Don't tell me there are 64 plus college and university basketball teams worthy of the Big Dance, the NCAA spectacle now taking place at various arenas around the country. Don't tell me, I don't believe it. Don't tell me Lafayette @ 20-12, or SMU @ 20--13, or Northeastern @ 23-11, or Texas Southern @ 24-12 or poor Hampton @ 17-17 (about to be throttled by Kentucky) have earned the right to dance with the best. The NCCA tournament is no longer a graceful waltz or an enthusiastic samba but has turned into a sleazy lap dance with Television execs and advertisers sitting around the stage slipping Big Bucks into NCAA g-strings. It is way past time to get back to 32 teams. Maybe then, the first round of the tournament will be worth watching again.
Allow me a NBA emeritus moment to talk about the Sacramento Kings. Sacramentans, don't despair. Those of us who've played the game or coached it can assure you that despite the losses, the Kings are a better team. My optimism is not based on wins and losses, but on the players' improved basketball smarts. Like high schools students, they are demonstrating progress in CORE areas of the game. They are not ready to graduate yet, but I suspect with a little summer school (ready a full training camp under George Karl) they will be ready for their senior year, perhaps even graduating into the playoff ahead of time.
I have a theory about what makes a winning NBA team. It goes like this. It doesn't matter how many super stars you have per team, what matters is if your team is comprised of consistent players. Super Stars as well as players off the bench must be consistently at their BEST (point production, rebounding, shot blocking whatever their particular fortes are plus, all out D and Energy) for every game. I submit that there are inconsistent stars and inconsistent bench players. Whether you agree or disagree, let me provide some examples. On the Mavericks: in my opinion, Chandler and Ellis are consistent stars. Parsons, Rondo and Nowitski are not. Off the Mavericks' bench Barea is consistent, the rest are not. On the Cleveland Cavs, for example, Kevin Love is an inconsistent star. JR Smith, off the bench is not consistent as well as others. The Wizards have two inconsistent stars Nene and Paul Pierce, Pierce because of age and Nene, because he can't be depended on to give the team a consistently strong performance each and every game. Right now, I'm afraid that the Spurs have a number of inconsistent players who were consistent last year: Belinelli, Green, Diaw, and Mills. On the Blazers, Afflalo and Batum, in my mind, are inconsistent. This is how I evaluate teams. The Hawks are a terrific team, but their bench is suspect. Bazemore, Antic, and Scott are inconsistent in my mind. I can name a whole slew of players that don't give it every single night. But you look through rosters and ask yourself, this season, who are the players you can absolutely count on? So, the team with the least inconsistent players has the best chance to win it all. In my mind, if you have two on your team, coach, you're in trouble.
I read an important article written by Dave Zinn about Chris Borland after only one season and at the age of 24 choosing not to play any longer in the NFL. The article lauded his decision pointing out the intelligence of selecting the future over the financially beneficial present. Well and good for Borland, a university graduate in history, from a solid middle class home, with any number of prospects beyond sports. But what about the poor kids, stuck in some poddunk town or dangerous slum, perhaps from a broken home, with a parent working three jobs to keep the family, what's left of it, afloat? What if that kid is a heck of an athlete and football happens to be his sport? He's well aware of his talent. Most good athletes do at an early age. He looks at kids in his poor neighborhood, sees the dead-end jobs most of them are in or destined for, and suddenly comes along THE COACH from BIG TIME U. He offers a free education, but also the hope of big money in the NFL,maybe in as short a time as two years. Big money means helping Mom. Or Dad. Or a brother just out of jail. Or a pregnant sister. Does this kid think CONCUSSION? Not a chance. He thinks about being a good son.
This is not meant to be condescending to poor kids, a great many of whom find ways other than sports to get higher educations and to earn money and help their families. But reality dictates that for many young athletes, the modeling leads in the direction of a career in sports not in the direction of academics or business or some other life career.
I love Chris Borland's intelligence, but in many ways I admire as much those kids who will risk their health to help their families. I wish it wasn't so.
To end on a more pleasant note. Recently my wife, Melanie, and I were watching a Warrior game on Television. I had to go to the kitchen for something, and called out to her to tell me what was going on. Here is the play by play she yelled to me: Steph Curry is dribbling the ball past midcourt, he passed to Klay Thompson, and Thompson passed it to Bogut, Bogut threw a pass into the corner to Harrison Barnes. Harrison is looking very handsome today.
This is the wife who told me this morning that playing to the crowd is OK as long as you don't lose.
It's Spring Training, so how about a baseball poem
The Extra-Inning Ballgame by Halvard Johnson
Wanting things to go on forever,
yet craving the apocalypse.
Reading the last few pages at one word a minute.
Waiting to teeter forever at the brink of the abyss.
and loving every minute of it.
The solid single lashed over second.
A shortstop's arm, just long enough to catch it.
What my musings are all about...
Blogging might well be the 21st century's form of journaling. As a writing teacher, I have always advised my students to keep a daily journal as a way of organizing their thoughts for future writing projects, a discipline I have unfortunately never consistently practiced myself. By blogging, I might finally be able to follow my own good advice.
The difference between journaling and blogging is that the blogger opens his or her writing to the public, something journal- writers are usually reluctant to do. I am not so reticent.
The trick for me will be to avoid cluttering the internet with more blather, something none of us need more of. If I stick to subjects I know: sports and literature, I believe I can avoid that pitfall. I can't promise that I'll not stray from time to time to comment on ancillary subjects, but I will make every attempt to be interesting and perhaps even insightful.