Mar 282002

Get out the gas masks; that time is coming again.

At the beginning and end of January, it strikes a couple towns. In the heat of the summer, it strikes a couple more. October gets caught, too.

And at the end of March Madness, it always arrives. It’s riot fever, and it will strike a new town this weekend.

Denver’s become accustomed to this bug. It came around when the Avalanche claimed hockey’s Stanley Cup last summer. I was there.

I was also there when the Broncos caused riots in 1997 and ’98 after Super Bowl wins. Let me tell you, Colorado likes riots (see also: University of Northern Colorado and University of Colorado at Boulder).

But they won’t be coming anywhere near Colorado this weekend. Lawrence, Kansas is the closest it might get.

Wherever the riots may appear, they will appear for the first time in quite awhile. Kansas, Maryland and Oklahoma may now be considered annual powerhouses, and Indiana a storied program, but none have won a championship in more than a decade, if at all.

The KU Jayhawks are the most recent champions as they won it all in 1988, before many of us had even hit puberty. It was before coach Roy Williams got there, and if he doesn’t win it this year, he very well may start his own riot. But it won’t be a good one (if riots can be considered good). Williams’ teams have had so many No. 1 seeds (they’re a No. 1 this year) but so many early tournament exits, Jayhawk fans engaged in pre-riots just for making it past the Sweet 16.

Hopefully for KU, it’ll meet OU in the championship game, as that was the team the Jayhawks beat for the title in ’88. Then there’s sweet redemption from a month ago; the Sooners knocked out KU in the Big 12 title game after the Jayhawks went 16-0 in league play during the season.

But Oklahoma would like to start a riot over a sports championship other than football for the first time in history. With a lack of professional teams, the town of Norman will be joined by the rest of the state in some happy violence should OU transform its reputation from a “football school” to an “also has basketball school.”

Bloomington, Ind., last saw a riot the year before Kansas last did. Well, I guess you could consider former coach Bobby Knight’s 29-year tenure at the helm its own little riot. But now with Knight gone and the prospect of facing either Kansas or Maryland, should the Hoosiers get past the Sooners, I don’t think there’s any worry of rioting this year.

The best rioting come Monday night may be in College Park, Md. The Terrapins made their first ever Final Four appearance last year but didn’t make it to the championship game. Should they win it all, expect another nut frenzy like the crazies in Baltimore when the Ravens won the Super Bowl in 2001.

Only this time, it will come from college kids, and college kids that will still be drunk from spring break. Sources close to me say Terps fans camp out for three days just for tickets to basketball games. Just imagine how long they’ll riot if a championship is won.

I heard surrounding campus stores are already out of gas masks.

 Posted by at 6:00 pm

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