By Bill Simmons
Page 2

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FRIDAY DIARY: ARCHIVE I12:00-4:00 p.m.
THURSDAY DIARY: ARCHIVE II7:00-11:53 p.m.

Here's the game plan for the next 30 hours: I'm keeping a real-time running diary of the first round of March Madness. Every 60 to 75 minutes, we're going to be posting my thoughts as the tournament cruises along – 12 hours on Thursday, six hours on Friday, with stuff getting posted every hour.

I wanted to try this for five reasons:

1. It's a little different than the running diaries I typically write for Page 2. I won't have the luxury of going back, honing stuff down, taking out jokes that don't work and everything else. In this case, I'm throwing up thoughts as fast as possible. It's almost like playing speed chess. So there may be some typos and stuff.

2. How often does the first day of March Madness coincide with St. Patrick's Day? It's almost like the Red Sox' winning the World Series on the same day of a lunar eclipse, only on a much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, MUCH smaller scale. But you know what I mean? Somebody needed to document this.

3. I always feel bad for the people trapped at work during the first two days of the tournament. Consider this a public service for them.

4. The last time I tried this idea – back on my old Web site in 2000 – I was stuck watching a single CBS feed for the entire time. Now, DirecTV offers its "March Madness Package" where you can get every game, one of the five greatest developments of this millennium, right up there with Netflix and girls dressing like hookers.

5. I wanted to see if I could pull this off without my head exploding.

So that's all you need to know. Don't forget to check back here at about 1:15 p.m. (East Coast time) for the first update.

* * * * *

12:00 (ET) – We're coming to you live from the New and Improved Sports Guy Mansion! I'm joined by old college roomies House (in from D.C.) and Chip (in from Milwaukee), either of whom could be taking over the diary if my head explodes.

CBS's studio team today? Greg Gumbel, Seth Davis and Clark Kellogg. Greg explains that, "Just so no one's confused, we remind you ..." then explains that this year's brackets will be named "Austin, Chicago, Albuquerque and Syracuse" instead of East-South-Midwest-West because "that's where the regional finals will be."

(Needless to say, all of us are still confused.)

12:07 – Our first promo for the CBS original movie "Spring Break Shark Attack," starring some horribly CGI'ed sharks and "The OC's Shannon Lucio." Couldn't they have just called her, "The girl who played Caleb's bastard daughter from 'The OC'"?

12:09 – Musical choices so far for CBS's pregame montages: The Who and Led Zeppelin. I know I ask this all the time, but the major networks know there's been music released in the past 30 years, right?

12:11 – Kellogg thinks that Niagara can beat Oklahoma; Davis tops him by predicting Alabama will fall and Winthrop could beat Gonzaga. I'm typing these things down. Someone has to.

12:15 – My buddy Gus calls to tell me that there was just a lady with an accent (Dr. Nora Volkow) giving testimony on the steroid hearings (live on ESPN!), claiming that she sounded just like Brigette Nielsen in "Rocky 4." "You think your baseball players are so berry berry good, and we're so berry berry bad ..."

12:18 – First big dilemma of the day: On my TV, should we go with Video 5 (and the HDTV channels) or Video 6 (which has TiVo, so we can rewind things?). We opt for TiVo. Our second big dilemma: Who should handle the remote all day? Says House, "I have 30-plus years of experience and I've been preparing for this day my whole life." He's hired immediately.

12:19 – Our first game: No. 15 Eastern Kentucky against No. 2 Kentucky, with Dick Enberg and Jay Bilas. Is it a good idea to have Dick announcing a game where both teams have the word "Kentucky" in their name? I guess we'll find out.

12:25 – Already made the switch to 'Bama/Wisconsin-Milwaukee game on HDTV. "Holy &*$#!," Chip screams. I don't think they have HDTV in Wisconsin yet.

12:28 – As we see UWM star Boo Davis, House yelps, "The first Boo of the afternoon!" It's always good to get that one out of the way early.

