|NBA takes the kids to school|
By Ralph Wiley
Page 2 columnist
What follows are 29 reasons why the NBA, the pro run, is better to watch, chew on, digest than NCAA hoop, the college (or semi-pro) run. Your opinions on this matter might not agree with mine. Your opinions on most matters usually don't, do they? Why should this be any different?
Please check this out anyway. There might be something here to give you cause, pause, change of heart, possibly acid reflux. Send all comparisons, contrasts and complaints to the Page 2 Crew. I'll be busy thinking up more reasons.
This sums it up in a nutshell -- Chuck's Milk Dud head being the nut. Kellogg -- real nice guy, clean-cut, admits Bony James' cool jazz fusion is his favorite kind of music, makes good points about tourney games. Occasionally picks an upset. No doubt drinks merlot -- one glass -- with dinner, if the boss is having some. Doesn't laugh too loud in studio. Never mentions Greg Gumbel's exploding waistline on air. Safe. Sane.
Then we have Chuckles -- maniacal free associations, outrageous opinions, laughs at his own exploding waistline, dead reckoning on what/who is wrong with the league, appears on mag covers in chains, doesn't care who likes it, who doesn't. You can visualize Chuck sneaking a double-cheese and a couple of Coronas while listening to Korn or Wu-Tang and asking, "What da hell ... is that!?" And making it seem funny.
2. In the NBA, when a grown heterosexual man tells a 20-year-old junior-college student, "I need you," he's usually talking to a woman; in the NCAA, not so.
3. NBA playoffs have NBC, TNT, TBS and soon ABC & ESPN; NCAA Tournament has CBS.
4. NBA has a long regular season, one possible five-game war and three possible seven-game wars in the playoffs; NCAA has a meaningless regular season and a rollicking one-and-out tourney that ends too quick.
5. NBA has Mark Cuban; NCAA has B. Allen Sugg.
7. NBA has Ernie Johnson in a goatee; NCAA has Greg Gumbel doing his woodwork impression.
8. NBA has Tiger Woods rooting for the Lakers; NCAA has Tiger Woods rooting for Stanford.
9. NBA has great players; NCAA has institutions.
The other dot.org is not gonna pay me to play in 45 games, up in Fresno, or down in Fayettville, Ark., or Auburn, Ala., or some other entertainment capital of civilization. Now, if I'm a great young actor, where'm I going, to summer stock in the Poconos, or with Ed Norton, John Travolta, Halle Berry and Jennifer Connelly on location in Maui for the next $100 mil Bruckhemier kaboom-fest?
Playing against students? Might as well get a degree, in that case. And it's not just being on TV -- it's how you're on TV. If you're on TV as an underdeveloped, bumbling, rock-headed, how-can-you-hoist-that-shot-up, not-see-that-pass, turn-that-ball-over, you-bow-wow-bum -- where's the gain in that? Ah, go to school or something.
The NCAA's hook is our fondness for its/our institutions -- not the level of ball that we're watching. If we actually thought about that, we'd say, "Hey ... this is kind of like ... a turnover-filled bughunt."
We all went to -- or have a mother, brother or bud who went to -- Cal, IU, Austin Peay, Louisville, Ball State, Duke, Winthrop, Gonzaga, Fresno, Yale, Kent, Davidson, Holy Cross, Princeton, Oregon, Hampton, U-Dub, Binghamton, Northwestern, etc., ad infinitum. So the NCAA has more loyal franchisees than Mickey D's.
Think about it, though -- have you ever seen an ivy-bedecked college campus itself execute a killer crossover move, bomb in three straight from beyond the state line, then sneer, and say, "Them three for y'mama. Tell her and your wife I said send me back that Japanese silk robe and slippers they bought me. Forgot to take 'em home on your last road trip. Unless you wanna use 'em."
No. You haven't.
Really, if I see one more 2-foot bank shot as the go-to shot in the clutch, I'm gonna hurl stuff I didn't even know I ate. It's sad. It's pathetic. It's Dukie Carlos Boozer, missing a 2-footer, from point-blank range, against IU. How do you miss a 2-foot bank shot ... ever? There's no mystery in a 2-foot bank shot. Anybody who celebrates his team making a 2-footer to win would celebrate scoring with the cackling, sagging, lesion-filled old woman in the hotel bathub scene in "The Shining."
