OUT OF LEFT FIELD
March Madness Theme:
COACH JAY WRIGHT
...not exactly an unmade bed
Follow the Bouncing Ball
By STAN ISAACS
As the balls keep bouncing toward the weekend of the NCAA basketball tournament Final Four and the championship game Monday night, some jump shots, buzzer beaters and double dribbles about the earlier action:
Charles Barkley, the onetime round mound of rebound, had some shrewd comments in a pre-tournament press session. He said, We [TV] gave these damn people [$10.8 billion] At some point were going to have to talk about graduating these kids. We cant go three weeks, and everyone gets paid, and we got a bunch of dummies .Theyve got to make some of these kids go to school. You cant just put them in classes to keep them eligible; they need to be in real classes.
He echoed the point first made eloquently by Arthur Ashe: They all think theyre going to play in the NBA, but 99.9 percent of them are going into the real world .Not to make it racial or racist, but athletics has a negative effect on the black community. These kids arent thinking about getting an education. They dont think about becoming doctors, lawyers, firefighters, policemen.
There are those who would pay the players. The problem with that, Barkley said, is who do you pay? Do you pay the football team? The mens basketball team, but not the womens team? Do you pay the lacrosse team?
Barkley had fun mocking the terrible performance of the Big East teams in the tournament. Only one Big East team, Connecticut, made the round of eight. He called it, The Big Least. Of the 11 Big Least teams invited, Villanova was one of the least deserving, having lost six straight games and eight of 10. Sue me, but Villanova coach Jay Wright is just too sharp a dresser for my taste. He must have more than a dozen suits. I am for the coaches who live up to the sartorial description of famed columnist Heywood Broun: He dressed like an unmade bed.
In order to come up with the big money needed to own TV rights, CBS and Turner Sports telecast the games on four channels, CBS, TNT, TBS and truTV. This took care of most people, but not those who cant afford cable. According to the Nielsen ratings people, 87 percent of viewers have TNT and TBS, while 80 percent have truTV (even though most of us wouldnt have known that before this tournament).
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The recent ESPN film, The Fab Five about the extraordinary Michigan team of the early 1990s, featured some inflammatory comments by Jalen Rose, one of the Fab Five who works for ESPN and who had a strong hand in the production. Rose stated that Duke recruited only black players considered to be Uncle Toms and he came down on Grant Hill as a bitch
Hill delivered an eloquent replay on The New York Times blog. He ridiculed Rose for hinting that those like him who grew up in a household with a mother and father are somehow less black than those who did not. Hills father is Calvin Hill, the Yalie who went on to a career in pro football and his successful mother was Hillary Clintons roommate at Wellesley.
Rose seemed to understand too late the idiocy of his words; he apologized to Hill that the comments on the film expressed his feelings when he was a 20-year-old. Hills response s seemed to reflect sadness more than anger, but he achieved more than a measure of satisfaction with his final words: I am proud of my family. I am proud of my Duke championships and all my Duke teammates. And, I am proud I never lost a game against The Fab Five.
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The tattoo fad these past decades started with convicts. It spread to mindless college kids among others. I cant say I watched every team, but I saw a few minutes of most and I found that only Princeton, Notre Dame, BYU and Duke players didnt have tattoos. I spotted a trumpet player in the Richmond band with a tattoo. Also an unnamed Texas A & M woman with one. That undercut the comment of one woman blogger to Len Bermans website (lenbermansports.com) who said, With the women you dont have to suffer all those tattoos.
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Evidence of the lack of enthusiasm now for the war in Iraq: only about half the schools sport American flags on their jerseys. This is a big drop-off from the unanimity of flags that followed the rush to so-called patriotism with our involvement in Iraq.
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Basketball announcers no longer say sank a basket. Now its knocked it down or buried it. A constant irritant is the analysts saying that a player or team has got to do something or other. They are coaching, not analyzing. A good analyst describes what a team or player is doing and, if possible, why. In a sport where it is possible for an official to call a foul on every play, it is galling when announcers harp on officials errant calls. Former pro referee Norm Drucker said, You could hide an official in some capacity in baseball, football, tennis and all the rest, but he would be right in the middle of the action and vulnerable to a second-guess in basketball. And the officials deserve to be identified in the line-ups named at the start of each game.
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I liked analyst Len Elmores expression of getting to a 50-50 ball when two players had an equal chance to come up with a loose ball .The announcers description, theyve got the numbers on a fast-break advantage doesnt tell as much as saying, its three on two or two on one. I could do without Jim Nance saying a buck-thirty or the like for a minute and thirty seconds and the like.
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I am impressed by the sensational dribbling of so many of these superb athletes. Yet I regret that it has cut down precise passing on the fast break. In days of yore such as the St. Louis Billikens of Easy Ed McAuley, the Nat Holman mentored City College teams and the legendary Boston Celtics dazzled with finger-tip pass down the floor setting up an exhilarating basket. Todays lead man on the break holds onto the ball, looking to drive for the basket or pass off at the last second. You see kids with far less talent emulating this; they over-dribble, and mess up fast breaks at the expense of fan-appreciative displays of teamwork.
Theres an ooh-and ahh quality to the alley-oop baskets; a long high pass sets up a leaping teammate who stuffs the ball through the net. I have mixed feelings, though, about the times a tall galoot puts back a rebound by stuffing the ball through the basket. I would disallow any score on which one of those galoots hands hit the rim.
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I cant name them all, but there are other tournaments besides the NCAA. Not only the meaningless NIT but a CBI and something else, I think. Is there a humble Division One school in the country that is not playing in a tournament.? ...Finally, I liked a reference to the Richmond Spiders history of scoring upsets; when the Spiders upset Syracuse a few years ago, the Syracuse newspaper said its team was a victim of arachnophobia.
©2011 by Stan Isaacs. The Stan Isaacs caricature is ©2001 by Jim Hummel. The photo is courtesy o;f Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia.This column first posted March 28, 2011.
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