Two years after retreating from the Philippines in WW II, General Douglas MacArthur returned. Two weeks ago, I left this space setting out for a trip to Chile; and today, I have likewise returned. General MacArthur had a much more difficult time of it having to drive back the land and sea forces of the Empire of Japan to return to the Philippines; all I had to do was to endure a 9-hour overnight flight from Santiago to Atlanta and then a 5-hour layover in Atlanta before connecting to get home. Nonetheless, like general MacArthur, I can proclaim that:
- “I have returned.”
When I left, the sports menu seemed to be dominated by pretty meager stuff. The NBA All-Star Game was about to happen, and the Winter Olympic Games were still ongoing. I care not at all about either of those events; so, it did not pain me to take off for a part of the world where I would be totally out of touch with the sports world for most of a couple of weeks. I have not bothered to check, but I assume that the NBA All-Star Game weekend went off with no hitches to the game itself – probably about 300 – 320 points total in the game – and that the slam-dunk contest continued its decline in interest. Ho-hum …
Just quickly scanning some NBA scores since the teams returned to real games as opposed to All-Star nonsense, I recall the NBA cognoscenti assuring everyone that the trades made by the Cavaliers at the trade deadline had totally overhauled the team and that the new young athletic teammates surrounding LeBron James would be able to play much better defense than the older/smaller guys the team traded away. I did not see any NBA action in Chile; I am not sure that anyone there cares about the NBA at all. However, looking at the game results only, it sure seems to me as if the Cavaliers continue to give up 110 points or more in lots of their games. Even in the NBA, that is not sterling defensive play…
Speaking of the Cavaliers’ trades at the deadline, Bob Molinaro of the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot had this to say just before I left:
“NBA media birddog Chris Broussard reports that Thomas ‘felt like LeBron talked down to him when he was there.’ Thomas is 5-feet-9; LeBron 6-feet-8. How could James help himself?”
Good question …
We are about 10 days away from the time when NBA games start to become meaningful. The idea is for teams to make the playoffs – if they have not already committed themselves to tanking a season or two to rebuild their roster(s). So, for the last month or so of the regular season, teams will be expending max effort in just about every game; no one can look at a typical NBA game in December and think that is the case.
NBA games to this point in the season are more like concerts than athletic events. There is a light show and lots of noise; there are distractions to keep the audience occupied during time-outs and half-times. Go and Google the phrase “red panda basketball halftime” and check out any of the several YouTube links you find there. When you figure out what that has to do with basketball, let me know.
This is the time of year on the sports calendar when the NCAA earns its keep. I believe that the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament is the single best sporting event of the year; staging that event is the only thing that the NCAA does that is laudable; once the tournament gets going, I will have to forego any criticism or mocker of the NCAA until it is over – – unless of course they outdo themselves with outrageousness. However, in the past couple of weeks, the NCAA demonstrated its fecklessness. It stripped Louisville of its 2013 National Championship and ordered it to “vacate” 123 wins over several seasons.
In case you have forgotten, Louisville beat Michigan in the final game in that tournament. So, with Louisville’s title vacated one of two situations obtains:
- The losing team – Michigan – is declared the National Champion. That is the sort of thing that only seems logical in professional ‘rassling…
- There was no National Champion that year – meaning that the 67 games played in the tournament that year all meant nothing.
The foundation of the NCAA action here was the sex scandal surrounding players and recruits when an assistant coach was accused of hiring strippers and prostitutes to “entertain” the players and potential recruits. While that is sleazy enough to get you to think that the folks at Louisville deserve a public spanking, please consider this for a moment:
- North Carolina kept players eligible for NCAA events by having them take sham courses to keep their grades up. North Carolina was not punished for that because the school allowed anyone on campus to take the same courses – meaning that the “student-athletes” were not receiving any benefit not available to the student body at large.
So, here is the question for the NCAA:
- If that assistant coach had “opened up” these strip sessions and these prostitute visits to other members of the Louisville student body, would that have made all of this just a “local anomaly” that the school can deal with in whatever way it sees fit?
Finally, since I cited something from Bob Molinaro above, let me close with another of his observations;
“Some fear that the sexual harassment suit brought against Shaun White will ‘tarnish the legacy’ of the American gold-medal winner in the halfpipe. Really? People actually worry about the legacy of a snowboard jockey? Who knew?”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………