12:30 – This seems like a good place to mention my first batch of wagers. I parlayed the money lines for Gonzaga (-900) and Louisville (-1200) with the money lines for Alabama, Cincy, LSU, Wisconsin and Pittsburgh, plus Charlotte (+4), Creighton (+2) and New Mexico (+5.5) tomorrow. Also, I have a parlay with Wisconsin and the under, as well as the "points + rebounds over" for both Brandon Bass and Dijon Thompson, as well as Kevin Harlan (-3) over Gus Johnson for "most screams."

12:31 – 'Bama's best guy: Kennedy Winston. I think we're running out of names in college hoops – they're just reversing the ones from 20 years ago.

12:40 – 22-9, Milwaukee! House and I are furious at Chip that he had no idea UWM was any good ... for God's sake, he's from Milwaukee! "They're not missing," Chip explains. "I watched them last week, they were terrible." Yeah, thanks.

12:44 – All the early games kick off: We make the decision to toggle 'Bama-UWM (27-15!) and Oklahoma-Niagara, both showing on HDTV. That leads to this exchange:

Me: "Chip, what are your thoughts on HDTV?"

Chip (takes a good four seconds to respond): "Stunning, absolutely stunning."

12:47 – Down by 15, 'Bama's coach calls timeout as House screams at him, "Yeah, way to finally take off your jacket, [bleep]-face!"

12:48 – I'm rooting for Niagara because their leading scorer is named Juan Mendez, the same name of the guy who dimed out Calderon in "Miami Vice." He just drained two 3s as House screamed "Ooooooooh! Ohhhhhhhhh! JUAN MENDEZ!" It's 9:48 in the morning out here. You have to love March Madness.

12:52 – CBS shows the stat that UWM is shooting 61 percent on 3s in the past four games. "That's a stat you should have known, Chip!" House screams.

12:55 – Did you know that CBS has a show called "CSI"? Yeah, apparently they use forensic science to solve crimes and stuff. I'm not kidding. It's on every week.

12:56 – House: "Do they have Playboy Channel in HDTV?"

12:56 – Just checked ... the answer is no. This seems like a good time to mention that I ordered Playboy Channel for the week. It's always fun to see a married guy with three kids (in this case, Chip) react to "Sin in the City" at 9:56 in the morning.

1:03 – This seems like a good time to mention that Mendez has taken 35 shots in 10 minutes. Oklahoma 24, Niagara 20. Absolutely the game of the day.

1:09 – According to the CBS promo we just watched, Tony Hawk gets killed on "CSI" this week, and the clues to the crime are in his video game. How many stoned skateboarders just thought that Tony Hawk was actually dead right there? 50,000? 80,000?

1:11 – Scores right now: Oklahoma by 6, Milwaukee by 10, Pacific by 10, Kentucky by 8. Back in an hour.

*****

1:13 – House on Milwaukee-Bama: "Seth Davis was right, Alabama is terrible at handling pressure, and their coach looks befuddled. Apparently nobody in the SEC runs a full-court press."

(Speaking of Davis, he's preening right now on the "XCingular At the Half Show"; he couldn't be happier about this Milwaukee game. I'd be the same way – I'd be taunting Clark Kellogg and stuff. This is why ESPN doesn't allow me on TV.)

1:15 – Best name so far: Guillaume Yango (from Pacific).

1:23 – Niagara's nickname: "The Purple Eagles." Also, we just saw a graphic that said Calvin Murphy is their all-time leading scorer with 2,548 points.

"And 14 kids!" House adds.

"Do you want me to fact-check the 14 kids?" Chip asks, immediately hopping on the Internet to find this out, using the Google search, "NBA Murphy Abuse Kids."

1:25 – Yup, it was 14 kids with nine women. That's one busy Purple Eagle. It also leads to this exchange:

House: "Nine women, that's the crazy part."

Me: "Really? It's not the 14 kids? That part wasn't crazy enough?"

House: "Yeah, but nine women, that really pushes it over the top."

(These are the things you discuss during March Madness.)

