" instead of just "one." Evidently, the copy editors were unfamiliar with the "either ... or ..., one" construction, common in the South. I picked it up from the book "Cold Sassy Tree," which is full of great Southernisms and which I was required to read as a college freshman.

Another thing this column is full of, besides vulgarity, is jokes that would not work verbally. The misspellings of the movie titles used next to "Chocolat," the spelling of "fjreak," and the brackets around "[richard]" are all written jokes, not verbal ones. So don't try reading this column aloud to anyone, OK?