I've found myself distracted from the Madness at hand this year. It all started when an adorable man in my life asked me this question: Which is my favorite sport -- college basketball or sex?
So since the NCAA Tournament started, I've been thinking about sex. And I've been thinking about college basketball. Oh, and sex.
What else would a woman in her prime (read: over 40) be thinking about, come March and early April? (In later April, maybe it's baseball ... and sex. But for now ... ) Along with the usual suspects who roam through my little black book, the men who really matter in my life this time of year include Dickie V, Jim Nantz and Billy Packer. And I like it that way.
For me, it's an intellectual muddle. In many ways, college basketball and sex are very similar. Both require a great deal of technical ability (although I only speak from experience on one of those scores). Both inspire an incredible amount of passion. Both can be magical; both can be heartbreaking.
What's more exciting: A 10-foot fade-away jump shot or a dazzling first-date kiss? Mo Finley at the buzzer, or making love with someone you're crazy about?
Truth is, I fantasize and worry about both. Who will cut down the nets in the Alamodome on Monday night? How will that ex-boyfriend, the Republican from San Antonio, explain those missing few hours to his wife?
What makes your heart break hardest: Jameer missing that last shot, or knowing that you're being two-timed?
So let's compare the two. Let's break it down, critical category by critical category. Which is the better sport? College basketball or sex?
College basketball can only be enjoyed from the end of November until the first week in April. My other favorite sport has a year-round utility ... if memory serves, that is.
Then again, Cialis aside, when was the last time you had sex 16 times in one day? The Tournament gives you 16 games in each of its first two days. That's a lot of ... umm, action.
POSSESSION ARROW: Toughie. But I'm going with the extended pleasure of the mating season over the fast and furious hoops season. Sex 1, Hoops 0.
Recruiting is a crucial element in both pastimes. You have to know where to look to find the right kind of talent, and you have to be able to recognize a good thing when you see it.
So what do you look for? Court (or courting) sense. Patience with the rock. A good, solid sense of the pass. All of those things must be thoroughly evaluated before an offer is tendered. A young player needs to be independent enough to know how and when to score, but polished enough to know when to be unselfish and resist the urge.
And you know what? Recruiting violations occur in both sports. In fact, they often revolve around the same temptations: a set of car keys, a nice new outfit, cash in an envelope. (That's when you're really desperate!)
POSSESSION ARROW: Too close to call. It's a jump ball.
Clothing and the proper equipment play important roles in both forms of recreation. To play basketball, you need a well-inflated ball, a hoop and a place to play. Can't manage without them. Sex, on the other hand, can happen just about anywhere and doesn't require special equipment ... although that can add to the fun, of course.
To play each properly, clothing must be removed quickly at times. Those warm-ups have to come off when you get into the game!
Leather is a required element in college basketball. Sadly, it's only optional in the other sport.
POSSESSION ARROW: This choice is crystal clear: sex. Basketball teams need a manager to handle the equipment. You don't usually have to employ anyone in that role for sex. (OK, maybe sometimes, but that's only if you haven't recruited the right talent.) And let's face it: Spike heels and La Perla lingerie are a lot more fetching than baggy basketball shorts, an Iverson throwback and Converse high-tops. And it's much sexier to swill Billecart Salmon Brut Rose out of a champagne flute than pink Gatorade out of a sports bottle.
Strength and conditioning are vital, aren't they? College basketball is played in 20-minute halves, which can leave the players out of breath and sweaty. That's just like a good romp in the hay!
POSSESSION ARROW: Almost anyone can start a game, but do your players have what it takes to go into overtime? If they do, I'm sticking with sex. Game on!
In the sport of sex, the players are their own referees ... like in golf. Nothing should be out of bounds between consenting adults. And in the heat of a good battle, no one gets ejected.
There are, of course, shot-clock violations, traveling calls, double dribbles and hand-checks. But chesting-up is legal.
Still, I think college basketball is onto something with the five-foul rule. Enough is enough. Let's play fair!
POSSESSION ARROW: The winner here is college basketball, because you can always look up the obscure rules online. I've yet to find the sex manual that tells me how to deal with a lane violation.
Again, this is crucial in both diversions. A good, experienced coach can always help a player improve on her fundamentals. All it takes is practice, repetition and the occasional full-contact scrimmage. Those sorts of workouts can take your game to a whole new level. However, after watching what happened to poor Paris Hilton, I think all practices should be closed to the media.
And with apologies to Eddie Sutton, pads and tackling dummies aren't really required in sex. Still, don't you just love a good huddle?
Maryland's Gary Williams is successful from the sideline by barking out an endless succession of plays and defenses. He micro-manages his players. That won't work in the bedroom. Freshman players, especially, do not respond well to this kind of pressure.
POSSESSION ARROW: Everyone needs a little help now and then, even if it's only motivational, and I'm seeing plenty of that in the Tournament. Basketball gets the nod here.
Certain plays can be diagrammed. The pick-and-roll. The give-and-go. (Use your imagination.) I've learned through experience that the triangle-and-two usually makes somebody jealous, somewhere.
POSSESSION ARROW: You know what does it for me? The full-court press. The advantage goes to sex.
I've always been strongly in favor of a deep bench. You never know when you're going to need a sixth man to keep your 'A' game going.
This can lead to morale problems in both sports. But you can never be sure who will step up and have a big game down the stretch. And it's simply less difficult to juggle your options on the court than it is in your datebook.
POSSESSION ARROW: Definitely, college basketball.
You have to tell them what they want to hear ...
"That was a good win for us."
... Unless you're certain they can handle the truth.
"We didn't perform as well as we'd hoped. We peaked too early."
POSSESSION ARROW: Really, guys, why talk at all? Why not let the analysts tell the story? We'd all rather watch "SportsCenter" than plumb the depths of our feelings, right? The clear winner here is college basketball.
And The Winner Is ...
Obviously it's difficult, if not impossible, to make up my mind. So why choose? After all, there are plenty of ways to combine my two favorite sports. A brief tryst under the bleachers can enliven an otherwise dull game, for example, even if halftime never seems quite long enough.
But for the sake of furthering my romantic life, I gave the adorable man an answer. I told him that sex is my favorite sport.
Yes, I've been distracted this spring. But ever since that Thursday morning, March 18, the Madness has owned me. And until I see the final "SportsCenter" after the championship game on April 5, the game of basketball will consume me.
Which is a heck of a lot more than I can say about that adorable man.
Alysse Minkoff has written for ESPN 360, Cigar Aficionado and Ladies Home Journal, and can be reached at AGirlReporter@aol.com.