3/21/07 – - Pokey Chatman Commentary

When the news broke that Pokey Chatman would not be the coach of the LSU women’s basketball team in the tournament this year, there were reports of inappropriate behavior on her part. Stories of lesbian liaisons swirled around. But there were parts of the story that seemed unclear to me at the time. For example, one report that came up several times was that Ms. Chatman had engaged – or continued to engage – in a sexual relationship “with a former player”. Sorry, in the early stages of the story, that wasn’t specific enough. For example:

    Was the “former player” no longer associated with the team or the school? That would be a relationship between two consenting adults. In that case, I really don’t care.

    Was the “former player” involved in this alleged sexual relationship while the “former player” was on the team coached by Ms. Chatman? That would be a real problem. She is a “university official”; sex with students is out of bounds.

I figured I’d wait until some dogged investigative reporter went and dug up all the relevant names and dates and other particulars before making any comment. But it appears as if that’s not going to happen and maybe that’s a good thing. As I said when the John Amaechi story was front and center, I really don’t care a whole lot about the sexual preferences of people so long as they do not involve predation on children or discussions with me. That applies to Pokey Chatman too. It would seem that her liaison did involve a player on her basketball team (that is not yet proven conclusively but it appears to be the case) and that means her resignation from the job would have been in lieu of firing. In the prepared statement that accompanied her leaving the team, she said she was going to “pursue other opportunities”. I would hope so, because if what seems to be the case is indeed the case, it will be a long time before she is coaching women’s basketball at a university again.

Deep in the recesses of my memory, I recall another incident where a college coach and one of her players had a liaison. This was probably 30 years ago when lesbianism was outrageously scandalous all by itself. I don’t recall the names and the particulars, but I recall that the player was a minor in addition to all the “other stuff” there. Maybe that was before the age of majority was lowered to 18? I don’t recall that coach or player ever “returning to the game.”

One more thing about women’s college basketball… Isn’t it time for the women’s tournament to stop giving home games in the women’s tournament to Stanford every year? Stanford was a #1 seed that lost to a #16 seed (Harvard) on its home floor; this year they lost to a completely unremarkable Florida State team on its home floor. Maybe Stanford’s women’s basketball team is no longer worthy of the special treatment it always gets?

And I’d extend that kind of thinking to the men’s tournament games too. I would like the Selection Committee to assure that no team plays any of its two first round games less than 200 miles from its campus. Duke and UNC should never play in Raleigh; UConn shouldn’t play in Boston; Kentucky shouldn’t play in Louisville; UCLA shouldn’t play in SoCal. The regional finals and the Final Four venues are fixed and the teams that get there do so by winning games; so, there could be situations where teams have a “proximity advantage” in those rounds. But let’s not have it so lopsided in the first two rounds.

TV ratings for the men’s tournament have been good so far. The first round games (last Thursday/Friday) had an average rating of 5.0 which is the highest number posted by the tournament since 1991. If you include the weekend ratings in the average for the entire first week of telecasts, the average rating was 5.9 and that is more than respectable. Those numbers raise an important question though.

Obviously, there is an audience out there for good and exciting basketball and that audience is willing to tune in during March. So, why are NBA games drawing an average rating down around 1.0 for the season over on ESPN? I believe there are several reasons:

    The NBA season is far too long; therefore, many games are meaningless at the time they are played

    The talent is diluted to the point where there are no great teams any more.

    The players do not play hard all the time.

I’m sure some sociologists will point to the culture clash between the “hip-hoppy” NBA players and “mainstream America” as part of the reason the NBA popularity has peaked. That may be part of the equation too; but for me, the three reasons listed above are a whole lot more important.

Another sport that appears to have topped out in its popularity – or at least is on a plateau during its ascension to “major sport status” – is NASCAR. The stands used to sell out frequently; now a sell-out is unusual; attendance is down. TV ratings are no longer going up; for the major races, they are flat; for other races, they are down. I think the reason is that NASCAR was a fad for a while; but like all fads, they go into eclipse. And if fans tuned in to be part of a fad, they will go away when the fad fades AND they realize for themselves that the event is sort of boring when it stands on its own.

I’m sure some sociologists will point to the culture clash between the “good-old-boy” NASCAR image and “mainstream America” as part of the reason that NASCAR popularity has peaked. That might be part of the equation too; but for me, I think it is just a fad that has become passé.

Finally, an observation from Bill Lankhoff in the Toronto Sun:

“The Celtics were fined $30,000 after General Manager Danny Ainge sat next to the mother of likely lottery draft pick Kevin Durant. Ainge was called for excessive contact. Everybody knows that in the NBA that’s only allowed when you’re in the paint, or in Kobe Bryant’s hotel room.”

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

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