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MARCH MADNESS: CELEBRITY VERSION!

The Baltimore Sun

Key up the Entertainment Tonight theme. Alert the paparazzi. Get ready to make your picks: The other NCAA (National Celebrity Annoyance Association) has announced the seeding for its 2007 championship - a tournament that, based on your votes, will decide who is the most annoyingly overexposed celebrity in America.

Who have you seen waaaaaay too much of? Who grates most painfully on your nerves? Who most makes the bile rise when you see their mug, yet again, on TV? Who, quite simply, are you most sick of hearing about?

This year's tournament features some strong contenders (all chosen and seeded by our selections committee) - some of them legends, some of them new to the scene but often annoying nevertheless.

How does this version of March Madness work? Easy. Go to baltimoresun.com/celebrities. Just pick the winner of each first-round pairing - not the ones you like best, but the ones who irk you the most, the ones whose shining (or sometimes, tarnishing) moment has gone on far too long; the ones you would banish from the airwaves, once and for all, if you had the choice.

Those who get more votes than their first-round opponent move on to the next round to face their next fellow celebrity.

After each round, updated brackets will be published online, and it will be time to go online and make your next round of picks.

Betting on the outcome of this tournament is discouraged. No prizes, cash, deep truths or significance are involved, nor should any be inferred. Contest is void where prohibited. Vote only once each round - or more often if you feel really strongly about it.

And remember, celebrity is fleeting. Unfortunately, it's just sometimes not fleeting enough.

Now, on to the brackets.

Not Them Again! Division

1. Paris Hilton

16. Nicole Richie

8. Jared the Subway Guy

9. GEICO Lizard

5. Ryan Seacrest

12. Billy Bush

4. Antonella Barba

13. Paula Abdul

6. Kevin Federline

11. Justin Timberlake

3. Britney Spears

14. Jessica Simpson

7. Lindsay Lohan

10. Mary Kate & Ashley

2. Anna Nicole Smith

15. Lisa Marie Nowak

Talking Head Division

1. Robert Novak

16. Newt Gingrich

8. Tucker Carlson

9. Chris Matthews

5. Jesse Jackson

12. Ralph Nader

4. Michael Moore

13. Patrick Buchanan

6. Ann Coulter

11. Tony Snow

3. Hillary Clinton

14. Barack Obama

7. Al Gore

10. Bill Clinton

2. James Carville

15. Al Sharpton

Can't Seem to Stop Talking Division

1. Donald Trump

16. Regis Philbin

8. Bill O'Reilly

9. Jon Stewart

5. Nancy Grace

12. Verizon "Can You Hear Me Now" Guy

4. Martha Stewart

13. Scott Donahoo

6. Tyra Banks

11. Anderson Cooper

3. Rosie O'Donnell

14. Oprah Winfrey

7. Rachael Ray

10. Katie Couric

2. Dr. Phil

15. Larry King

Way, Way Overexposed Division

1. Peyton Manning

16. Barbaro

8. Michael Jackson

9. O.J. Simpson

5. Kirstie Alley

12. Jennifer Aniston

4. Whitney Houston

13. Beyonce

6. Angelina Jolie

11. Madonna

3. Mel Gibson

14. Tom Cruise

7. Julia Roberts

10. George Clooney

2. Simon Cowell

15. Howard Stern

Some first-round games to watch

Not Them Again! Division, Fluff Fieldhouse, Las Vegas

Paris Hilton (1st seed) vs. Nicole Richie (16th seed) - The top-seeded party girl and hotel heiress will likely trounce her partner in crime and reality TV series co-star. A high-scoring game is expected, and both are likely to get into foul trouble early on. Only one thing's for sure: It'll be hot.

Anna Nicole Smith (2nd seed) vs. Lisa Marie Nowak (15th seed) - Remaining such a high seed even after her death shows Anna has staying power - and much more of it than her opponent, who, despite the rigors of astronaut training and the level of commitment she showed in her 900-mile trek, has quickly faded from public view. Still, anyone can win in this tournament. As Anna Nicole can attest, where there's a will, there's a way - even if your name's not in it (the will, that is).

Britney Spears (3rd seed) vs. Jessica Simpson (14th seed) - Pre-tournament head-shaving saw Britney catapult in the seedings and her multiple rehab attempts all but ensure she will have more than enough momentum to handle Jessica.

Antonella Barba (4th seed) vs. Paula Abdul (13th seed) - It's wanna-be versus has-been, and Antonella, ousted from the American Idol competition last week, is still slightly favored because of her recent, shall we say, exposure. She may have revealed too much of her game plan too early, though and Paula - straight up now - still has some moves.

Ryan Seacrest (5th seed) vs. Billy Bush (12th seed) - These two teams look very much alike on paper, and in real life, too. Both have a talent for ... for ... "hosting," but look for the American Idol moderator to slip past President Bush's first cousin, who co-hosts Access Hollywood and Grease: You're the One that I Want!

Jared the Subway Guy (8th seed) vs. GEICO Lizard (9th seed) - Slimmed down, but not-so-smooth-talking Jared has the weight advantage, but the insurance company lizard is a slick one, and may prove to be too bloody fast for the Subway spokesman.