1:28 – Our halftime score: Oklahoma 37, Niagara 34, with Mendes springing for 14. This one's going right to the end. You can feel it. Every early Thursday game has one shocker. I have no scientific evidence to back this up.

1:32 – This seems like a good time to mention that Greg Gumbel is dressed like a movie usher this afternoon – one of those ugly gray blazers that hockey coaches wear. All he's missing is a "Thank you for coming to Loews!" name tag.

1:35 – Spanarkel says about Alabama, "They've just been flat-out uncomfortable today." That is flat-out my least favorite announcing term.

1:39 – Milwaukee still leading by eight as House admits that he's "flat-out hungry."

1:40 – If they wrote a book about the Bama coach, chapters would definitely include "What the (bleep) is he doing?" and "He knows it's the NCAA, right?" and "Why aren't they getting back?"

1:44 – Just spent the last few minutes reliving last night's "Dope Sick Love" showing on HBO, which featured the most disturbing scene in the history of TV (let's just say that some people will do ANYTHING for crack money). That led to the debate, "Would you rather watch that one-minute scene again or all 90 minutes of the new Bernie Mac-Ashton Kutcher movie?" Amazingly, none of us can come up with a definitive answer.

1:54 – Quick update: Alabama down by 3, Niagara down by 1, Eastern Kentucky lingering, Pitt decomposing. Thanks, Pitt. I would have had a better shot betting on Stephanie's tribe in "Survivor" in an immunity challenge.

(Why the random "Survivor" reference? Because we've been brainwashed by the 20 promos in the last hour.)

1:58 – You know, I never had a DiGiorno frozen pizza before, but now that I know that Dick Vitale eats them ...

2:01 – Any time the announcers are screaming, "That's not supposed to go in!" and you bet on the other team – as just happened with a prayer by Milwaukee's Ed McCants – you know you're in trouble. By the way, can Alabama fire their coach during the game? Has that ever happened before?

2:03 – According to Ian Eagle, Ed McCants and UNC's Rashad McCants are distant cousins. I wish I could have wagered on this.

2:08 – Not only did No. 15 Eastern Kentucky just climb within five (four minutes to go), but Dick Enberg just said the word "Azabuike." Could this be the Early Upset Du' Jour?

Back in 45 minutes.

* * * * *

2:16 – Is there a more underrated commercial than LeBron making fullcourt shots for Powerade? One time, I convinced the Sports Gal that he actually made those shots; maybe that's why I remember it so fondly.

2:18 – With Eastern Kentucky down by five, Pitt charging back and Milwaukee holding off Alabama, House just had my first remote control spasm of the day – we were just on channel 777 for the last 10 seconds.

2:19 – See ya, Eastern Kentucky. At least they covered. By the way, did we really need another Elvis TV movie? Couldn't CBS have bought the rights to the Kurt Russell one and digitally remastered it?

2:22 – We're at the "If they get a 3 here, it's still interesting" point of Bama-Milwaukee. This never ends well.

2:29 – Oklahoma's up by 17 with five minutes left. "Thank you, Juan Mendez," House says, summing up everyone's feelings.

2:32 – Alabama cuts it to six with 55 seconds left, gets two missed free throws from Milwaukee, botches their possession, forgets to foul the guy who just missed the two free throws, then fouls an 83-percent shooter instead. I keep waiting for their coach to pull off his mask and reveal that he's Crimson Tide alum Forrest Gump.

2:35 – E-mail from my friend Camp in New York: "I can't believe I'm watching Pitt and Pacific while there is a 12/5 upset going on." That's followed by some unkind words about our friends at CBS. See, I don't have these problems, not with the March Madness package in HDTV!

2:36 – Final score: Wisconsin-Milwaukee 83, Alabama 73. The tournament hasn't officially started until I lost my first parlay.

2:37 – Not only has Pitt cut it to five, not only does Pacific have a guy on their team that Tim Brando just called "The Swedish Assassin," but the other announcer is none other than G-Mo, Mike Gminski. It took 30 seconds, but I'm over the Milwaukee game.

