Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Greatest Headline Ever: A Mythology

Tonight's NCAA Tournament Play-In Game between Mount St. Mary's and Coppin State -- a game taken so seriously that BOTH teams' names are listed on your bracket next to UNC -- reminds me of what might have been my favorite moment when I was college basketball editor at ESPN.com...

It was 1997, the first round of the NCAA Tournament, and 15-seed Coppin State was playing 2-seed South Carolina. Coppin State was a 30-point underdog. But they won, decisively, 78-65 -- tying the biggest seed upset in NCAA history. It was momentous.

Sitting at my cubicle, I had been working at a frenetic pace -- in a rudimentary form of live-blogging, I had committed myself to updating the "top story" blurb on ESPN.com as often as possible; I believe I was changing it every 5 or 6 minutes, which has to stand as a site record.

Anyway, the Coppin State upset demanded an equally momentous headline leading ESPN.com. The provenance of the headline we came up with is hazy in my memory: It might have been me; it might have been my colleague Kevin Jackson; most accurately, it had to have been a collaboration.

But the result was the Best. Headline. Ever.:

Coppin a Feel: Cocks Get Blocked

Now, in my hazy memory, that headline was published live to the site for a few minutes before it was yanked down. It's possible that I simply dreamed that part up, because the idea of that particular headline being showcased to what was, at the time, a record audience level for ESPN.com (and probably any site online at the time) is too enticing to let go of, even if it is only in my not-a-lie-if-you-believe-it memory.

So when Coppin State takes the floor tonight against Mount St. Mary's (which itself has all sorts of intriguingly inappropriate headline implications), I have more than a rooting interest in the only sub-.500 team in the bracket -- and the first 20-loss team to ever make the NCAA Tournament field.

I have the rooting interest of having another chance to proclaim: Coppin a Feel! Amazingly, more than a decade of shifting consumer tolerance later, it isn't even that inappropriate of a headline. I hope whoever my predecessor as college basketball editor is gives it a shot. Getting that headline published for the world to see would be a career Shining Moment, for sure.

-- D.S.

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