If you watched college basketball over the weekend and did not enjoy the games, that can only mean that the school you graduated from lost or that you actually had a live bracket going and had it destroyed. Other than those kinds of misfortunes, it is hard for me to believe that a college basketball fan could not have had a great weekend in front of the TV. Let me make just a few observations:
Did Butler beat Florida with determination and a great rally or did Florida choke the game away? Remember, the Gators led by 11 with 9:20 left to play.
Did Kansas lose because of their flat-footed defense in the first half or because of their 2-for-22 shooting from 3-point range? Or both? Or perhaps, VCU was just quicker than Kansas…
It is pretty clear that Josh Harrellson is the least talented player on the Kentucky squad. Also, it is pretty clear to me that he is one of the most important members of the squad because he does all the little things and “hustle things” that need to be done to win games.
Just what is it that Harrison Barnes cannot do on a basketball court? Defend a 7-foot center in the low post?
Oh while I am at it, may I pose this rhetorical question about the TV coverage of the tournament so far even though I am pretty sure you will conclude which side of the argument I am on:
Have you seen enough of Alec Baldwin yet?
Just as Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, has used the NCAA tournament to decry the poor graduation rate of athletes in each of the past two years – - ignoring the role of government at many levels in producing high school graduates who are functionally illiterate – - another political person chose over the weekend to use the tournament as an excuse to get his name in the papers again. Chronically cranky Ralph Nader must have felt that he had been out of the public eye for too long and so he issued a call to eliminate completely all collegiate athletic scholarships. The multi-time losing Presidential candidate did not reveal just how he might enforce such a ban or what resources might have to be devoted to assuring that such scholarships are never given again, but I am sure that he has an efficient and effective idea in mind here because like every other problem in the world, the root cause of the problem has to be the greed and the anti-social nature of large corporations.
Look, in a Utopian kind of world, colleges would not be involved in sports that generate billions of dollars. Colleges would be institutions of higher learning and scholarship and colleges would not permit functional illiterates to be part of that academic community. That is how universities began. There is little chance that universities are going to return to those beginnings any time soon. Therefore, the bleatings and protestations by someone like Ralph Nader regarding the banishment of athletic scholarships can really only serve one purpose. It lets people know that Ralph Nader is still alive and that he still harbors grand idealistic views that sound great but will never come to pass in the 21st century.
Memo to Ralph Nader: Suggest you use this issue as a centerpiece of your next Presidential campaign. That will marginalize your candidacy almost immediately so that the country can get down to its normal business of ignoring what you say from the outset of your campaign.
Looking at the Final 4 teams, there are a couple of lessons here that ought to hold sway in the future – - but certainly will not.
1. VCU was deemed “unworthy” of tournament participation and their presence denied the rightful team – - Colorado and/or Va Tech depending on your preference – - a chance to play. However, not a single one of the critics back then would have offered that Colorado or Va Tech was a viable Final 4 candidate. Lesson: This is why you play the games and why seedings and RPI rankings and the like are merely tools and not data that feed into immutable laws.
2. UConn finished ninth in the Big East. For those who believe that the Big East was “over-rated” – - whatever that really means other than those folks root for teams that play in conferences other than the Big East – - there were eight teams there in the Big East who finished ahead of a Final 4 team in the course of a full season. Those other eight teams must have had something going for them…
During commercials/halftimes over the weekend, I happened to be grazing through the channels and came across the PGA Tour event of the week. I did not write down the individual names here and so I cannot recreate the remarks made exactly, but the “sotto voce” announcer was saying that whomever was lining up a putt was in a position to move up in the standings for FedEx Cup later this year and that some other golfer would have to drop in the standings based on his play that week. Really? The FedEx cup is not going to happen for about six months; probably 99% of the people who even care about the FedEx Cup are not concerned about FedEx Cup standings in March. Moreover, less that 0.01% of sports fans in the US have the foggiest notion about how FedEx Cup scoring works – - and really do not care.
Finally, let me close today with two excellent comments from sports columnists around the country:
“Does anyone like the NHL’s overtime shootout? Of course not. Try this, NHL: Instead of a shootout, play another five minutes, no goalies.” [Scott Ostler, SF Chronicle]
“Lawrence Taylor, sentenced to six years probation for patronizing an underage prostitute, explained, ‘I don’t card them.’ L.T. must have been out cruising the boulevard the day God handed out contrition.” [Greg Cote, Miami Herald]
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………