by | Nov 21, 2008 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — We start with the pigs.

Oh, they may not call themselves pigs. They may call themselves Hogs, or Razorbacks, or President of the United States, but they sure look like pigs, don’t they, with those snouts on their heads? See them over there? Cute, huh? Some even wear a whole pig face and little curlicue ears, and they walk around making “oink!” sounds.

Others just vomit from beer.

Watch your step, folks.

As your tour guide today through the lobbies, arenas, parking lots and sports bars of the Final Four, I will point out any Hog fans we see — but I must warn you getting too close can be hazardous. These folks have been waiting a long time to get to The Big Dance, and, well, they know how to rhumba.

Besides, once a man dresses like a pig, he’s liable to do anything.

Question from the back? Yes? The word Razorback? Where does it come from? Good question. I have no idea.

Another question? The phrase “WHOO, PIG, SOOEY!” What does it mean? Well. I believe it is what the Chinese chef yelled when he dropped a hot dog into his pot.

I could be wrong.

I do know this. The Razorbacks come from Arkansas, same as Bill Clinton, our president, who is their biggest fan. We may even see the prez here, with his wife, Hillary, who, in addition to being married to Razorback Bill, has shown great expertise in the commodity markets, which means she can handle both hogs and pork bellies.

Oh, look. A fan.


Uh, let’s move on, shall we?

Watch your step. To the south and west

A second group you’ll notice are the Florida fans. They, too, wear animal costumes on their heads. Alligators. That’s right. Big Gator jaws that come poking out at you. You might say to yourself, “I just had a silly thought. What would happen if the Gator Heads started banging against the Hog Heads?”

Stick around.

Gators fans are not used to being at the Final Four, either. In fact, this is their first time. They are much more accustomed to gridiron success. Here you see a group of orange- clad students tossing footballs in a parking lot. Very nice. Unfortunately, they just awoke from their New Year’s Eve hangovers

and think this is the Sugar Bowl.

Let’s not tell them, OK?

Question from the back? “Is it true Florida has a player who calls his favorite shot ‘Da Meat Hook’?”

Yes. Obviously one of their Rhodes Scholar candidates.

“Do Florida fans drink beer like Arkansas fans?”



Watch your step, folks.

All right. If you can hear me over the marching bands, look at this souvenir stand, and you’ll see the third team at this Final Four, the cardinal and navy of the Arizona Wildcats. Their fans have come far–

Question? “Why are they down on their knees, kissing the ground?”

Well, they’re not used to getting to the Final Four, either. Matter of fact, Arizona fans have become pretty used to a total collapse in the tournament. Many of them actually wept when the team made the Final Four, because they had to buy full-fare plane tickets.

Question? “What’s a Wildcat?”

Oh, I don’t know. Miles Davis? Jack Kerouac? They were pretty wild cats.

Question? “If the team name is Wildcats, why is its team song ‘Bear Down, Arizona’? Shouldn’t it be the Wild Bears? Or ‘Cat Down, Arizona’?”

Uh . . . let’s move on, shall we? The team from Durham

Now we come to the last team in the Final Four, the Duke Blue Devils. See the tents? Inside each tent is at least one student who hasn’t showered in a week. This is a tradition at Duke, waiting in tents for tickets. Never mind that all the tickets are gone for the Final Four. Tradition is tradition.

Duke is also the “academic” school, which means students hoist a beer in one hand and a textbook in the other. Duke invents special insults for opposing teams, such as this one last year for the Fab Five of Michigan: “FIVE SOPHOMORES, NO TITLES!”

Duke fans also wear alligators, like Florida fans. But Duke fans wear them on their shirts.

Question? “Why do their fans look sleepy?”

Perhaps because Duke has been here before. In fact, Duke has been in all but one of the last six Final Fours. It has won two of the last three titles.

Also, midterms just ended.

So there you have it. Our tour finishes here, outside the Charlotte Coliseum, where, as you can see, the student masses already are gathered in joyous celebration. Let’s listen:

“GO HOGS! . . . URP! . . . GO DEVILS! . . . BELLLCH! . . . WHAT’S YOUR MAJOR?”

Question? Whose mascot is that? The creature with the bulging eyes?

That’s Dick Vitale.

Keep your distance. He could be dangerous.


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Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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