Local menu offers an appetizing mix

The Dragons and Aggies and Cowboys and Gophers.

Our guys.


The Billikens and Demon Deacons and Quakers.

All ours, hon.


And how about it, football fans, right here in Charm City: the Alaaaaabama Crimmmmmmson Tiiiiiide.


We waited a long time for this. Like, forever.

Which is a very long time.

But it looks like we did pretty well in our rookie year as a stopover on the road to wherever.

We didn't get Tagliabued. Spread the word.

In Baltimore's first crack at being an NCAA tournament site, coming in the tournament's 56th year, we drew eight teams that provide something for everyone.

Some nice teams, some long shots, some good players, some stupid nicknames.


And most importantly, plenty of choices for local fans seeking a rooting interest.

You say you're a city guy? No problem. We've got Drexel and Penn, two teams from the heart of that noted vacation spot, sunny West Philadelphia.

If you run across someone from Philly around town this week, do me a favor: ask them if they know Tony.

Oh, but you say you're more of a country guy? Sit down. Have we got something for you.

We've got Big Country.

That's the nickname used by Oklahoma State's Bryant Reeves, a massive All-American center who comes from an Oklahoma town so small you could fit it inside Camden Yards.


Or inside the infield.

Inside the dugout!

OK, so it's a little bigger than that. But if you're one of those folks who happens to enjoy mixing your hoops with a long prairie, a little Hank Williams Sr. and a big ol' chicken fried steak covered in cream gravy, Oklahoma State is the team for you.

That brings us to Saint Louis, the team the Terps chewed up in the first round of the tournament a year ago. The Billikens are an invaluable addition to the local field, for they provide all you short people out there with a rooting interest.

Of course, the Billikens' 6-foot-6 starting center actually is much taller than most people. He's just short as far as basketball height, which is sort of like dog years. Use your imagination.

If you're one of those people who hold out hope for a Beatles reunion and the revival of the Democratic Party and all those other lost causes, you'll go nuts for 16th-seeded North Carolina A&T;, which plays in a conference that has never won a tournament game, and now has to play only the hottest team in the country, top-seeded Wake Forest.


How much of a chance does A&T; have? Try this at-home demonstration. Pick up a rock. Look at the sun. Try to hit the sun with the rock.

The presence of Minnesota State in our local bracket means that, of course, the legendary coach Craig T. Nelson will be roaming the sidelines. Oh, sorry. That's actually the plot of the TV sitcom "Coach," in which Nelson stars as the coach of a school patterned after the University of Minnesota. I actually confused truth and fiction there for a minute.

The "real" Minnesota Golden Gophers are the ones coming here, although there is always the chance that anyone who shows up at the Arena on Thursday will land in a crowd shot in a later episode of "Coach." Better have an agent ready.

The presence of Alabama in town means that, of course, all you basketball-hating football fans will have a favorite team worthy of your gut-bustin', head-knockin', steroid-swillin' support.

For you history buffs, this will mark the first time that cries of "Roll Tide!" will be sounded within earshot of Fort McHenry.

Oh, and FYI: The Alabama coach was on a quickie conference call with local writers last night and said that he was in favor of holding a national championship playoff after the bowl games.



Stockbrokers and other white-collar workers will cheer for Drexel because they'll think it's a big brokerage house and they'll wonder if maybe they can somehow get a better job and a raise if the brokerage does well.

Let them have their fun.

The Quakers of Penn are the Ivy League champs, of course, so they'll have no trouble finding the arena.

Wake Forest is the team for librarians and other assorted bookworms and people who were picked last in gym class when they were kids. Just check out the coach, you'll get it.

Hey, we did fine, didn't we?


Some nice teams, some long shots, some good players, some stupid nicknames.

Typical March Madness.

Better enjoy it.

We might have to wait 56 years again.