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Ken Meringolo's Lockout Diary -- Week Two Proves That Absence Makes the Heart Forget

Friday, March 25th

They say "absence makes the heart grow fonder." I understand the sentiment, but I don't think it is at all universally applicable.

For example, let's say you were dating someone you really, really liked...a lot. Let's say you had been together for years and the memories you shared were things you kept closest to your heart.

Now let's say you broke up with that person a few days before the Thursday that St. Patrick's Day fell on and the NCAA Tournament began on. Your desperate attempt to keep your mind off the pain is aided by 96 straight hours of partying and college basketball at its finest. In the midst of the haze that is your first "bachelor weekend" (or bachelorette as it were), you meet a steady stream of other people who, like you, are also dealing with loss, hurt and bitterness.

Cue the porn music.

That's right. Shortly after the NFL left me with nothing but an NFL-sized indentation on the left-side of my bed, I did what any red-blooded American sports fan would do...I whored myself out to the next thing in line. I have been making sweet, sweet love to the NCAA Tournament for the last two weeks and I am not ashamed to say it has been especially dirty. Both me and college basketball know it is only a rebound thing (pun intended). It won't last more than a couple of weeks, and then we will part ways amicably. But each amorous session spent growing emotionally attached to games and teams that nobody thought had a chance brings with it some very important healing. Maybe not exactly the Marvin Gaye style of sexual healing, but still something very sweaty and intimate nonetheless. Don't act like it's just me either. I have heard the grunts and groans at every turn of every game. There has been a very guttural reaction to this Tournament, and it is my belief that it stems from the sense of loss that so many NFL fans are trying to get over.

Listen--the NFL is very much like that supermodel-hot girl that lets you take her home but always makes sure you know that you are damn lucky and that she "doesn't do this kind of thing" very often. You spent your last dollar on her because, were blindly in love and sold on the notion that you could do no better. You let her bully you into not wearing that "Vinny Swallows" t-shirt, and you didn't even mind when she sued you for not paying her credit card bills. Then all of a sudden she tells you that you need to go on a break. She says that it is not because she doesn't love you. It is because she loves you TOO MUCH. And so you are left wondering what in God's name you have been doing all this time, dedicating your life to such a capricious thing.

As you fight your way through the unmistakable feeling that you are the world's biggest moron, you remember that there is green beer to drink, and a month of arguably the most compelling sports television of the year. And you slowly begin to forget what you just had a couple weeks earlier.

When that hottie comes back knocking on your door at some point during the summer or early fall, looking and smelling all good and talking about how big a mistake she made and that she NEEDS you to take her back...don't lie--you're going to let her in. But the space she vacated in your heart when she left is not as big as it once was. You are less willing to throw your whole self into it.

The NFL will be back. We will be watching and rooting again soon enough. But the longer this thing goes, the bigger the risk that when it does come back, the NFL will not find the same class of suckers it left behind in a cloud of dust on March 11th.

P.S. Thank God the NFL didn't strike in July. We would be SCREWED.