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Split Screen
Steve Rushin
March 31, 2003
The tournament ticker on ESPN referred you to the war ("Tune to ABC News for continuing coverage of the war with Iraq") and the war ticker on CBS referred you back to the tournament ("The NCAA basketball tournament is on ESPN"), so that the obedient channel surfer caught in this loop—like a dog chasing its tail—never knew if he was coming or going. The viewer became, in essence, a palindrome personified, like IUPUI (the 16th seed in the Midwest) or 101 (the U.S. airborne division in the Middle East).
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March 31, 2003

Split Screen

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When Dan Rather, CBS's necessary buzzkill, broke into the Arizona- Gonzaga game on Saturday night with a minute left in the first overtime and the score tied at 87, and announced the latest on the Screaming Eagles wounded in a grenade attack at Camp Pennsylvania in Kuwait, he finished, almost reproachfully, by saying, "And now, back to basketball." To which play-by-play announcer Dick Enberg replied in the only way that one could. "It's tough to make a transition," Enberg said, "from Iraqi war news to the relative security of basketball." With that, he began to describe the game's electrifying denouement.

Said Arizona's Luke Walton, after his team's not-quite-epic victory, "It was a war out there."

In truth, such a game was the opposite, war's photographic negative: a celebration. Milton, in Paradise Lost, minted two phrases so vivid that they remain—even now, as clich�s four centuries old—the best ways to summarize the bipolar week just past.

"Heaven on Earth" was one of those phrases. "All hell broke loose" was the other.

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