In which I imagine characters from The Wire being asked to make known which team they'll be rooting for during this year's NCAA Tournament.
Character: Jimmy McNulty, Homicide Detective
Favorite team: Arizona Wildcats
Justification: What's the only thing Jimmy loves more than sexy girls and heavy booze -- the unofficial mascots of the University of Arizona? Chaos, of course. And lots of it. Nothing would make him happier than to see the tournament's most controversial at-large selection make a deep run to the Final Four.
Money quote: [with a wink] "Tie on a red ribbon and a rubber. Go Cats."
Character: Bunk Moreland, Homicide Detective
Favorite team: Maryland Terrapins
Justification: Because he's sick of this shit, man. Sick of the Gary Williams haters raising stink for no good reason. Man's a national title winner, don't ya know. And Bunk just wants shit to be back like it used to be. Back when things made a little more sense.
Money quote: "You know what they call a coach who's brought you home a national title? One you keep."
Character: Rhonda Pearlman, Assistant State's Attorney
Favorite team: Memphis Tigers
Justification: She likes her basketball teams same as she likes her men and coffee -- strong enough to knock you out -- and John Calipari's Tigers are once again a roster overflowing with physical specimens.
Money quote: "What's the worst thing imaginable on your favorite team? A Memphis defense."
Character: Tommy Carcetti, Baltimore Mayor
Favorite team: Morgan State Bears
Justification: With Pearlman taking the Terps off the board, the Mayor is left to do what he does best -- alternate between cursing his rotten luck and scrambling to duct tape the most recent leak in his political boat. It's only after Norman Wilson has enjoyed 10 straight minutes of laughter (at Carcetti's profanity-laden rant towards Pearlman and what she's doing to fuck him out of a run at governor) that he decides to let Carcetti know that Morgan State, a historically black university in Maryland, beat the Terps earlier this year and then won the MEAC to earn their trip to the Tournament on the 15-line in the South Regional. In the end, Carcetti's rooting interest mirrors every other decision he makes... Calculated to keep the tenuous support of the all-important preachers.
Money quote: "You're holding me to a pathetic fucking basketball team. Morgan State? Jesus, Reverend! ... I'm sorry. I can't believe I said that."
Character: Augustus Haynes, City Desk Editor, Baltimore Sun
Favorite team: Minnesota Golden Gophers
Justification: Oh, sure -- the world is racing forward, chasing progress ever-faster at each turn along the way. Augustus Haynes can see that same as everyone else, and as a man who takes seriously the idea of professionalism he'll even tow the line where he has to. But if he trusts you, he'll tell you what he really thinks. About how the more things change, the more they stay the same. Truth be told, when the Sun's march towards self-destruction hits that rapidly approaching point of no return, there's a whole lot about the job Augustus won't miss for so long as a second. Fuck 'em. The music will one day stop, but the show will go on, same as it always has, and sometime -- maybe not soon, but eventually -- reality will catch up to all these clowns. Everyone has their day of reckoning. What to do in the meantime? For now, he's backing Tubby Smith for all the same reasons. And looking forward to the day of reckoning for the Kentucky fans who ran him out of town.
Money quote: "Kentucky's got it coming to them. Billy Fucking Gillispie? He snatches up a Sweet 16 or two, and he's gone from one place to the next. For him, that's what this is all about. I'm too fuckin' simple-minded for that. And I'll be rooting like a motherfucker for Tubby Smith every last day he's on someone else's bench."
Character: Omar Little, Stick Up Man
Favorite team: Whomever's Playing Baylor (NIT)
Justification: He might keep an eye on the Big Dance, but Omar's thoughts right now are trained on making sure Baylor's Scott Drew gets what he deserves. If that means following the NIT to root against Baylor, so be it. Not happy about it, Baylor fans? Tough shit. The way Omar sees it, Drew's shady business with recruiting and AAU coach hiring make him a fair target.
Money quote: "It's all in the game though, right?."
Character: The Greek, Drug Importer
Favorite team: Texas Longhorns
Justification: Only a lucky few manage to boil down a chaotic world into something simple. Among them The Greek, who typifies the oft-heard but rarely practiced advice to do one thing and do it well. No surprise, then, that The Greek chose a team to root for with the same elegant simplicity underlying every decision he makes. And this one may have been the simplest of all -- he read that Texas Monthly article, too.
Money quote: "Business. Always business."
Character: Stringer Bell, Drug Kingpin
Favorite team: North Carolina Tar Heels
Justification: What? You think because Stringer Bell grew up rooting for the Terps like all the other Maryland kids that he can't get in with the tournament favorites now just 'cause they're supposed to be rivals? Hell, no. In fact, that's precisely the ubiquitous, self-defeating mindset frustrating Stringer Bell to no end -- be it Avon and the rules of the street, or bureaucratic red tape suffocating above-the-board business opportunities. A pure free market disciple like Stringer won't think twice about backing the 'Heels as his team for this tournament. And anyway, he hopes his actions will impress the point upon Avon, 'cause he's not sure how much more he can take of the senseless street gangster code of conduct. That bullshit's not much more than a costly sideshow to the main event: running a business. Stringer Bell's not interested in being provincial; he's interested in being profitable. That's what the best businessmen do, and that's exactly what he considers himself. He has no doubt in his mind at all: it's time for the rules of the street to give way to the rules of the marketplace. Lesson 1? A profitable partnership is a good partnership, end of story. Doesn't matter if the allegiance is with an East Side drug dealer or a rival basketball team. Not to a real capitalist, it doesn't.
