Perhaps you have to be here in this snowy, sleepy city at this electric time of year to understand why it is fashionable to dress as pigs.
The trend was brought in camper trucks from Arkansas by fans of the Razorback basketball team who came here for the NCAA tournament. Arkansas lost Saturday but its fans continue to win admiration and envy by wearing their hog hats to dinner, to discos and to church on Easter Sunday.
The hats vary in size but all feature ears and eyes on top of the head and an ugly snout protruding from the brow. Believe it or not, these hats are rare. At least 50 people a day approach each pit-headed fan and try to buy or steal his or her hat.
Everyone connected with college basketball here is trapped in a hotel because of the weather. It was 78 degrees Wednesday but it has been raining and snowing since Friday.
There are 1,400 coaches, 400 media people, four basketball teams, two all-star teams and thousans of button-wearing, beer-slinging fans in St. Louis for the premier event in college basketball - the NCAA championship.
Maryland Coach Lefty Driesell is one of few party-poopers. He said in February he wouldn't go "unless my team goes or unless they hold it in Bermuda."
Driesell will miss this week's meetings of the National Association of Basketball Coaches, where rumors are flying that the dunk will be outlawed across the land in high schools.
More important, Driesell is bypassing the time-honored ritual of standing in the lobby of the coaches' hotel and being accosted by people seeking assistants' jobs or a game on the 1979 schedule. He is missing the salesmen who are here peddling everything from uniforms to rebounding machines.
There are even salesmen better known as flesh peddlers, who promise to deliver the signature of a recruit on a letter of intent in return for certain considerations. Mostly, there is talk, and a lot of standing in the lobby.
"Have I stood around a lot in the lobby?" repeated Texas Coach Abe Lemons. "I'm on my way to have my ankles taped right now."
Saturday night a couple of writers went lobby-watching at the Chase Park Plaza, where the coaches stay. In 20 minutes, they saw Danny Crum (Louisville), John Thompson (Georgetown), Hugh Durham (Florida State), Bill Foster (Duke), George Raveling (Washington State) and Bobby Knight (Indiana).
Knight's team is not here but his basketball floor is. The tournament is being played in the Checkerdome, which closely resembles a meat locker in temperature and design. Apparently the basketball floor was also the pits, so Knight's floor was trucked in from Bloomington, Ind. The accounts for the map of Indiana in the middle of the court.
So far, the show-me state has shown the basketball visitors little more than a bunch of snow they didn't expect. Nonetheless, Lemons is having a good time.
"I'm glad they didn't have it in Las Vegas with all that sin," said Lemons, who received a Kodak award yesterday as cocoach of the year, along with Duke's Foster. "This is a lovely place. The climate, the location, the (Gateway) Arch - it's wonderful."
It is possible to take an elevator up inside St. Louis' landmark and look out on all the snow and deserted streets. Lemons was asked if he had gone up to the top of the arch.
"You mean from the outside?" he said. "I'll tell you what. I was pretty high last night, but I wasn't in the arch. They tried to sell me the Brooklyn Bridge, but I didn't buy it, and I'm not going up in no arch.
"I'm here to see my friends. It's like a family reunion. Coaches hang around with coaches. Writers hang around with writers."
The Kentucky team is taking everything dead serious. After its win Saturday over Arkansas, writers were surprised to go to the Kentucky locker room and find it deserted. Two players were brought to the postgame press conference, then all were quickly whisked away, still in uniform, to the hotel. The team ate dinner and attended a two-hour meeting in the coach's room while Duke's Bill Foster was hotel-hopping and giving his team the night off.
Kentucky has been No. 1 most of the year and has four standout seniors who may consider Lemons' route up the arch if Kentucky loses tonight.
"We have not celebrated all year. The only way we can have success is to win the NCAA," said Coach Joe B. Hall at the press conference yesterday. He then pointed out that players James Lee and Jack Givens "have broken a rule" by attending Easter Sunday services. No, it is not against the rules to go to church, only to leave the hotel without checking with Hall.