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'March Madness,' high school style

March 03, 2001

'March Madness,' high school style



High school playoff time almost makes me feel like singing an Andy Williams tune.

"It's the most wonderful time of the year ..."

The open playoff format in Maryland, which ensures every team advances to the postseason regardless of its record, makes for great drama.

It's a whirlwind of activity for two weeks, from the time the ping-pong balls are drawn from the lottery machines to determine the tournament pairings until the regional finals are played.

As much fun as it can be studying the brackets and projecting which teams will advance, the whole process is enough to make your head spin.

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In the Maryland basketball playoffs, the boys' and girls' teams play on alternating nights. The boys play region quarterfinals on Monday, the girls on Tuesday. Boys semifinals on Wednesday, girls on Thursday. And so on.

That seems like it should be a good thing from a scheduling standpoint and, to a degree, it is. At the least, it means we'll have a maximum of only 13 Maryland teams playing on any given night, as opposed to 26.

But with games scheduled every night of the week, it becomes a difficult task to assign reporters to all of the games. Asking for more hours from correspondents than they are accustomed to working and assigning games to staffers on their day off are just two of the pitfalls.

And most times, the call comes with little notice. I call Monday night and need them to work Tuesday night.

I'm fortunate enough to have four staff writers - Bob Parasiliti, Dan Spears, Al Ditzel and Dan Kauffman - who make that difficult task a lot easier.

Whether it's asking one of them to write a game preview at home on their day off or make the two-hour drive to Accident, Md., to cover a game, they're here to make sure it gets done.

Part-time correspondents Curt Hornbecker, Bill Sterner, Addie Staebler and Jack Hill put in extra hours and politely take my phone calls asking them to do so, while editorial assistants Nicole Miller, Josh Neumann and Jessica Sirbaugh man the phones in the office.

Just as it does for the basketball teams that have advanced to the state tournament, it takes a team effort from The Herald-Mail sports staff to provide readers the best coverage of Tri-State sports.

As the leader of The Herald's sports staff, I'm proud of the effort my team has put forth while following the progress of your teams this postseason.

Earnhardt's legacy

Here's a final word on legendary NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt, who died in a last-lap crash at the Daytona 500 two weeks ago today.

Earnhardt was a lot of things to a lot of people. To those within the racing community, he was an icon who carried a sport first into the 20th century, then into the 21st. He took the lead when NASCAR's king, Richard Petty, retired from racing in 1984, and became "The Intimidator."

To racing fans, there was very little gray area. Many fans, as evidenced by the huge turnout at both organized and spontaneous tributes to the fallen driver, loved Earnhardt and his image as "The Man in Black." An almost equal number of fans hated him and his style of racing.

But there is no denying the impact he had on all sports, not only auto racing.

He was bigger than his sport. And whether you loved him or hated him, his death will cast a shadow over that sport for a long time.

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