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There came a pivotal moment in my eighth consecutive hour of NCAA tournament-viewing when I tried, while supine on the sofa, to turn off the TV. I reached for the remote—it was marooned on the distant island of an ottoman—but my index finger fell an inch short. It looked like Adam's outstretched digit, on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, straining toward God for the spark of life.
But I failed to make contact and instead succumbed to two more hours of VERM-CONN, which sounds like an international convention of exterminators but is in fact CBS scoreboard shorthand for Vermont versus Connecticut.
For 48 hours over four days, I watched every men's and women's game and highlight available on basic cable, including DAY-DEP and RICH-WISC and PAC-PROV, and two dozen other matchups that now read, a week later, like a Pentagon parts list. (We had lotsa laughs, LALAF, but I no longer remember who you are.)
In one terrible, 12-hour interregnum of inertia, I didn't leave the couch. On the way to One Shining Moment, I enjoyed One Reclining Moment, instantly followed by 2,779 more. From Thursday through Sunday I felt as though I really did eat, drink and sleep basketball—gorging on Gumbelaya and Spanarkeling water and passing out after midnight to SportsCenter highlights. This may explain my weird, recurring fever dream of George Washington women's star Ugo Oha, whistled repeatedly for flagrant vowels.
I had waking visions, too. What has 64 colors and comes in a box? Crayolas and the televised tournaments—although I eventually learned to tell Forest Green and Carnation Pink (they're crayons) from Kerbrell Brown and LucQuente White (they're players). Turquoise Blue? Crayola crayon. Nikki Blue? UCLA guard.
Like crayons, each team in the tournament's 64-pack was, at the start, pregnant with creative possibility. I filled out my men's bracket by flipping a coin for every game—heads the higher seed wins, tails the lower seed wins—and my 1993 quarter prophesied a preposterous final in which No. 8 seed Alabama would lose to No. 10 seed Nevada. What's more, the obverse of the coin was stamped with the name of yet another underdog, Liberty, just above the head of another low seed, Washington.
The coin's reverse bore what should be the tournament's motto: E Pluribus Unum. Indeed, moments after Bob Barker—The Price Is Right host, not the Xavier guard—urged me to have my pets spayed or neutered last Thursday, CBS turned its Cyclops eye on the tournament, in which, almost immediately, Gators and Wildcats and Salukis were ritually emasculated. Already, we'd begun winnowing the field E Pluribus ("from many") to Unum ("one").
My chronicle of the four days of house arrest that followed belongs less in SI than in The New England Journal of Medicine, as I voluntarily developed—in the interest of scientific inquiry—the first clinical case of March Madness.
My mind began wandering within the first hour, when it became clear that Florida forward Matt Walsh—his curly locks frothing over his headband like a perfectly poured beer—looked exactly like Willy Wonka, who in turn would have invented Terry Licorish, if he weren't already playing for Mississippi State.
Speaking of hair, I admired the usual assortment of Joshes with 'fros (Childress of Stanford) and Joshes with 'rows (Boone of Connecticut). But the tournament's finest tonsorial contribution was the electrified (and electrifying) 'fro of Dexter Lyons, whose Central Florida Golden Knights are themselves an anagram of: Afro, dreadlocks lent lightning.