A little dishing on sports

March to Madness

I don’t generally watch college basketball anymore, for the same reason I don’t buy lemonade from stands run by 7 year olds on the street, or plunk down $20 to watch your community theater’s performance of Godspell.  I mean, with roughly 200 opportunities each week between October and May to watch the very best basketball players in the world play in the most competitive league, why invest 2 hours of my time watching guys who think a chest pass is when you hit on a girl without making eye contact?

With all that said, though, I still LOVE the NCAA tournament.  I used to plan my use of personal days from work around the first two days, collecting wings and beer and plotting where to watch the evening games after that brief letdown around 6 o’clock, when the early games were over.  I remember way before that.

I remember UCLA and Notre Dame; David Thompson; Bird vs. Magic; Fred Brown’s pass to Worthy after Jordan’s side jumper.

I remember watching Georgetown players from the 1984 team, guys who, having been shielded all year from the media by caring but overly controlling coach John Thompson, froze in the glare of the spotlight.  It was one of the stunning – and frankly as a black teen – embarrassing subplots of the tournament that year.  This was around the time when white journalists started taking note of the fact that announcers like the abominable Billy Packer invariably called white stars “gutsy” and “intelligent” while black stars were “tremendous athletes.”  Yes, Billy, we noticed all along, you self-righteous, condescending son of a bitch.  I will never forget the postgame the night Georgetown defeated Akeem and Houston to win the 1984 national championship and CBS interviewed Michael Graham after the game.  Graham was a large, scowling black man, who terrified opponents and sometimes it appeared, teammates as well.  He had a bald head after Curly Neal and Slick Watts, but years before Michael Jordan.  Graham then proceeded to stun a national audience by offering insights so profound and well-stated, that CBS actually handed him his own microphone to use during the segment.  In fact, had this been 2004, Graham would probably have his own reality show right now with Ja Rule, Wes Bentley, Marion Jones, and Rielle Hunter.  Instead, he ran afoul of the strict Thompson and ended up at UDC and then virtually disappeared from public view.

Then came Villanova’s upset; Johnny Dawkins’s fast break reverse dunk against Navy that only my friend Dan and I remember; Keith Smart; Steve Fisher’s miracle run with Michigan; UNLV and Tark’s towel; the Fab Five; Christian Laettner and the Duke repeat;  Chris Webber’s extra timeout; 40 minutes of Hell; UCLA’s return to prominence… and then it starts to grow hazy.

Part of the curse of getting older is that the joy in these experiences fades with age.  I remember that North Carolina won the national championship last year, but couldn’t tell you who they beat.  I heard that Kansas completed a great comeback to beat Memphis a couple of years ago, but didn’t even take the time to watch the game.  Meanwhile, I can remember vividly Greg Monroe’s missed three in transition that killed Syracuse’s momentum and enabled Indiana to come from behind to win the 1987 title game.  It still bothers me – and I’m not even a Syracuse fan!  There’s a purity to the college game – ironic I know given the dirty dealings of the NCAA – that’s just less appealing as I get older.  I’d much rather see Lebron James take 2 dribbles and .4 seconds to get from foul line to foul line than see a freshman point guard struggle to figure out whether the opponent is in a 2-3 zone or playing man to man.  When he figures it out, call me.

And another thing: get off my lawn!


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