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With sports season on sabbatical, it's time to chat cicadas

It's summer here on the east coast, and nature is playing its 17-year prank on us. A prank called the "Brood X" cicadas - a species of insect that spends 17 years underground sucking on tree roots, before coming topside for what amounts to six weeks of "Bugs Gone Wild."

These little red-eyed flying doggie snacks specialize in making a lot of noise, having sex and acting really, really stupid.

In other words, they are like any other 17-year-old you know.

The other day, one of the estimated 3 trillion (yes, trillion) cicadas currently getting their 17 year "freak" on, happened to stow away in my car while I stopped for my nightly on-the-way-home Big Gulp at 7-11.

Now, you have to understand, stupid as these things are, they are a sneaky stupid. For example, they can land and attach themselves to your shirt without you even knowing.

It's uncanny. You can look down at your pants and suddenly say: "How did he get here?" They have mastered the art of showing up both uninvited and at random.

Sort of like Chris Berman. But I digress.

Luckily, they don't sting or bite, but unless you just came off a taping of "Fear Factor" and bit into a sausage casing full of live centipedes, they will skeeve you out. That's why, when I felt a tickling sensation on my neck, if I had been holding that Big Gulp, I would have been wearing it.

Gyrating wildly, I even let out a horrified .... "uhhh ... UHHH..." to nobody in particular while swatting the cicada into the "wedge of no return" between my dashboard and windshield. Miraculously, I was somehow able to "shoo" it out the door before it became a glass-encased museum piece that only the dealership would be able to remove.

Or so I thought it was out. It was dark. These things are sneaky. I didn't see it for sure, leave my vehicle and fly away. So I spent the next five minutes crouching, craning, searching and listening intently all around my car for my little bug-eyed friend.

Coast is clear. I think. I close the door, turn off the radio. Sit quietly for another minute with the lights on. Ok. We're cool. Let's roll. Then I look down at my left pant leg... and ..

AaaaaahhhhhhHHHHHHhaaaaahhhhhhhh!

(Note: This is EXACTLTY the reaction a hockey fan friend of mine had when Berman showed up on the set of the Stanley Cup Finals.)

I fumbled for the door lock in a complete panic. Opening it should have taken 2.1 seconds when calm, yet it probably took me 20 in a state of Jamie Lee Curtis horror movie ineptitude.

Just yesterday, my wife was riding with me during a "surprise cicada car attack" and she nearly mule kicked a hole in my glove compartment in panic. Now, we are literally performing pre-flight in-car cicada checks before rolling out of the driveway that would rival JFK airport security screening.

And I probably deserved all this, because about one week into cicada season I was distinctly underwhelmed by the lack of bugs in my neighborhood as compared to others. In fact, if I recall, I said on the radio that these cicadas were the "Freddy Adu of bugs" because of their inability to live up to the hype.

OK, I take that back.

Just think: 17 years. Why 17? How do they keep count of the years? Have large groups ever jumped the gun and came out after 14 years or 16? A lot of sports teams like to talk about having a three or five year "plan." These guys have a 17-year plan that has never failed.

Imagine how much less heartache there would be in sports if you knew that your team would be champs once every 17 years like clockwork? Don't answer that one, Yankees fans.

Perhaps the most unexplored angle of the "Brood X" cicadas is this: what if they did sting or bite? I mean, think about it. You couldn't leave the house for a month and a half. Your small children and pets would be in mortal danger.

People would leave for extended Key Biscayne vacations in droves. Widespread looting of homes by crooks in "cicada-proof" body suits would overwhelm local police. In short, it would make Al Gore's wet-dream "The Day After Tomorrow" look like a picnic!

At this point, you, my faithful readers (especially those who are living in non-cicada infested zip codes) are probably wondering: how in the hell is Czabe going to transition this into a sports column?

Answer: I'm not.

There are no sports going on right now, come on. The Lakers are going to win another championship, and hockey ratings can't even beat "Full House" re-runs on cable. I mean, what's to talk about?

(NOTE: This is not a "writer's exaggeration" to be funny. Sports TV writer Michael Hiestand of USA Today listed all the cable shows that beat hockey's 1.1 rating for Game 1, and the show that featured a "murderers row" of non-talents like Bob Saget, John Stamos and the Olsen twins actually went five-hole on Lord Stanley. Oiy.)

Besides the U.S. Open golf tournament, there's only one real sporting event worth watching between now and the NFL season: Kobe's trial. And yes, I am including the Olympics in that list of unwatchable summer sports dreck.

So for all of you in Milwaukee and the upper Midwest who have seen more "Dean for President" bumper stickers lately than cicadas, and think this column totally and completely sucked, I have good news for you.

The next one won't be for another 17 years.

Talkbacks

OMCreader | Jan. 12, 2006 at 9:43 p.m. (report)

Richard A. Mentz said: As a former East coaster now living in Phoenix, Arizona, I found your story quite amusing. I came accross it after trying to explain what a cicada was to my girlfriend, a native Arizonan who has only had to deal with Scorpions and the occasional rattle snake while living in their habitat. It made my job easy and has given us another favorite place to stop as we surf the web.

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