- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 21, 2001

The basketball programs at Maryland and Georgetown usually ignore one another, despite their geographical connection.

This is in the spirit of cooperation, sportsmanship and good, clean fun.

A Maryland-Georgetown basketball game comes around about as often as Halley's comet, which adds an exhausting dimension to their Sweet 16 meeting.

This is not what it is all about, this once-a-decade rendezvous, and not to take anything away from the NCAA suits who count Benjamins between these 40-minute, work-release efforts involving many of the finest indentured servants in the land.

The big basketball game between Maryland and Georgetown is tomorrow night in Anaheim, Calif., which is a few miles west of the nation's capital.

Pass the smelling salts. You probably feel faint. This game is so big, incredibly big, as big as it gets, except to Washington Gas, which still expects to be paid in prompt fashion, win or lose, regardless of your school loyalties, religious affiliation and political bent.

How about those skyrocketing gas bills?

As it is, the two teams are trying hard not to get caught up in the hype, although they elected not to stay in Siberia. They want to keep the game in perspective, and so, in an effort to preserve everyone's equilibrium, the Georgetown coaches decided to have their players blow off class this week.

Books come first, as any major college coach with a shoe contract can tell you.

Isn't that what Clem Haskins used to say as he was leading the Minnesota Gophers to national prominence? He certainly did not reveal the truth, which was, "We need to find a few minutes' rest for our team's academic adviser, the most prolific term-paper writer in America."

It is against NCAA rules to rape and pillage the community unless a program is trying to save lives. As you know, inden tured servants will be indentured servants.

Gary Williams does not want the UNLV job, becoming the 100th or so person to turn down the job, and the beauty in his case is UNLV did not offer him the job or, as far as anyone knows, even consider him for the job. The mindset is contagious. This space does not want the job, either.

It is hard to say why Georgetown and Maryland rarely get together on the basketball floor. Maybe part of it concerns the distribution of the Benjamins.

You can't eat on local rooting interests. You can eat on your summer basketball camps, one of the great legal rackets in America. The school provides the gym and the dorm rooms, the misguided provide their offspring and the roster provides the 5-cent-an-hour labor.

You can't gauge what this game means to the coaches of both schools. It can't hurt their recruiting efforts, the game within the game, which is never easy, especially if you are a middle-aged genius accustomed to being feted by Dick Vitale and Billy Packer.

Each fall, the middle-aged geniuses are obligated to get down on their knees and plead with the next teen phenom to come to their school. They also have to tell the mother of the teen phenom that her marinated liver dish hits the palate just right. Could she jot down the secret recipe?

This is all done with a wink, wink, or a wink and a nod, if it is an AAU tournament, where lots of people are watching to see how low the middle-aged geniuses, clad in their school-identifying shirts, will stoop.

Fortunately, the game on the floor, unlike the stuff around it, is real. Sometimes the fraudulence comes out later, as it did in Minnesota, and sometimes it is best to close your eyes to the hypocrisy and shower real well after you have been around it. You always can hope for the best.

This is the hip-hip-hooray time of the year, and not just because, at press time, neither Georgetown nor Maryland has backed out of the game yet.

Fourteen other basketball programs remain committed to the season.

News reports indicate that the coaches and players from both Georgetown and Maryland plan to be in the arena together at the appointed hour.

This is March Madness. This is a miracle.

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