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The Quick 10: 10 Things You Can Contribute to March Madness Conversations

I'm not very into basketball. I mean, I filled out a bracket and everything, but I filled it out pretty much based on their rankings and then threw in a couple of surprise underdog wins just for the heck of it. I have no idea what I'm doing. Now Fug Madness"¦ I could take you all down in Fug Madness. Except I made a major misstep by thinking Speidi was going to out-fug SWINTON"¦ that's going to come back to bite me.

I digress. Since I don't know much about basketball and can't jump into the conversation about teams with injured players or stats or anything like that, I thought I'd do a little research so I can at least offer up some interesting facts about the tournament. Here are my findings"¦ we'll see if I can work them into conversation without sounding totally awkward.

porter1. The term "March Madness" was popularized by H.V. Porter, who has some sweet hair (that's him in the picture). The phrase had nothing to do with college sports "“ it actually involved a high school tournament sponsored by the Illinois High School Association, which Porter belonged to (he was actually the assistant executive secretary of the organization). In 1939, Porter wrote an essay called "March Madness" for the IHSA's magazine. The first time "March Madness" was used to describe the NCAA tournament was in 1982, when a CBS sportscaster used it.
2. Even though one of their own coined the term, the IHSA didn't own the trademark "March Madness." You might suspect the NCAA snapped it up first "“ nope. By the time anyone thought to go after a trademark in the 1990s, it had already been taken by a television company. The IHSA bought the rights and then tried to sue the NCAA for using the term, but the United States Court of Appeals decided it was a dual-use trademark, so both parties are able to legally use the phrase.

3. You've probably noticed the winning team cutting down the net at the end of the game, but what happens to it? Well, everyone gets a piece. Each player gets to cut a strand off of the net, and the head coach gets the final strand and whatever part of the net is left.

4. There have only been two years where no #1 seed has made the Final Four "“ 1980 (#2 Louisville, #5 Iowa, #6 Purdue and #8 UCLA) and 2006 (#2 UCLA, #2 Florida, #4 LSU and #11 George Mason).

5. Since the games were expanded to include 64 teams, no #16 seed has ever defeated a #1 seed, although there have been some close calls "“ one even went into overtime (Murray State vs. Michigan State in 1990). And if you chose a #15 over a #2 seed in your bracket, that was probably a mistake as well"¦ 96% of the time, the #2 seed wins.

floor6. For more than 20 years, the winning team has also gotten to keep the floor from the game that won them the title. The school can do whatever they want with it "“ some reuse in their own arenas, some sell pieces to students and fans, and others even donate it (Duke did, which I point out to get brownie points from Will, Mangesh and Jason).
7. When the NCAA tournament was first held, there were slots for only eight teams. That makes for a pretty short March Madness, I guess! The first eight teams were Texas, Oklahoma, Utah State, Villanova, Brown, Wake Forest, Oregon and Ohio State. The latter two competed for the championship and Oregon won. It's the only time they've won.

8. According to one estimate, American business lose around $237 million a day during March Madness because employees are busy talking about games, filling out brackets, checking scores on the computer or taking time off to sit in front of the T.V.

9. You know there are some knuckle-biters in March Madness, but quadruple overtime?! Yup "“ it has happened twice. In 1956, Canisius College was playing N.C. State in the quarterfinals. Even though the Golden Griffins were huge underdogs, the score was tied at the end of regulation. At the end of the first OT, the score was 69-69. One shot each made it 71-71 at the end of the second, and it stayed that way for the end of the third as well. It was 77-78 N.C. State with four seconds left when Cansius' Fran Corcoran hit a shot and won them the game, 79-78.

