March 20, 2003

Outdoor Corner

by Chris Feeney

Is the glass half empty or half full? You've heard me complain a number of times in this space how terrible the month of February is for me. Ice fishing is over and there are no open hunting seasons that I like. So all February is good for as far as I am concerned is cabin fever. But if I wasn't such a pessimist I might stop and consider the bright side of the dilemma. While February is a stinker for me, the upside is that March is right around the corner.

Granted this whole discussion hinges on good ole Mother Nature to a large degree, but for the most part the month of March is a total opposite of its predecessor. The ice is melting away so instead of crying about ice fishing being over we can start getting out the big poles and heading for the open water. While nothing tastes better than a mess of fish through the ice, the spring crappie season makes up for what it loses in quality with an increase in quantity.

The hunting picture might seem just a bleak for that old February pessimist in me, but a little bit of sun and some warm weather changes that outlook dramatically as well. Instead of moping around indoors cursing the calendar, March means spring turkey season is on the horizon. Of course it doesn't hurt that a little jaunt in the country will fill your head with images of the upcoming season as hardly a field you pass doesn't hold a number of turkeys. A few more days like we had this weekend and I suspect the old gobblers will start their spring strutting show. Plus if you are fortunate enough to live near the woods, I suspect the birds have already begun the sound effects. The old rooster chicken crowing at sunup does me little good but leave the window open over night and that first turkey gobble at dawn has me sitting straight up in bed just as if the stack of alarm clocks next to the bed had just gone off.

But even if we are not fortunate enough to get spring fever courtesy of an early warm spell like we had last week, March has even more positive attributes. We don't have the Super Bowl commercials or the hopes and dreams of my good old Cubbies finally making the World Series again, but I would have to say that the March Madness of the NCAA Tournament probably entertains more fans than any other one sporting event. What other activity offers the least knowledgeable sports fan in the entire office the opportunity to shine above the college basketball know-it-alls by winning the office pool. Sure, they may simply picked out the "neat" school names such as Gonzaga, Austin Peay or IUPUI, but anyone that has ever filled out a bracket will tell you it's better to be lucky than to be good.

I especially enjoyed the week leading up to the tournament selection Sunday as Mizzou was making a run through the Big 12 Tournament before falling by one point to Oklahoma in the championship game. A championship would have been nice but I was totally satisfied following the win over Kansas. Trophies are nice but if you follow MU basketball you know that a victory over the Jayhawks is the pinnacle of achievement. Okay maybe it's just my alumni bias but I think Mizzou is set up nicely in the NCAA Tourney. As the sixth seed in the Midwest bracket, arguably the weakest of the four regions, the Tigers could beat Southern Illinois, Marquette and Pittsburgh on their way to the Elite Eight and a regional final game against Kentucky, the odds on favorite to win the national title. Fortunately for all you, your brackets will be in before you get to see my picks and I won't sway you with my mistakes, but here's my Final Four - Kentucky, Illinois, Florida and Syracuse.

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