Explore the lore for stories (or do more people get a snip-off before March Madness tipoff?)

I have to hand it to Jim Stingl and the staff at the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, because the opening on this story border on magical, so much so, I’ll ignore the AP style error in the lead:

Well-timed vasectomies put lots of guys on the couch for March Madness basketball

Jeff Kopesky is synching his surgical snip-off with the first round tipoff of March Madness.

Stingl takes a look at the lore behind men who get a surgical procedure that has a lot of guys doing the “SSSSS…. AAAAHHHHH….. MMMMPHH…” noises in their heads and how it can be used as an advantage. I have to admit, this story felt like I was watching a car wreck: I literally found myself gaping at it, unable to look away while thinking, “This is so, so, so wrong…” That said, I marveled at it for a few key reasons:

  • That lead is just… well… damn. To call it memorable is an understatement. I will likely be watching the games this weekend, thinking “snip-off” each time I hear “tipoff.”
  • The number of sources that go into this is amazing. Men have a hard time talking about almost anything, let alone something like this. Still, he had four sources (five if you count his aside about his own surgery) and it was a relatively short piece.
  • He uses facts to support the legend of “everybody has heard about…” The doctor says he’s doing double the number of surgeries of this type that he normally does around this time of year. Other information about medicine and so forth supports the narrative.

This story is a great launch point for story ideas based on urban legends, campus myths and “stuff EVERYBODY knows.” Explore the lore so to speak with things like this:

  • GENERAL CAMPUS LEGENDS: There are long-held, erroneous beliefs about college life that go beyond individual campuses. The movie “Dead Man on Campus” touches on the biggest one: If your roommate dies during the year, you automatically get straight A’s. What other myths are out there regardless of if you attend school in Maine or Arizona? What commonalities do they have and how real are they?


  • YOUR CAMPUS LEGENDS: Each campus has a specific legend that is germane to something that happened or didn’t happen on campus. A certain dorm is haunted by a kid who died there. A book exists in the library that has all the dirt on every administrator ever to threaten a certain frat. A system of tunnels run under the school that allowed students to avoid going outside in hot or cold weather, but they were sealed up after “an incident.” What are the specific legends on your campus and how did they get started? Are they rooted in fact and then spiraled or are they just old wives’ tales that got blown out of proportion?


  • THEMES OF LEGENDS: Maybe you could take a look at the broader ideas of legends themselves and what they say about the people on college campuses. Certain themes continue throughout various legends, even though they are campus-specific. For example, sex is always a hot topic on campus, which is why the legends relate to people who have or haven’t had it yet. At UW-Madison, the large statue of Abe Lincoln, seated in front of Bascom Hall, was said to stand up if a virgin walked by. The angelic “Beneficence” statute on Ball State’s campus was said to flap her wings if a similarly chaste individual walked by. Concrete lions on Penn State’s campus were believed to roar if student who hadn’t “done the deed” passed by.
    There are also legends of luck: If you rub the nose of a statue or throw coins into a certain fountain, you were more likely to pass your midterms or finals. For example, the “Tecumseh” bust on the campus of the Naval Academy is dubbed “the God of the 2.0” as in grade point average. Cadets offer a left-handed salute and toss pennies in front of the statue for luck prior to exams or athletic events.  What other themes exist? How do they matter and what does it say about what we all value.

Have a great spring break (if it’s coming this week like ours is) and enjoy March Madness (with or without a bag of frozen peas, as is the legend).

Vince (a.k.a. The Doctor of Paper)

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