NCAA Hoops Lookback: The Fatal Four

Due to, in no particular order, the following factors –

  • a super-concentrated acidic splash by John Oliver, indicting and ridiculing the entire NCAA basketball enterprise (can’t hyperlink right now, but it’s here: ),
  • my own manic attention to the CIS version of March Madness, spent watching the games of the (Ontario University Athletics) Wilson Cup and the following week’s Final 8 in Toronto (and a blizzard of hoops-related words that can be accessed just down there),
  • we don’t have a television hook-up, and apparently one of Howdy’s Current Foundational Principles (HCFP) is the refusal to pay for live-streaming of games on my laptop,
  • I don’t have many basketball friends,
  • increasing miles on the spectator-sport odometer, games-related grumpiness, impatience with commercials, crankiness over announcers’ clichés, and
  • (possibly?) growing good sense –

I didn’t watch any of the opening weekend of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. (HCFP No. 2: the “play-in games” earlier in the week to decide the last four Cinderellas invited to the Big Dance of 64 do not count. Round 1 of the tournament starts Thursday, not Tuesday. Lines must be drawn. <cough> Ahem. Right. It’s not climate-change denial or global terrorism, but from tiny seeds does a mighty apocalypse grow.)

(None of which explains why I’m writing about it so late. I plead lethargy, sloth, intermittent apathy and mild existential angst. And books. I was tired of writing there for a bit — well, my own, anyway. Glad that’s all over now!)

Okay, and since truthfulness is the foundation of all human virtues, and I do aspire to virtuosity of some kind or another, I clarify: I did invite myself to Bernie and Wendy’s living room for the second Gonzaga game in the opening weekend, in case they failed again to make it to the Sweet 16. The Zags did, though CBS had switched to Oklahoma/Dayton, which had very little interest for me even though Dyshawn Pierre is an Ontario kid I liked reading about from China last March, during the Flyers’ stirring run ascent to the Sweet 16, to national jock consciousness and, lest we forget, to millions of new dollars flowing to a previously obscure Ohio school. (Well, obscure from an athletic point of view, that is. To me. I know nothing of its standing in biomedical research or the teaching of the humanities.  And who would care about THAT?)

Yes, and I waited ‘til the actual weekend of the second weekend — also known as The Elite Eight — jimmied the rear door at Wendy and Bernie’s (twice), and lingered like an especially blue-cheesy smell in their otherwise pleasant back kitchen. Here’s what I saw:

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A Night With the Raptors

I’ve made the big trip to The Big Smoke, seen lots of fine things and met some great and interesting people. The Raptors game was a mistake, though. Watching the Raps/Bulls from the upper deck of the ACC (Air Canada Centre, not the Atlantic Coast Conference, for anyone out there in the Bozone who might care about the difference) was an isolating and disappointing experience. Don was (W)right: it is better to watch it on TV.

It’s been years and years since I’ve seen a game live. The sideshows at an NBA game, even one as undistinguished as this one, are sociologically interesting; annoying to an Actual Hoops Guy like me, but still fascinating in an I’m-only-here-for-tonight way. The Dance Pak tries so hard, and I wonder where they think they’re headed, what they think they’re auditioning for: musical theatre? the arm of a well-paid athlete? Or are they just keeping fit and funding their medical education? All that hair-flinging must be a chiropractor’s nightmare. (Hey, look, what else was I going to look at during timeouts?) The music pounds, would-be VJs ask inane questions, scoreboards give me noise-making advice (with helpful video handclapping graphics), and at regular intervals a ballgame breaks out.

It’s been so long since I’ve been at a game that I thought I might be able to get down close to the floor during warm-ups, maybe even get in a quick word with Jay Triano, the only Canadian coach in the NBA. I’ve followed his career since he was The Big Stuff of a high school tryout camp where I was the short plucky unknown. There’s this idea I have, but I’ll have to find another way to pitch it. The security is pretty tight, Artest knows why …

The MapleRaps lost, by the way. Their unfortunate draft pick, Senor Araujo, still starts but is utterly free of confidence when the ball is in his hands. (I was in the upper deck, but the fear was obvious.) They don’t defend very convincingly, even the fine young star, Chris Bosh. And here’s a thing: I watched for Mr. Triano to speak with players, during timeouts or while on the bench. Didn’t see it. Don’t quite get it. What do assistants do during games, other than charting? I sure hope he’s not a lameduck Canuck, the token local who wouldn’t have an NBA job in any other city. I think he was stiffed from the National Team headship, and the jury is going to be out for a long time on Leo Rautins in his, apparently, first coaching job at any level. It’s amazing to watch the ins and outs of elite basketball in a hockey-mad country, even when not many of us do.