DALLAS — I am from the North. I have Northern ways.
I have Northern friends. And a Northern license plate. I have walked in Northern snow.
I have stayed in Northern cities, such as Detroit and Boston and New York and Chicago and Seattle. I work for a Northern newspaper.
I would recommend the North to anybody. I would tell strangers to come North. I would say the North has a lot to offer that you can’t find in the South, such as bagels.
I would say the North is half of this nation.
Wouldn’t you say that?
Because of this, I would think anything that begins with the word
“national” ought to make sure it includes the North. Half the nation. Wouldn’t you think that?
But I am here at the Final Four of the NCAA, which stands for National Collegiate something or other, and with four chances to get it right I still find there is no North.
Nowhere. Who’s a Northerner to root for?
Look around. Louisville and Louisiana State are here, both from the South. There is Duke, which is from North Carolina, but they’re not fooling me. I’ve heard their accents. And there is Kansas, which isn’t really South or North, I guess, but, well, you know, in the middle.
And that’s it. The four finalists are the national tournament and not one of them can drive to Canada without spending the night in a hotel.
And where is it all being played? Here in Texas, home of chicken fried steak, which I guarantee you is not something you find on a Northern menu, unless you’re in a very strange neighborhood.
There is something wrong with all this.
It’s not like the North doesn’t play college basketball. I seem to recall a few teams from Michigan that weren’t too shabby, and a Syracuse and a St. John’s and a Washington and a DePaul and a Villanova.
I seem to recall a few pretty good players from the North, such as a Walter Berry and a Scott Skiles and a Pearl Washington and a Roy Tarpley and a Harold Pressley.
We could have gotten behind any of those guys, us Northerners. We’re not picky. If they own snow boots, we’ll root for them.
But no. Noooooooo. Instead we have teams that eat hominy grits with their eggs and are still ticked off about the Civil War.
Except Kansas, which as I said, isn’t really South or North but, you know, in the middle.
(By the way, you may be wondering how one intelligently determines what is North and what is South. Intelligently? I have no idea. I took a pencil, put it on Washington, D.C., and drew a line across the country. Up is North, down is South. Anybody who talks funny gets put in the South also.)
So what are Northerners to do? Whom can they root for in this non-Northern basketball madness?
Well, if not teams, how about players? Occasionally a Northern player has been tempted to go South, especially when the coach shows photos of girls around the campus swimming pool.
So I checked the starting lineups of the Final Four teams. And do you know what I found? Three of the four do not have a single pure Northern starter. The best they can do is Nebraska and Maryland, which are sort of like Kansas.
Kansas, as you know, isn’t really South or North, but in the middle.
All the other starters are from places such as Plain Dealing, La., and Drewry, N.C.
We are up to our ears in cowboy hats and Brunswick stew.
The North is in trouble. Cards have 2 Northern birds
Only the Louisville Cardinals offer any hope. They start Milt Wagner and Billy Thompson, who are both from Camden, N.J., a city just across the river from Philadelphia, which is definitely North, as sure as a pig’s feet are dirty — as they say here in the South.
So this is what I am doing: I am rooting for Wagner and Thomas to score 250 points this afternoon. I am rooting for them to block every shot that LSU throws up. I am rooting for them to dunk the ball and break the backboard and take pieces of it home in the pockets of their ski parkas.
And I am hoping that when they do all this, and are interviewed on TV, they will say, “We owe it all to the Northern way of life. Hi, Mom.”
That is what I am doing. And I recommend you fellow Northerners do the same.
Unless you want to root for Kansas, which, as mentioned, is not really South or North, but, you know, in the middle.
Either way this is a frustrating weekend for someone from the North. In fact, it can drive you to eat hush puppies and blackstrap.
What is what I went downstairs to do, when I ran into a friend who works for a California newspaper. He looked angry.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“Have you noticed,” he said, “that not one of these teams is from the West?”