Money quote: "You know, Avon, you gotta think about what we got in this game for, man. Huh? Was it the red and yellow? Was it so our names could ring out on some fucking college we ain't invited to, man? Naw, man. There's games beyond the fucking game"
Character: William Rawls, Deputy Ops/Commissioner
Favorite team: Pittsburgh Panthers
Justification: Though the man he presents to the world is a hardest of hardasses, a sensitive and compassionate man hides beneath the surface. For Rawls, Pitt provides the perfect rooting interest. A strong, talented, no-nonsense team which in DeJuan Blair features one of the country's most effective and productive interior players, the squad's profile guarantees suspicious minds will miss the real reason for his Panther fandom... Rawls' 'sensitive side can't help but feel for the successful Panthers' struggles to get over the Sweet 16 hump. Despite appearances in the Sweet 16 in 4 of the last 6 seasons, Pitt is 0-4 in their atttempts to make the Regional Final. And though Rawls would sooner die than admit it to you, the truth is that Jamie Dixon is awfully cute.
Money quote: "This team gets to the Regional Final in Boston or I'll drown them in the Three Rivers myfuckingself. Those are the only two possible endings for this team so help me God."
Character: M Scott Templeton, Lieface, Baltimore Sun
Favorite team: Oklahoma Sooners
Justification: M Scott Templeton will remember Christmas Day 2008 for the rest of his life. A perfect overnight snowfall blanketed the ground, disturbed only a yard or two by the copy of the New York Times his paper boy had long-tossed up his front walk. The bold, fresh aroma of Kona coffee wafted through his house -- a special Christmas gift from Whiting, given to him aside from all the others. Whiting gave him the coffee, a wink, and news that there had just been a very good phone call from the Pulitzer Committee. That Christmas Day would have been perfect with nothing more, but with his first pull of hot coffee an exclusive-to-the-Times news feature in the Sports section caught his eye. He'd never cared much for football, but something about the Christmas Day timing of the piece struck him as odd and he began to read. Almost immediately, the picture came into focus. "It takes a cheat to know one..." he chuckled to himself as he continued reading. By the time he finished the piece, what had started as a knowing grin had grown to an ear-to-ear smile. Thayer Evans, whoever he was, had written a magnum opus of BS journalism. Scott almost wished he'd thought of it himself, though affter the miserable trip to Camden Yards last April he was in no hurry to go anywhere near sports stories of any kind.
That thought was very suddenly cut off and interrupted by whatever part of the brain controls paranoia, which sent a terrifying warning shot demanding immediate consideration: Any chance they're on to you? And that this is a doctored version of the Times delivered as a not-so-subtle message that They Know?
For a full minute Scott was frozen in his kitchen chair, barely able to breathe as the panic consumed him. Finally, the survival part of the brain got its shit together and started firing response relays at a frantic pace. At first, only wild ideas: Get in your car. Drive to Mexico. Never look back. Followed soon thereafter by more measured ideas: Go find an open store and buy a copy of the Times to compare with your delivery. And finally, just as he grabbed his car keys to race out the door, the solution: Just sign on to nytimes.com! Bounding up his stairs three at a time, paranoia went back to work with thoughts of internet failure from the overnight snowstorm.
His hands were shaking badly enough that he had to aim his fingers at each indvidual keystroke. The URL entered, his eyes trained to his browser's status bar as he hit enter... Immediately the page began to load and within two seconds the entire Times front page displayed on his monitor. And within 10 seconds and two clicks of the mouse, he was laughing at how silly he'd just been. Thayer Evans' story prominent led the online sports page. An ecstatic M Scott Templeton read through the story again, this time with more care, taking time to appreciate each and every trick Evans had deployed.
It was brilliant. "And I"d know," Scott thought to himself. There were a handful of shady tricks that Scott had been using for years, but Evans had also deployed a few tricks Scott had never before considered. He was deeply impressed with Evans' ability to write the story in a way that masked its true nature as a single-sourced job. And as far as Scott was concerned, Evans deserved some sort of medal for the McFarland English paper. Scott assumed the paper was part of Evans' bounty for working so masterfully the embittered mother, but a secret part of him hoped that Evans had either stolen it from the family home or, better yet, forged the whole thing himself -- a Templeton trick he'd used countless times at the Sun.
By the end of the day he'd read the article three more times, and by New Year's Eve had made contact with Evans himself. Though Evans at first thought Scott was trying to expose him, once Scott had calmed Evans' initial nerves, they wound up talking for three straight hours. Those first few days of sharing tips and comparing notes were stimulating in the same way that a smitten couple enjoys their first few dates.
By the time brackets were announced, M Scott Templeton's decision as to whom he'd back in the tournament was even easier than The Greek's. With as much passionate energy as his new best friend conveyed in talking about his beloved Oklahoma Sooners, Scott was thrilled to adopt them as his own. Kindred spirits, united.
Money quote: "The New York Times' sports editors, not exactly Bob Woodward."