2:41 – Best unis of the day: Pacific. Black around the sleeves, orange letters, cool lettering. I always feel bad for them because, when you think of Pacific, the first thing you think of is Michael Olowokandi. How would you like that stigma?

2:44 – Down by six with 33 seconds left, Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon calls timeout, takes a few frightened steps away from the bench, then picks his nose on national TV. Not his finest hour.

2:46 – Pacific pulls away for the win – I'm 0-2 for the day. By the way, Chevy Troutman's game today could best be compared to the performance of Tony in "Blue Chips."

2:49 – "This year, spring break is gonna bite! Spring Break Shark Attack, CBS Sunday!"

2:50 – House immediately turns to the Playboy Channel, which is currently showing "Naughty Amateur Home Videos: Public Pleasures." The finalists for best video this episode, none of which include the Swedish Assassin:

1. "Kim and her boyfriend by the pool."
2. "Fresh faces, Adrian and John."
3. (I can't print the title of this one, but somebody named Amanda is involved, and she's working alone.)

House and Chip pick "Fresh faces"; I pick "Kim and her boyfriend by the pool."

2:51 – Amanda wins. I'm now 0-for-3 for the day.

2:53 – Just had the following exchange:

Chip: "I can't believe you have the Playboy Channel in your house."

Me: "I just ordered it for this week, (the Sports Gal) doesn't know about it."

Chip: "Well, isn't she going to find out when she reads the column?"

(That's followed by me making the "Jamie Dixon Picking My Nose on National TV" Face.)

3:04 – With Iowa and Cincy deadlocked at 2-2 heading into our first commercial, Dick Enberg shrieks, "Four and a half minutes into the game, two power brokers in the NCAA ... WHERE'S THE SCORING?" That was fun.

3:06 – Hey, what was the biggest dropoff: "Fletch" to "Fletch Lives," "Teen Wolf" to "Teen Wolf Too," or De Niro's Amex commercial to Coach K's Amex commercial?

3:10 – Headed out to get sandwiches, back with more in an hour.

* * * * *

3:20 – We're back, we're eating, and I have my game face on: It's time for my favorite NCAA tradition ... that's right, rooting against BC! They're beating Penn by three right now. Plus, we just had our first upset special – Chip finished his sandwich ahead of House.

3:22 – Our first major glitches of the day: First, I just found out that my 1:15 posting stayed up for an extra hour when the 2:15 posting was ready to go; and second, our new puppy (Rufus) just peed all over the floor. He's the illegitimate half-brother of the Dooze. I'm not even making that up. It's just like "The OC."

3:25 – Worst uniforms, unquestionably: Iowa. They look like something you would see on a discount rack at Target.

3:30 – Jermaine Watson pulls off a three-point play to put BC up by seven. Out of anyone in this tournament who jumped out of a second-story plate glass window to escape armed assailants last weekend, he's playing the best.

3:32 – We're already down to two interesting games – BC-Penn and UTEP-Utah – because Washington and Cincy are running away with their games. Kudos to Bob Huggins for wearing a suit today and not dressing like he's running late for his 2:40 tee time.

3:35 – Speaking of Huggins, does it get any better than the "Early Exits" graphic for his NCAA performances over the past 10 years? It's like looking at Chris O'Donnell's IMDB.com page for the past 10 years.

3:42 – Just realized that we could have been watching UTEP-Utah in HDTV for the past 20 minutes. That hurts.

3:44 – Our grades for the tournament so far: B-minus (Chip); B (House); C-Minus (Simmons). House points out that the good treams are taking care of business, and the shaky teams (like Bama) self-destructed, and that's what should happen on Day One. I guess.

3:48 – BC 39, Penn 18. Oh, well. We turn to the Utah game, where Utah's Andrew Bogut is lighting up a smaller UTEP team. Stick him against NBA players and he's probably no better than a less spastic version of Chris Kaman. Today? He looks like a young Arvydas Sabonis.

3:56 – None of the games are closer than seven points right now. "What's the porn channel?" House asks.

