Tag Archive | north carolina

Do Animal Instincts Make the Best Brackets?

In one of my favorite Cheers episodes, dorky Diane wins the bar’s pro football pool by selecting the victors according to which cities have the best symphony conductors.

I am pretty much in the same boat when it comes to the NCAA Tournament. I have no one to root for—my hometown Memphis Tigers didn’t make the cut, and my Division III alma mater, Centre College, is hardly a Sports Center staple.

eastern-gray-squirrel

Bet against Carolina? That’s nuts!

Luckily this weekend I volunteered at a wildlife rehab center, where, while cleaning up squirrel scat, I learned those little guys are #1-seed North Carolina’s state mammal. Which gave me a slightly nerdy idea for my bracket. What if I based it on official state animals?

After all, the animals are selected for their strength, smarts, and contributions to state culture. Many of the options seem like obvious winners. Kansas (Kansas, Wichita State) has its bison, and Miami and Florida Gulf Coast are represented by Florida’s state reptile, the alligator.

Others are a little more surprising, but kinda make sense when you think about it. Second-seeded Oklahoma’s state amphibian is the bullfrog, which is America’s largest frog–aggressive and even believed to be resistant to snake venom. That’s one potent game plan.

Washington has perennial competitor Gonzaga back in the running this year, along with the Pacific tree frog. This clever state amphibian is wiggles its toes to attract its meals. (May also explain all the Tevas in Washington.)

Ohio, with Xavier, Dayton, and Cincinnati in the tourney, boasts the spotted salamander as its state amphibian. No need to worry about injuries here–when attacked, it can grow back missing limbs and even parts of its brain. Its BRAIN!

Tennessee is fielding four squads this year—Vanderbilt, Tennessee-Chattanooga, Middle Tennessee, and Austin Peay. Though seeded merely 11, 12, 15, and 16, maybe the teams can look to Tennessee’s state commercial fish, the channel catfish, for inspiration. They have highly evolved sensory systems and can size up rivals from sex to social status just by smell alone.

viceroy_butterfly_female

Eat me. (No, really, I dare you.)

Thirteenth-seed Hawaii’s state fish, the humuhumunukunukuāpuaʻa, actually has two spines! One braces the other when the fish shelters in small spaces, and predators can’t get it out. What coach wouldn’t want that kind of defense?

Kentucky’s state insect is the viceroy, a butterfly that mimics in its color patterns the more delicious monarch, but instead—like Kentucky’s shooting—gives predators heartburn with its high concentrations of salicylic acid.

Finally, though nowhere near an ocean, Utah’s state bird is the seagull. As the story goes, when Mormons settled the state, locusts attacked their crops until, like a miracle, gulls appeared and ate them. As a 3-seed, Utah probably won’t need any miracles, unlike 15-seed Weber State of Ogden. But with the praying mantis as Connecticut’s state insect, maybe 12-seed Yale will get a miracle of its own.

As for me, I’ll be praying for mercy when I call in sick to watch hoops.

 

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High Five! Denver Upends KC, JJ Sprints to Title, and a UFC Champ–or Is He?

1) Despite two ankles wrapped like “mummy” and not “Manning,” an injured Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos handed the Kansas City Chiefs their first defeat Sunday night, 27-17 at Denver. KC was the last undefeated team in the NFL—a surprising and commendable turn of events for a team that ended last season with a fired coach, a player’s murder-suicide, and a new head coach, Andy Reid, who himself was fired after a long, spotty career with the Eagles.  The matchup was also anticipated because Denver and KC are also in the same division, the AFC West, and are two of the nation’s best teams, both now at 9-1. Denver is still without head coach John Fox, recovering from a successful aortic valve transplant two weeks ago.

Georges St-Pierre

You should have seen the other guy. (Accccctually the other guy looked pretty OK.)

2) In a questionable split-decision, followed by an even more bizarre statement of potential retirement, beloved—and bloodied—UFC champion Georges St-Pierre successfully defended his welterweight title a ninth time Saturday, beating Johny Hendricks. As a normally “GSP”-loving crowd booed, St-Pierre (25-2) was named the winner, then stated he was having personal problems and was going to “go away for a little bit.” Although classy in his speech, a clearly stunned Hendricks remarked how unfair it would be for St-Pierre to retire, and deny him a rematch. UFC president Dana White claimed he does not expect St-Pierre to retire and will immediately seek to line up the two fighters again. “Georges knew he lost, his corner knew he lost, Hendricks knew he won, and his corner knew they won,” said White.

3) Less than a week after No. 2 Michigan State knocked off No. 1 Kentucky, J.J. Mann set off another men’s basketball upset when he sank the go-ahead 3-pointer with 13.1 seconds left to lift unranked Belmont over No. 12 North Carolina 83-80 on Sunday in the Hall of Fame Tipoff. Mann finished with a career-best 28 points. The Tar Heels’ James McAdoo was not far behind, scoring a career-high 27 points with 13 rebounds.

4) Jimmie Johnson won his sixth NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup championship in eight years in Homestead, Fla., Sunday, putting him behind only Richard Petty and the late Dale Earnhardt Sr., each with seven titles. Johnson is the youngest driver to win six titles, reaching that mark 83 days before Petty. He’s also the fastest to six titles, as neither Petty nor Earnhardt did it in an eight-year span. Rounding out this year’s drivers, Matt Kenseth, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Jeff Gordon. Finishing in the middle of the Sprint Cup pack was Danica Patrick in 27th.

5) Finally, congratulations to my alma mater, Centre College, and its field hockey team, which lost in the Sweet Sixteen round of the NCAA tournament this weekend to Christopher Newport College, 1-0. It was the Lady Colonels’ first appearance in the tournament. Now, is there an American professional field hockey league? Not that I know of. Will you ever hear Shelby Judkins or Kirby Roberts on ESPN? Probably not. But you might see them owning it someday. Or in a boardroom, a corner office, maybe even the Oval Office. As the NCAA commercials say, most student-athletes will go pro in something other than sports. I can’t wait to see what these ladies do. Well done!