The strangest thing happened during a Pentagon briefing the other day. A New York Times reporter was asking his fifth follow-up about why we're losing the war, when a guy in a striped shirt ran into the room, blew a whistle, pointed at the reporter and signaled a reaching foul.
OK, so I was dreaming. I've been watching so much war and basketball, I've worn a hole in my TV remote, switching from hoops to Iraq at every timeout.
I can't tell if I'm on the highway to Baghdad or the Road to the Final Four. The scenery all looks the same.
At halftime I flip to Fox, and three retired generals are sitting at a big desk, talking strategy. Flip back to CBS, and retired coaches are doing the same thing - it even looks like the same desk.
The score ticker says "Syracuse 63, Oklahoma 47 . . . Texas 85, Michigan State 76 . . . USA 30,000, Iraq 47 . . . ''
I flip again and CNN has some Colonel Sanders analyst ripping the battle plan and folderoling about how he could do it so much better. Just like Billy Packer.
Give me Dick Vitale. "Saddam's in trouble now, BABEEE. The Marines are takin' it to the RACK.''
Instead, we get panicky reporters who are embedded in the media nervous hospital. "The troops are running out of canned peaches,'' they warn ominously. "This is not going according to the plan we told everyone to expect.''
They sound like desperate sports announcers covering a blowout. "Yes, Billy, Saddam's Republican Guards are down by 29,000 points, their coach Hussein is hiding in the locker room and they used up all their United Nations timeouts. But I feel a shift in momentum . . .''
Most reporters who had the sand to go to Iraq know the score. Bob Arnot of MSNBC said actors in Hollywood "can't hold a candle to the Marines for their authenticity, their courage and their patriotism.''
But liberal pundits (redundancy alert) far behind the lines say reporters on the front lines are "too close'' to the military to be trusted.
That's like saying Dick Enberg is "too close'' to the game to tell us what's happening, and we should trust some guy in basketball France who hates the game and roots against our team.
The media is a bigger disappointment than Kentucky in the tournament. The press lasted five days before they choked and started talking "quagmire.''
So far, Team USA has prevented the widely predicted flaming oil wells, kept Turkey and Israel on the bench, led a fast break to Baghdad, delivered humanitarian aid, captured or killed hundreds of "missing-link'' terrorists, and blocked Saddam's desperate three-point shots at his Arab neighbors.
And we've done it all while being flagrantly fouled by Saddam's Gestapo, who shoot our prisoners, hide behind human shields and massacre women and children, then blame it on us.
No wonder Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Richard B. Myers got hot Tuesday when asked - again - about all the gloomy reports. "They either weren't there, or they don't know or they're working another agenda,'' he said. Such "bogus'' stories are "not useful. It's not good for the troops.''
Someone needs to blow the whistle on "useful idiots'' such as Peter Arnett and Geraldo Rivera, and all the touch fouls by mediacrats who snipe at our troops, then change into "objective'' clothing.
But this is war. The Final Four in this bracket is USA, Great Britain, France and Iraq. And we don't need the New York Times to tell us who's winning.
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