Time out on praising coaches
By Tim Keown
Page 2 columnist

Sometime this weekend, if you watch the Final Four, you will no doubt be treated to one of the greatest timeout calls in the history of the game.

It's that time of year again. One of our Great Coaches -- my money's on Roy Williams this year -- will sense something funky in his team's approach, probably early in the second half, and call a timeout that will have TV analysts falling out of their blazers in admiration.

It's one of nature's most perplexing realities: how college players can play insanely hard for 40 minutes and the greatest praise is heaped upon a guy in a suit who decides to call a timeout at precisely the same moment the entire viewing public is standing in front of its television saying, "Timeout! They need a timeout!"

Roy Williams
The Jayhawks applaud coach Roy Williams after one of his well-placed timeouts in last week's regional final.

One other thing: As games increase in significance, alleged statistics are repeated as if they actually carry real-life meaning. Since information technology allows us the opportunity to analyze all sorts of data, every piece gets thrown into the meat grinder. When it comes out, all of it -- the legitimate and the insane -- gets distributed with the same breathless sense of importance.

One example, ripped from today's headlines: The last three times the Final Four has been held in New Orleans, a No. 1 seed has advanced to the championship game.

OK. We're repeatedly provided with tidbits such as this, and nearly all the time we either discount it or fail to consciously process its meaning.

So, what does that factito mean -- go out and bet Texas? Just how does the location of the game relate to its potential outcome when the teams in question have no connection to the city or any of the teams that played there previously? Did anyone examine this statement before it was presented over the airwaves and question what the hell it means?

Are we so inundated with information that we've lost the ability to separate the significant from the inconsequential?

And, moreover, why does this bother me so much?

This Week's List

  • Opening Day means only one thing around my house: Checking the transactions with one question in mind -- Bruce Chen get traded yet?

  • Get ready, once again, for 40 minutes of hell: Jim Boeheim on the sideline, looking like Snoopy with a kidney stone.

  • Tell you what, my analysis projects him as the best Zip they've had in a long, long time: Let the speculation begin -- will LeBron James declare for the NBA draft, or will he stay close to home and attend University of Akron?

  • Don't know yet about the pitching part, but it looks like the Mets have put together a pretty good broadcast team if the need arises: Tom Glavine, Al Leiter and David Cone begin the season in the starting rotation.

  • The latest in a long line of guys who goes far, far out of his way to make sure he's misunderstood: Ron Artest.

  • Just for the heck of it: Bill Melton.

  • Match the following statement to its most likely source: "He's a good shooter, so when he's open you have to guard him." A) something your non-sports fan uncle said while trying to insinuate himself into a conversation regarding Texas' Brian Boddicker eviscerate Michigan State; B) something your 8-year-old said after watching Gerry McNamara of Syracuse drill three in a row from the top of the key; C) something Kareem Abdul-Jabbar said in one of his more insightful moments.

  • I can't remember where I put my car keys, but since this is what my mind sees when I hear the words "Marquette" and "Final Four": Butch Lee, Jerome Whitehead, and uniform designer Bo Ellis.

  • Of course, because it could be no other way: There was a Cornbread Maxwell UNCC image mixed up in there, too.

  • The Sooners played their first two rounds in Oklahoma City, but apparently that was just the nutty luck of the draw: Oklahoma coach Kelvin Sampson bowed out last Sunday with a series of passive-aggressive complaints about the home-court advantage Syracuse enjoyed in Albany.

  • Just in case you don't get enough this weekend: Roy Williams, Roy Williams, Roy Williams.

  • Sound smart! Sound worldly! Be profound and simultaneously dilute your argument with a specious war reference!: Commenting on a Blue Jays' ad campaign that encourages fans to come to the park and boo Hideki Matsui, Yanks manager Joe Torre said, "I thought it was tasteless, especially in the climate of what's going on in the world today."

  • And finally, don't even get us started on the political ramifications of breaking up a double play: While we're at war, pitching on the inside half of the plate is akin to an act of sedition.

    Tim Keown is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine. E-mail him at tim.keown@espn3.com.



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