4:05 – Couldn't USA Today's team-by-team capsules in Monday's NCAA preview include things like "Iowa's top three scorers are dorky-looking white guys? and "Nick Lachey is Cincy's No. 1 celebrity fan"?

4:13 – Sorry, just got totally sidetracked by Palmeiro, Sosa, Canseco and Schilling testifying in front of the House of Representatives. Does it get any funnier than Canseco conferring with his attorney before answering each question? I wish he had done all his talk show appearances that way.

4:19 – ESPN News just showed that Schilling will co-chair a committee investigating steroid abuse in major league baseball. Apparently he ripped Canseco in his opening statement, followed by a series of nervous blinks from Canseco. I think I would have enjoyed this 20 times more than the Pitt-Pacific game.

Back in an hour with the finales of the late-afternoon games.

* * * * *

4:30 – I mean, seriously ... of all the days for a sofa that you ordered eight weeks ago to get delivered ...

(You couldn't make this stuff up.)

A quick update: Cincy-Iowa (blowout); BC-Penn (semi-blowout); Washington-Montana (blowout); and then "Utah 46, UTEP 37" (which is looking like Duke-Kentucky in 1991 compared to the other three). Also, on ESPNews, Sammy Sosa has an "If they find out I actually used steroids, I'll just claim that I didn't understand English well enough during this testimony" glow about him. Goofy day. And we're still a few hours away from Shaq-Kobe II.

4:40 – All right, I'll ask: What was Congress hoping to accomplish with this steroids investigation? Couldn't they have just said, "We couldn't think of another way to get all of us on TV ... this was the best thing we could come up with."

4:48 – Penn cuts it to 12 against BC. We're so desperate for a good game, we're giddy about this. "This isn't March Madness," Chip says, "It's like March Semi-Depression."

4:50 – Wait a second, UTEP's down by four! You mean we might have an exciting ending today? Somehow House fell asleep at the wheel with the remote for 10 minutes, giving him something in common with Alabama's coach.

4:54 – Tie game, UTEP! I might win a bet today!

4:54 – "Timeout, Utah, and this place is going crazy!" screams Kevin Harlan.

4:55 – Wow, McGwire just showed up at the hearing. Was anyone else waiting for him to show up an hour late in his pajamas like Michael Jackson?

4:57 – My first win of the day: The Cincy parlay. Assuming Gonzaga and Louisville win, of course.

5:00 – Comedy highlight of the day: Kevin Harlan reading a promo for "Spring Break Shark Attack" and stumbling over the Shannon Lucio part so it came out, "... the OC's ..." (wait, who the hell is this?) "Shannon ..." (Lou-see-oh?) "Lucio."

5:03 – We just cracked open the first round of Coronas. I'm not sure what Chip is capable of right now – any time you fly a married guy 2,000 miles away from his three young children, just about anything's possible.

5:04 – Looks like BC is going to beat Penn by 20. On the bright side for Penn grads, they can take out their anger on the BC grads working under them.

5:05 – Thank God for the steroids hearing – on HDTV, you can actually see the beads of sweat forming on McGwire's head.

5:06 – When CBS touts themselves as "America's most-watched network," what does that mean exactly? Why not just say "number-one network?" I feel like they're hiding something.

5:10 – Beautiful dish by Bogut to set up a go-ahead free throw. Utah 53, UTEP 52. That prompts a 30-second discussion on whether Bogut has a mustache or not. Has anyone definitively figured this out?

5:12 – Utah by one, two minutes left. We have to have ONE buzzer-beater today, right?

5:19 – Mark Jackson makes a jumper to put UTEP up by two with 40 seconds left. Can we officially call him White Mark Jackson? Does that work for everyone?

5:22 – UTEP ends up losing by six ... not covering, of course. The perfect end to a perfectly disappointing early session of the first day. Maybe tonight will be better.

Click here for most recent entry

FRIDAY DIARY: ARCHIVE I12:00-4:00 p.m.
THURSDAY DIARY: ARCHIVE II7:00-11:53 PM

Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine. His Sports Guy's World site is updated every day Monday through Friday.




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