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Audible: Fun-sucking NCAA is not life of the party

The Oscars will be handed out tonight and, as usual, I have not seen any of the 35 Best Picture nominees. My wife is talking about having a party, but I refuse to dress up. I might sample some hors d’oeuvres, but when the speeches start I’ll check out Ashlee Arnau’s halfcourt, throw-in swish. If you haven’t seen it, fire up your computer. I might have to rethink my “cheerleaders aren’t athletes” stance.

The power brokers at UD, as well as our local business leaders and politicians, are terrified to utter a negative word about the vindictive NCAA for fear of losing the First Four, which this area has treated like royalty since the very first play-in game. Fortunately, I have nothing to lose, so allow me to say that the NCAA is a stuffy, fun-sucking, hypocritical organization that should be put on double-secret probation for forcing an 11th-hour cancellation of the First Four Festival.

From what I understand, the NCAA was concerned about its “corporate sponsors” throwing a hissy-fit because the Oregon District event might include businesses that haven’t received the stamp of approval. I believe this to be true because I’ve worked NCAA tournament games at UD Arena at which I could not take a Diet Coke to press row. Had to pour my drink into a cup that featured a sponsor’s logo.

By all accounts, last year’s inaugural First Four Festival was a hit. If the NCAA had the ability to loosen up, it might actually enjoy such an event and recognize its value in a community that wants to be its partner.

I drove to Indianapolis on Friday and took in the Butler-Saint Louis game at sold-out Hinkle Fieldhouse. If you’re a sports fan, you should put “trip to Hinkle” on your bucket list. The Billikens enjoyed the experience, taking control of the Atlantic 10 with a 65-61 win. SLU plays amazing defense, led by its three guards, and committed just four turnovers. I’m thinking of putting them in the Elite Eight on my bracket.

The NFL combine has added a new test: sneaking guns onto an airplane (which precedes the 40-yard dash, for obvious reasons). Apparently this is a key skill among pro athletes. Tampa Bay’s Da’Quan Bowers was the latest stupid football player to get busted trying to pack a handgun in his carry-on.

Here’s hoping Brad Keselowski keeps speaking his mind. NASCAR’s Sprint Cup champion had the nerve to question the France Machine last week, which earned him a trip to the principal’s office. Athletes who spit out something other than cliches? Bring it on!

Joey Votto had two hits, both singles, in the Reds’ exhibition opener on Friday. That’s good news, but until he starts hitting home runs the fear will be that his two knee surgeries last year turned him into Joe Mauer.

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