Talking Head Division, Inside the Beltway Arena, Washington, D.C.

Robert Novak (1st seed) vs. Newt Gingrich (16th seed) - He may have helped to "out" CIA operative Valerie Plame, but he's not flaming out. Top-seeded Bobbie "The Bulldog" Novak, despite some troubles this season, is supremely confident, as usual, as he goes up against "Nothing But" Newt Gingrich, who recently admitted that he was having an extramarital affair even as he pursued Bill Clinton on "Monicagate." Bobbie reportedly has some secrets up his sleeve that, come tourney time, he just might disclose.

James Carville (2nd seed) vs. Al Sharpton (15th seed) - The decibel level is expected to hit the roof during this one, and that's not even counting the fans.

Ann Coulter (6th seed) vs. Tony Snow (11th seed) - The right-wing pundit with locks of gold, a heart of steel and an acid tongue would really rather face a Democrat in her first-round match. Still, she's determined to chew up anyone who gets in her way, including Tony, the White House spokesman with a record of being cool under pressure.

Tucker Carlson (8th seed) vs. Chris Matthews (9th seed) - Fleet of mouth, but not of foot, the bow-tied preppie who co-hosted CNN's Crossfire may be too klutzy (based on his first-round elimination in last season's Dancing with the Stars) to move on to the second round. Chris, the mouthy host of MSNBC's Hardball, will use his usual full-court press in a game that is sure to be filled with interruptions.

Can't Seem to Stop Talking Division, Babylon Pavilion, N.Y.

Donald Trump (1st seed) vs. Regis Philbin (16th seed) - Who wants to beat a millionaire? Regis does. But without Kelly Ripa by his side (she barely missed getting into the tournament), he's not likely to give The Donald much trouble.

Nancy Grace (5th seed) vs. the Verizon "Can You Hear Me Now" Guy (12th seed) - In his time, there was no one more annoying than the Verizon guy - not even the "let's execute the suspect now and ask questions later" host of CNN's Nancy Grace Investigates. But Verizon guy takes a back seat in the new Verizon ads, and, if there's any justice, Nancy's relentless Southern-fried nagging should have it locked up.

Rachael Ray (7th seed) vs. Katie Couric (10th seed) - In this battle of network perkies, Katie, whose switch from NBC's Today show to CBS news anchor made headlines, has her hands full. Rachael, the young Food Network phenom, is intent on showing she can do more than cook 30-minute meals. And she's got spunk, too. Lots of spunk. Maybe a little too much spunk. This one could be a real pressure-cooker.

Martha Stewart (4th seed) vs. Scott Donahoo (13th seed) - Like oil and water, these two aren't expected to mix well. Martha might be ready to go back to the big house (and we don't mean the one in the Hamptons) to get away from the in-your-face Baltimore auto dealer whose wacky TV ads are akin to assault with a deadly weapon.

Rosie O'Donnell (3rd seed) vs. Oprah Winfrey (14th seed) - Nobody is as all over the court as Oprah, but Rosie may prove to be the more irksome, especially after her recent round of trash-talking with Donald Trump. There's nothing she'd like better than to lock scowls with him in the elite eight, if both make it that far.

Way, Way Overexposed Division, Hollywood Celebritorium, Los Angeles

Peyton Manning (1st seed) vs. Barbaro (16th seed) - Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro's tragic Preakness accident, drawn-out attempt to recover and subsequent death were accompanied by what some saw as too much publicity. Leave it to the ubiquitous Peyton Manning - Super Bowl-winning Indianapolis Colts quarterback who shills for MasterCard, Sprint, Gatorade and Reebok, among others - to beat a dead horse.

Simon Cowell (2nd seed) vs. Howard Stern (15th seed) - Simon has the offensive power to go all the way, but Howard's no slouch either.

Mel Gibson (3rd seed) vs. Tom Cruise (14th seed) - It has been a banner past year for both, and when the Christian with a temper goes up against the couch-jumping Scientologist, expect passion to be in the air. Will Mel be Cruise-ified, or will it be risky business for Tom?

Michael Jackson (8th seed) vs. O.J. Simpson (9th seed) - Longtime legends and perennial favorites, Michael, who was not convicted of molesting children, and O.J., who was not convicted of murdering his wife, put on the gloves, or glove (or try to), in a first-round thriller that, unfortunately, only one can win. Expect Michael to beat it, and O.J. to either win, or, if not, at least offer an explanation of how he would have.

john.woestendiek@baltsun.com

Vote online

For the first round, vote between now and midnight March 15 at baltimoresun.com/celebrities

Second round - March 16 to midnight March 18

Third round (Sweet 16) - March 19 to midnight March 22

Fourth round (Elite 8) - March 23 to midnight March 29

Fifth round (Final 4) - March 30 to midnight April 1

Championship - April 2

Want to see the celebrities' Google Point Index (the number of Web sites that show the celebrity's name when typed into that search engine)? Disagree with the selection committee's seedings? Feel some strong contenders were overlooked? Just need to vent about overexposed celebrities? You can comment on the site as well.

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