KRAVITZ: So what would you do to turn into a Tournament couch potato? Try a vasectomy

In this April 4, 2016, file photo, Villanova's Kris Jenkins makes the game-winning three-point shot during the second half of the NCAA Final Four tournament college basketball championship game against North Carolina. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File)
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Bob Kravitz

So, guys, here's your March Madness checklist for the next couple of hoops-filled weeks:

  • Big-screen TV – Check.
  • Junk food – Check.
  • Frosty libations – Check.
  • Big, comfy chair – Check.
  • Vasectomy – Check.

Wait, what? A vasectomy? Where did the vasectomy come in? Who said anything about male sterilization? The old snip-er-oo? What are you talking about?

This is what I'm talking about.

It's not just March Madness. It's March Vasness (as in vas deferens, the part of the male anatomy that is the focus of the vasectomy procedure).

Men are stupid beasts, by and large, but we're smart about certain things. Like this: If we have an excuse to sit on our backsides and watch dozens of college basketball games without our significant others raising a fuss, we're going to embrace that opportunity. Thus, the dramatic rise in the number of pre-Tournament vasectomies in the days leading up to the NCAA Tournament.

"It is very, very busy, and we absolutely make extra room for it," said Dr. David Gilley, a urologist at Urology of Indiana. "It's a very popular time – now and right at the end of the year when deductibles are met. It's more than double what we normally do."

According to Athena Research, there was a 41 percent rise in the number of vasectomies performed the first Friday of the Tournament back in 2016. At Urology of Indiana, the numbers are quite similar. In a normal month, they will perform 125 vasectomies. In March of 2016, they did 250.

Places like Urology of Indiana, they're smart about marketing. So they've blitzed the local radio airways and social media with ads promoting the idea of men getting their vasectomies this week. So you say you want an excused vacation? Come on in, have the 45-minute procedure done, swallow an aspirin or something stronger, place a bag of frozen peas ("or corn, which works just as well," said Dr. Gilley), kick back and tell the wife and kids you're not available for a couple of days.

According to Jennifer Hargis, the practice's executive assistant, Urology of Indiana (and several others) specifically target this weekend with an entire marketing campaign to accommodate the rise in the number of vasectomies, and even added an additional weekend for those men who waited too long to schedule their procedure.

"Men need an excuse to get it done," she said. "This lets them become couch potatoes and watch the tournament."

Now, if you're smart, you'll milk it like an old dairy cow, as one Twitter respondent suggested he did a few years ago. The truth, according to Dr. Gilley, is that men who have vasectomies are told to slow down for roughly 48 hours – no heavy lifting allowed – but some, well, they work it for all it's worth.

"I tell guys they shouldn't go back to work until around April 2," he said, laughing.

By most people's reckoning, all of this began back in 2008, when the Oregon Urology Institute had the inspired idea of advertising men's health services to coincide with the NCAA Tournament. The response was astounding. Give a man a reason to sit around and do nothing but watch college hoops, he's going to jump at it, even if it means undergoing a mildly painful procedure that involves a small needle into, um, you know where the needle goes. Why wouldn't you? Not only do you get to watch hoops, but people actually feel sorry for you and they cater to your needs. Does it get more awesome than that?

Except for the actual procedure.

Now, honestly, it sounds uniquely horrible. The urologist will cut a small hole in the scrotum, remove the vas deferens, cauterize and then stuff it inside your scrotum. Shoot, just typing these words make me squirm in horror and second-hand pain. I mean, men are bad when it comes to taking care of their health in general – Yes, honey, I'll call the doctor and schedule a physical – but tell them it's time to get that particular part of their anatomy snipped and, well, we'd rather just paint the house or run a marathon in the snow -- barefoot.
But according to Dr. Gilley and the men with whom I spoke or texted, it's really not that big a deal.

"To be honest, I haven't had one yet, but 95 percent of guys walk out and are like, 'That wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it was going to be'," Dr. Gilley said. "The numbing shot is the only thing that hurts a little, and after that, guys don't even know I'm working on them. They're often surprised. They'll ask, 'Is that it? You're done?'"

Now, if you're really smart, you'll follow the advice of one Twitter respondent named Seth, who wrote, "I had a reversal in March 2013. Got to watch ALL the games!"

Now that's a man who loves his college basketball.

All around the country, more and more urology centers are offering Tournament vasectomies, even throwing in coupons for pizza and other downtime requirements.

One Washington State man – he prefers to be known by his nom de snip, "Chuck Leatherman" – owns a marketing company and calls himself a "vasectomy spokesmodel."

Hi, I'm Chuck Leatherman.

Nice to meet you. What do you do?

I'm a vasectomy spokesmodel.

Ohhh…

Now, before you ask, he doesn't model vasectomies, to the extent that it's possible, nor does he model any part of his anatomy – which, naturally, was my first question. His idea, though, was to pair up men and urology clinics by using a funny character – "Chuck Leatherman" is a brawny, lumberjack-type guy, kind of a McGruff the Crime Dog of vasectomies – whose job it is to share information, destigmatize the procedure and make vasectomies less frightening to men.

"The way I put it, Chuck helps bring men and urologists together in beautiful vasectomy matrimony," Leatherman said.

He began this marketing approach about a year ago, and takes full advantage of the pre-Tournament vasectomy. If a gentleman chooses to have the procedure this time of year, "Chuck Leatherman” offers a Leatherman (which is kind of a Swiss Army knife), coupons for free pizza, an air horn and a portable urinal with a glow-in-the-dark lid.

This, naturally, inspired some questions: Like, why a Swiss Army knife? I mean, if you've already had the vasectomy, it seems to me it would be a little late for a knife. But a guy named Leatherman should be handing out a Leatherman, right?

The pizza, well, that's understandable.

The air horn is to be used for buzzer-beaters because recovering men cannot jump up and down like lunatics.

The portable urinal (with the glow-in-the-dark lid) is for men who just don't or can't move around and want to take care of business from their easy chair.

Early Tuesday morning, I spoke with an Irvington man named Jeff Costello, who had his Tournament vasectomy in March of 2015. He called it one of the best decisions he's made, both because it made his wife happy – they already have two children, 12-year-old Ari and 4-year-old Olive – and, of course, because he could watch hoops, hoops and more hoops.

"Did you specifically schedule it to coincide with the Tournament?" I asked him.

He laughed.

"Yeah, pretty much," he said. "Even years before that, I'd read or heard that it (Tournament vasectomies) were kind of a thing. I thought it was kind of a joking thing, but I timed it out right where my wife (Sara) and I made the decision in early February, I called and scheduled it for the first week of the tournament."

And…?

"It wasn't really that bad," he said. "The whole thing took maybe 45 minutes. Doing the procedure, it's a little awkward, kind of weird small talk, talking about other things other than what's going on in the room."

He followed doctor's orders, popped aspirin, utilized a bag of frozen peas, didn't exert himself for 48 hours.

"I probably milked it a while," he said, laughing. "The doctor only did them on Fridays so I couldn't get in Thursday for the first day of the Tournament. So I didn't do anything but watch basketball Friday and Saturday, although Sunday was kind of a milk-it day. By Saturday night, my wife was getting a little suspicious."

As one urologist's ad recently read, this is a grand time for men to "lower their seed."

Make the calculation: Forty-five minutes of minimal pain for an entire stress-free weekend of college basketball.

Sign me up.

On second thought…never mind.

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