“Regardless of how terrible the officiating is, please don’t throw things onto the floor,” – Oklahoma head coach BillyTubbs, immediately drawing a technical from official Ed Hightower

It’s time for March madness again, which means that the NCAA will put on a basketball tournament featuring Sixty-four (sometimes they start with more teams playing to become the 64th) schools competing in single elimination games  until there is only one left. After the first round of games there are thirty-two winners who then play a second round until there are sixteen left. These are known as the “Sweet 16.” The third round of games, held the following weekend produces the “Elite 8” and the Fourth round results in the “Final 4.”  If, like the Idler, you are a bit on the obsessive-compulsive side (or compulsive-obsessive, if you insist on alphabetical order), it might occur to you that the 32 winners of the first round of games didn’t get a cutesy moniker. Why not the “Thrilling 32” or the “Thundering 32”? OK, if it’s not that big a deal to win a first round game, then how about the “Thought-provoking 32”? Do we have a winner?


Since the Idler never had sufficient leg strength (or “hops” as the freakish pituitary cases who actually play the game like to say) to leap atop the McKeesport Yellow Pages, our participation in the sport of basketball usually involved cheering for the home team. Go ahead and scoff, but a lot of important people were cheerleaders. FDR cheered at Harvard, George W. Bush cheered at Yale. Samuel L. Jackson cheered at Morehouse. Even Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wielded the pom-poms at James Madison High. Try and feature that. You know, it’s too bad law schools don’t have athletic teams. We’d like to see an exhausted cheering section having to wind up with, “What’s that spell?” – “H-A-B-E-A-S C-O-R-P-U-S!” I don’t even want to think about how the Johns Hopkins med school Fighting Gastroenterologists might decide to cheer.

So there can be a lot of inventiveness and imagination in cheers which can lead to trouble. And not just that one about Norfolk which I better not repeat. We once attended a game at Steelton Highspire, which is downstream from Harrisburg, in which the cheerleaders chanted something along the lines of:

“Hit ‘em with a stick! Hit ‘em with a broom!

Beat ‘em up, beat ‘em up! Boom-boom-boom!”

The actual wording was a bit saltier, this being a somewhat hardscrabble area. Speaking of socio-economic and class distinctions, it’s been reported that cheering sections of teams from academically elite schools like M.I.T. respond to losses by taunting opposing fans with,

“That’s all right, That’s OK,

You’re going to work for us some day!”

A “valley girl” of our acquaintance recalls a 70’s era cheer intended to identify the home team and disparage the visitors that went something like this:

“Chew tobacco – Chew tobacco – Chew tobacco – Spit!

We are (Name of school), And you are not!”

Of course, they managed to make it rhyme. Profanity in cheering became a problem at Cornell, of all places, prompting the administration to declare that a certain barnyard epithet could no longer be chanted by the student section in reaction to a perceived bad call. At the next game there was an obviously blown call, and the student section rose as one and roared, “We beg to differ!, We beg to differ!”

Well, I better go make an appointment for my annual Bracketological Examination. I sure hope it’s covered by Obamacare. (And I hope they don’t ask for a school sample.) Go Pitt!

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