John Kelly's Washington

Forget the NCAA stats. I'm betting on the Mascots.

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By John Kelly
Thursday, March 18, 2010

Like a lot of people, I spent Wednesday with a sharpened pencil in my hand, hunched over a piece of paper, filling out my brackets. Unlike most of those people, I had no idea what I was doing.

I don't know anything about college basketball, and it is probably an insult to the game and to the aspirations of thousands of amateur prognosticators for me to even venture a guess as to the outcome of the NCAA basketball tournament. But Jon DeNunzio from our Sports section put together a "VIP" section for The Post's online prediction contest and asked if I would participate. I said I would, if I could base my selections solely on the teams' mascot/nickname matchups and not on the actual skills of the players.

In other words: Which animal/historical figure/mythical creature would come out on top in a fight?

Some of the picks were just too easy. Terriers (Wofford) are bred to root out Badgers (Wisconsin). With their obsidian blades and human sacrifices, you would expect the bloodthirsty Aztecs (San Diego State) to make mincemeat of the well-intentioned Volunteers (Tennessee). Similarly, a Musketeer (Xavier) is going to make quick work of a Golden Gopher (Minnesota). Bang!

Humans vanquish animals in most of my contests, except when I think those humans might be out of their element. A Musketeer has no idea how to handle a Gator (Florida). And while you would normally expect a Cowboy (Oklahoma) to beat a Yellow Jacket (Georgia Tech), what if that Cowboy goes into anaphylactic shock, as I predict? Maybe you shoulda thought to carry an EpiPen, Cowboy.

Birds don't come off well in my bracket. They end up in a lot of feline teeth. An exception: the Owls of Temple. I downgraded any team whose mascot and/or nickname is simply a color. Sorry, Cornell Big Red.

I had to make a lot of judgment calls. What to make of the Tiger/Tiger matchup between Clemson and Missouri, for example? I have to go with Clemson, because Missouri's Tiger is named "Truman" and that doesn't sound very threatening. (The Japanese might disagree.)

When the battle is human-on-human, I go with frontier toughness over raw strength (Texas A&M Aggies over Purdue Boilermakers), demonic possession over frontier toughness (Duke Blue Devils over Aggies); and raccoon-skinning, buckskin-wearing backwoodsmen over demonic possession (West Virginia Mountaineers over Blue Devils).

You can make your own predictions until noon Thursday at washingtonpost.com/65challenge.

Whom did I pick to go all the way? You can look online. Let's just say that when a Mountaineer sees a tree, he wants to chop it down.

The kick inside

I'm not quite ready to fight a two-front war. I have my hands full with dog poop. But I couldn't help but think of last summer's quixotic Radical Civility crusade when my colleague JoAnn Goslin pointed out a listing in The Post's Alexandria Crime Report last week:

JEFFERSON DAVIS HWY., 3500 block, 10:55 a.m. March 5. While a woman was texting in a movie theater, a person kicked her shoulder and the back of her seat.


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