The second time it happened was in 1961, when St. Joe's played the University of Utah. The regulation game ended 89-89, and then in the first OT, a St. Joe's player sunk a basket"¦ for Utah. Whoops. The first OT ended with a score of 97-97. The second OT saw 101 for both teams, and the third was 112-112. Finally, in the fourth, the Hawks got tired of messing around with the Utes and ended the game 127-120. Awesome! Except it ended up not counting. Three of the St. Joe's players were involved in a gambling scandal immediately after the tournament and their historic win was stricken from the records. And no, I didn't actually know any of this (are you kidding me?). These two fabulous stories come from Allen Zullo's book March to Madness.

10. In 1940, Mary Jo McCracken, the wife of Indiana coach Branch McCracken (that's a heck of a name, isn't it?) thought his players were too stressed about the game. So she sneaked them out of the hotel room after her husband went to bed and took them to see Gone with the Wind. You know, to de-stress. It must have worked "“ they smashed the Jayhawks 60-42 and won the championship. (That story's also from the fabulous March to Madness.

So, there you have it. If anyone successfully uses these in water-cooler conversations, be sure to let me know. I like to feel like I've done something to contribute to the $237 million American corporations have lost today.

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Bleat Along to Classic Holiday Tunes With This Goat Christmas Album
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Feeling a little Grinchy this month? The Sweden branch of ActionAid, an international charity dedicated to fighting global poverty, wants to goat—errr ... goad—you into the Christmas spirit with their animal-focused holiday album: All I Want for Christmas is a Goat.

Fittingly, it features the shriek-filled vocal stylings of a group of festive farm animals bleating out classics like “Jingle Bells,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and “O Come All Ye Faithful.” The recording may sound like a silly novelty release, but there's a serious cause behind it: It’s intended to remind listeners how the animals benefit impoverished communities. Goats can live in arid nations that are too dry for farming, and they provide their owners with milk and wool. In fact, the only thing they can't seem to do is, well, sing. 

You can purchase All I Want for Christmas is a Goat on iTunes and Spotify, or listen to a few songs from its eight-track selection below.

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What Are the 12 Days of Christmas?
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Everyone knows to expect a partridge in a pear tree from your true love on the first day of Christmas ... But when is the first day of Christmas?

You'd think that the 12 days of Christmas would lead up to the big day—that's how countdowns work, as any year-end list would illustrate—but in Western Christianity, "Christmas" actually begins on December 25th and ends on January 5th. According to liturgy, the 12 days signify the time in between the birth of Christ and the night before Epiphany, which is the day the Magi visited bearing gifts. This is also called "Twelfth Night." (Epiphany is marked in most Western Christian traditions as happening on January 6th, and in some countries, the 12 days begin on December 26th.)

As for the ubiquitous song, it is said to be French in origin and was first printed in England in 1780. Rumors spread that it was a coded guide for Catholics who had to study their faith in secret in 16th-century England when Catholicism was against the law. According to the Christian Resource Institute, the legend is that "The 'true love' mentioned in the song is not an earthly suitor, but refers to God Himself. The 'me' who receives the presents refers to every baptized person who is part of the Christian Faith. Each of the 'days' represents some aspect of the Christian Faith that was important for children to learn."

In debunking that story, Snopes excerpted a 1998 email that lists what each object in the song supposedly symbolizes:

2 Turtle Doves = the Old and New Testaments
3 French Hens = Faith, Hope and Charity, the Theological Virtues
4 Calling Birds = the Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists
5 Golden Rings = the first Five Books of the Old Testament, the "Pentateuch", which gives the history of man's fall from grace.
6 Geese A-laying = the six days of creation
7 Swans A-swimming = the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven sacraments
8 Maids A-milking = the eight beatitudes
9 Ladies Dancing = the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit
10 Lords A-leaping = the ten commandments
11 Pipers Piping = the eleven faithful apostles
12 Drummers Drumming = the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle's Creed

There is pretty much no historical evidence pointing to the song's secret history, although the arguments for the legend are compelling. In all likelihood, the song's "code" was invented retroactively.

Hidden meaning or not, one thing is definitely certain: You have "The Twelve Days of Christmas" stuck in your head right now.

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