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Inside the Chrome Dome (archive April 2007)

Please refer to the Inside the Chrome Dome main page for columns published in other issues.




 Picking Tournament Winners Can Become Squirrelly Process

This is D-Day for a lot of sports writers across the state and country. This is the week we are all supposed to revisit our basketball tournament predictions and either brag about how well we did, or come up with excuses as to why we were so very wrong.

Of course, a lot of those other sports guys simply won’t bring the subject up again, because who wants to be exposed for not really knowing enough about the teams to even come close on predictions?

As promised earlier, I will revisit those picks and reveal the end result. Me and my entire Chrome Dome staff (two squirrels) will stand up and take responsibility for the errors we committed, because, well, Eric said I have to do that and he signs the paychecks.

But first, I’ll explain the extreme scientific process used by serious sportswriters to make picks for tournament brackets. Each guy comes up with his own specific technique in an effort to gain an advantage on everyone else.

For years I have been using squirrels to help me pick games. I take two ballpark peanuts, and mark each one with the name of a team. For example, Notre Dame on one, Winthrop on the other, and then place the nuts at the base of a tree in my yard. The first nut taken by the squirrels is the team I pick to win the game.

By the way, they picked Notre Dame, missing on that game.

I’ve done it this way for years and it really only backfired once. After several years of those squirrels gathering winning team nuts and taking them to the tree, half of the tree actually broke off and landed on a neighbor’s car, crushing the hood. I had no idea those guys weren’t discarding the shells, and the poor tree couldn’t stand the weight.

Changing strategy, I decided to make my tourney picks the same way I took my tests back in high school. I guessed.

Of course, back then I was sitting to the right of a left-handed smart kid, so it really wasn’t guessing. But without that advantage, guessing on the picks gave me the same results I got on tests when my left-handed buddy sat somewhere else.

So I returned to the squirrels, which were up for the challenge in this year’s NCAA men’s tournament. To make my high school basketball tourney picks, I was forced to go with a different strategy because neighbor Ginny Manning’s cat was hanging around in the yard and the squirrels wouldn’t come out. Never mind that the cat has no claws and is afraid of butterflies, the squirrels wouldn’t listen to reason. After 15 minutes and standing at the base of that tree and pleading, I just gave up and told the neighbors the show was over.

I reverted to a “familiarity factor” in picking my high school games. My predictions, word-for-word, went like this:

“For my basketball picks, Indianapolis North Central will win the Class 4A title, Plymouth wins 3A, Winchester is an upset winner in 2A, and Oregon-Davis is a major upset winner in 1A. My logic stems from the following four factors: I once fished in Oregon and I have a brother-in-law named Davis; I once owned a Winchester rifle; I drive a Plymouth; and I like schools named after directions.”

How did I do? Well, Oregon-Davis won the Class A title, and Plymouth won the 3A title. Winchester lost the 2A championship game in double overtime, while North Central lost the 4A title game by four points. I’m proud to say, that ain’t bad.

For my college picks, I predicted Ohio State would beat Florida in the national championship game. My two final teams made it to the final, but Florida spoiled my party by beating Ohio State, 84-75.

I entered ESPN’s Tournament Challenge, along with nearly three million other people, and my bracket finished in the top three percent world-wide, I’m proud to announce. I ended up getting 60 of the 63 games right. I had been in the top 1/20th of one percent of the entries until the championship game, which I missed.

So there you have it: the results of my high school and college tourney picks, without much help from the squirrels and left-handed smart kids.

If it wasn’t for Ginny’s cat, who knows what would have happened.


The Chrome Dome

I’ve had a number of people ask me where the “Chrome Dome” title of my column originated.

As everyone knows, etiquette calls for nicknames to be assigned by another person. One cannot, under the rules, assign themselves a nickname. The Chrome Dome originated courtesy of Andy Lines.

Many years ago, in retaliation for Andy placing me square in the middle of an embarrassing situation, I bequeathed upon him the nickname “Pookie”, which came from either a cartoon character or a teddy bear, I don’t remember which.

“Pookie” caught on, and eventually, a lot of people were addressing him by that name. Andy retaliated against me with the “Chrome Dome” label, which stuck in some corners.

When the time came for a name on my column, it seemed fitting to use the only nickname I had that could be printed in a family newspaper.



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