College Basketball – The Appetizer Course

The college basketball season is upon us – or at least the appetizer course is here.  I love college basketball; in terms of what I like to watch, college basketball is at the top of the list.  There is a small asterisk on that last pronouncement, however.  In the early part of the season – the appetizer course if you will – too many of the big-time programs schedule glorified scrimmages and call then college basketball games.  The Chief Logistics Officer for our annual Las Vegas trips calls these glorified scrimmages, “bully games”.

I am going to use Georgetown as an example here; believe me, there are similar circumstances out there for dozens of other programs that are among the “big boys” of college basketball:

  • The first six games this year are against Maryland Eastern Shore, Richmond, Maine, Coppin State, Howard and North Carolina A&T.  If you are a Georgetown alum, you might be interested in watching parts of those games; otherwise…
  • On December 16, Georgetown will finally pick on someone its own size when it hosts Syracuse.
  • Then come two more “tune up” games against North Texas and Arkansas A&M before Big East Conference play commences on 27 December.
  • Oh, by the way, of the 8 “little guys” on the schedule, all of them come to DC to play Georgetown except for Richmond.

It is important to recognize that every one of those potential “bully games” got on the schedule because Georgetown wanted them to be on the schedule.  None are conference games; none are historical rivals spanning 100 years of “tradition”.  This is résumé padding and nothing else.  And, this sort of scheduling malfeasance detracts significantly from college basketball.  I can understand a “bully game” or two in the early going so that coaches can continue their coaching agendas in the context of an actual game against folks who are not teammates.  That is, in fact, the only justification for things like the NFL Exhibition Games.

The good thing about the early portion of the college basketball season is that television networks arrange to pair good teams one against the other to fill programming slots.  There are several of these sorts of things sprinkled onto the calendar to spark interest and one of those events happened this week.  Duke, Kansas, Kentucky and Michigan State came together to play one another in a double-header; that is a pairing that would be worth seeing in mid-late March.  I understand that you cannot have that sort of TV fare every week, but think of the chasm that lies between a Kansas/Kentucky matchup and a Georgetown/North Carolina A&T “showdown”.

My takeaway from the Duke/Michigan St. game is that both teams are very good and I will be checking both of them out several times over the course of the season.  Duke won the game and played most of the game without Marvin Bagley III because he was poked in the eye early in the first half.  Kansas beat Kentucky in another interesting and exciting game.  Kentucky did not shoot well form the outside (3 for 13 on 3-point attempts); their offense was to go inside, shoot the ball and then hit the offensive boards hard.

Completing my “appetizer course” analogy, games like Duke/Michigan St. and Kansas/Kentucky are the slices of pâtè di foie gras on my plate while games like Georgetown/Arkansas A&M are the lettuce leaves under the pâté de foie gras.

Switching gears …  GQ Magazine has named Colin Kaepernick as its Man of the Year.  For reference, this award has only been around for about 20 years and some previous recipients have been”

  • Mel Gibson
  • Michael Jordan
  • David Duchovny (I could not tell you a single thing this man has done in his life.)
  • Tom Cruise
  • Chris Rock
  • George Clooney – – you get the idea…

Looking back over previous recipients, there is an interesting pairing.  Michael Sam was a GQ Person of the Year recipient just a few years ago.  Michael Sam was the first openly gay player taken in an NFL Draft and to be on the roster of an NFL team – actually, he was on the rosters of two teams before retiring from football.  Like Sam, Colin Kaepernick is not actively involved with football at the moment.  Also, like Sam, Kaepernick was the first player to choose to use the national anthem as the vehicle for a social protest and that action got him crosswise with some fans and some coaches/GMs/owners etc.

What Michael Sam did a couple of years ago was important to him and perhaps it was important to younger gay athletes.  Not intending to diminish that action or its import in any way, the fact is that the number of young gay athletes who might be in a position to turn pro in a major revenue sport is not numbered in the millions.  What Colin Kaepernick seeks to call attention to is social injustice that befalls millions of citizens simply because of their race and/or ethnicity and/or religious beliefs.  The “phobia” or the “ism” Kaepernick is trying to improve affects the lives of far more people and it has resonance with many foundation pieces of US society.

I have said from the time when Kaepernick first “took a knee” that I agreed with the objectives of his protest but that I did not appreciate the way he chose to make his protest.  His quest continues, and he has attracted the efforts and the representation of several active NFL players seeking goals common with his.  He has not achieved all of the goals he has set for himself – sadly, they may never all be met – but he has to be applauded/recognized for his role in making progress toward those goals.  This award is one such recognition.

Finally, here is a comment from Brad Dickson in the Omaha World-Herald:

“The University of Louisville was implicated in the latest college basketball scandal. In a related story, Grant is buried in Grant’s Tomb.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………