This week New Orleans will host its fifth NCAA men's basketball championship, a grand spectacle of American amateur sport that's come to be known as the Final Four. Or, as the city's French founders would have called it back in the day, Le Finale à Quatre, due to their inexplicable fondness for the metric system, or something.
Fittingly, the city's four previous turns as Final Four host — in 1982, 1987, 1993 and 2003 — have produced some of the more memorable moments in NCAA tournament history: Michael Jordan and Keith Smart hitting thrilling game-winning jumpers in '82 and '87, Chris Webber's ill-fated timeout in the waning moments of the '93 game and future Linsanity assassin Carmelo Anthony leading Syracuse University to the title as a freshman in '03.
Yes, just like hordes of bright-eyed visitors to the city during its nearly 300-year history, the Final Four always seems to leave town with a story. But like all good yarns, there are stories behind the stories — the secret stories, if you will, the stories the parties involved only share with their closest confidants — and the stories behind the stories are almost always more compelling than the stories themselves.
These, my friends, are those stories, all of which, mind you, are based on scurrilous, possibly inaccurate information culled from "anonymous sources" with questionable credibility.
While most people remember the North Carolina-Georgetown game as the one that first established tongue-wagging future sneaker mogul Michael Jordan as arguably the most clutch basketball player in history, it's also a game in which Georgetown guard Fred Brown established himself as one of the sport's biggest goats when he inadvertently passed the ball directly to UNC's James Worthy on Georgetown's final possession. But Brown's gaffe may not have been entirely his fault.
Brown was out and about in the Quarter the night before the game with teammate Patrick Ewing, a well-known uber-fan of John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces. When the two young men ran across a Lucky Dog cart, an exuberant Ewing insisted Brown join him in sampling one of the iconic dogs from the processed meat enterprise that served as the inspiration for Paradise Vendors in Toole's famed book. A few hours later, Brown found himself stricken with a bout of diarrhea more violent than the average night on the streets of New Orleans.
Brown later confessed to teammates that he was hit with a sudden cramping in his stomach and what felt like 50,000 tons of pressure on his anus at the moment he froze up on the court and inexplicably tossed the ball to Worthy.
So basically Patrick Ewing's Dunces fetish deserves a lot of the blame for the Hoyas losing that night. True story.
To get to the Final Four and the eventual national championship game against Providence College in '87, legendary asshole Bobby Knight's Indiana University Hoosiers had to get past Dale Brown's scrappy Cinderella LSU team in the regional finals, which they did. In his postgame press conference, Knight couldn't resist taking a shot at Brown, because that's what surly pricks like him do.
"I was worried about losing until I looked down the floor and saw Dale Brown," Knight said. "Then I knew we had a chance."
Needless to say, Brown, a hopeless Pollyanna but one not immune to venomous resentfulness, was markedly chafed. So on the night before the title game, he called the hotel room of Providence coach Rick Pitino.
"Rick, I hate Bobby Knight so goddamn much," Brown said, "so much so that I'd like to lend you a valuable coaching tip to use in tomorrow night's game, something straight out of my 'Freak Defense' bag of tricks, and it is this: If Indiana has the ball at the end of the game with a chance to win it, triple-team Steve Alford — he's the only player on their squad who can hit a clutch shot."
Well, as just about any college basketball fan can tell you, Providence indeed prevented Alford from getting the ball in the game's final seconds, only to see Baton Rouge native Keith Smart step up to drill what's been since dubbed "The Shot."
After the game, Dale Brown was seen wandering around the Quarter kicking an empty soup can and mumbling Norman Vincent Peale quotes to himself. True story.
Perhaps the most infamous late-game meltdown in college basketball history occurred in 1993 when University of Michigan star Chris Webber was assessed a technical foul for blockheadedly calling a timeout in the closing moments of the game when the team already had churned through its full allotment of timeouts. But according to one of the aforementioned "anonymous sources," Webber was thrown off that night by a demoralizing practical joke pulled by muckraking teammate Jalen Rose before the game.
You see, throughout the course of the '93 tournament, Webber had a habit of listening to the song "Informer" by Snow — Billboard's No. 1 song for seven weeks that spring — over and over on his Sony Walkman just prior to taking the court to get his adrenaline flowing at maximum capacity. On this day, however, while Webber was getting his ankles taped by the team trainers, Rose swapped out Webber's "Informer" cassette for one containing Rick Astley's "Never Gonna Give You Up." Webber was livid.
"How could you do me like that, man?" Webber screamed at a giggling Rose. "How could you assault my auditory senses with something so revoltingly hideous right before the biggest game of our lives?"
The cassette swap was a kick to Webber's psychological solar plexus, so it's fair to say that what's believed to be the first known incident of Rickrolling probably cost Michigan the national championship that night. True story.
The night before the 2003 national title game, a thick fog rolled though the greater New Orleans area, a fog stubbornly dense enough to make navigation on the Mississippi River especially tedious for the river pilots charged with guiding massive ships up and down the waterway. Throughout the night, crews aboard the passing vessels made liberal use of their foghorns to acquaint other passing watercraft with their presence.
Predictably, such a thing posed a nuisance to anyone attempting to get a good night's rest at the Hilton New Orleans Riverside that night, where the University of Kansas basketball team just so happened to have sought lodging before they played Syracuse for the title the following day. But it was especially troublesome for wiry Kansas guard Kirk Hinrich.
You see, when Hinrich was a wee lad growing up in the golden outskirts of Sioux City, Iowa, he had a cocker spaniel named Sissy that was the joy of his life. Well, one day Sissy chased a three-legged rabbit into a cornfield directly in the path of a passing corn plow. The farmer on the tractor blew a horn in an attempt to warn the dog, without success, and young Kirk, who of course was nearby shooting a ball into a peach basket, heard the sound as well.
Throughout that night, whenever he heard a ship's foghorn bellowing in the murky distance, Hinrich was reminded of Sissy's unfortunate demise. So it shouldn't come as much of a surprise to anyone that Hinrich threw up an airball when he had a chance to send the title game against Syracuse to overtime at the buzzer. True story.
What sort of story behind the story will emerge from the 2012 New Orleans Final Four? Will someone's game be thrown off because a gameday breakfast buffet wasn't sufficiently hearty? Probably. These things just tend to happen!
— Brett Michael Dykes (aka The Cajun Boy) is the Louisiana-born editor-in-chief of Uproxx.com and a lifelong college basketball fan.