A two-foot banker is the Sarah Jessica Parker of made baskets. It might make Matthew Broderick happy, but, uh, um, I'll come back to that later.
In the NBA, everybody blocks that. Guys come in off the bench to block that shot. Coaches block that. George Karl blocks that shot. In the NBA, the 2-foot bank shot, staple of noontime-at-the-Y runs everywhere, is counterfeit ... as it should be, if I'm going to watch it, and call it entertainment.
11. NBA has Bill Walton; NCAA has Billy Packer.
12. NBA has currency; NCAA has nostalgia.
The Kevin Spacey character in "American Beauty" or Humbert Humbert in "Lolita" is not someone you want to admit to being. At any NBA game, if the slightly fraying, slightly freaky dancing girls who are "27" (sure you are, baby) get your attention in some ravenous way, then that's cool. That's what they're there for.
But if you ogle the hot teenaged pulchritude of the U. of Memphis dance girls, or the Kentucky cheerleaders, it makes a mature man feel like some kind of slobbering lech. Of course, you just go ahead and feel that, and move on, but it does leave residual guilt. NBA dancing girls, it's full-throttle fantasyland. You can in good conscience even go up and hit on one of them, if that's you, and if you don't mind a good laugh, whether it's on you or not.
14. NBA has the law; NCAA has NCAA regulations.
15. NBA has Phil Jackson; NCAA has Coach K.
In the wake of a loss, Coach K, a three-time NCAA tourney winner, might have begun to really become like the incomparable-as-an-educator-and-as-a-coach John Wooden. Still, Phil has eight rings, Coach K. has three.
16. NBA has a challenging 3-point shot; NCAA has a virtual layup 3.
17. NBA doesn't pretend like coaches sitting on their doughy arses are the entertainment value here; NCAA does.
18. NBA has Michael Jordan; NCAA only used to.
... to a shocked and very out-of-position Worthy, out by halfcourt. NCAA had Jordan one more year. NBA has had him ever since. If Carolina gets another one of those, wake me up. NCAA hoop without a decent Carolina team alters primal forces of nature.
19. NBA has Larry Brown, who took six diferent NBA teams to the playoffs, won an NCAA title at one school, and went to the NCAA title game at another; NCAA has Matt Doherty.
Not playing in the NCAA seems to have hurt his basketball development, didn't it?
21. NBA has KG; NCAA never did.
22. NBA has T-Mac; NCAA never did.
23. NBA has Kwame Brown; NCAA never did.
24. NBA has Tyson Chandler and Eddie Curry; NCAA never did.
25. NBA has George Karl; NCAA can only dream of having George Karl one day.
26. NBA has superior ball movement; NCAA has one guy dominating everything from the point.
27. NBA has Jason Kidd, Jason Williams and Jayson Williams; NCAA has only the one Jason Williams, and even him not for long.
Welcome to the show, NCAA's Jason Williams. Here are the instructions to the coffee machine.
28. NBA has Jazz in Utah; NCAA hides its pep bands.
By contrast, the NCAA has a new group of human sacrifices not unlike Kevin Ross every year. The constant is the name on the front not the back of the jerseys. The enthusiastic pep bands, which sort of let you know this is college and students are involved, are ignored. Hampton's pep band turned the MCI Center all the way out and CBS did its best to ignore this fine spectacle in the first round. Instead, CBS gives endless looping of network show promos and leaden "in-studio analysis" that makes us cry out for Dickie V.
Dickie V is only one guy, and he can't be everywhere -- but he's the one guy who makes it all seem exciting, even if it's January and conference play just started. Even Dickie V., was an old NBA guy, once. I'll never forget him and his beetling brows and Coke-bottle glasses, living and dying (mostly the latter) with each Pistons' loss, as the late, laconic Leon the Barber, the world's best heckler, cut him, Terry Tyler and John Long three new ones in old Cobo.
Give us more pep, "yutes," and talent, and less CBS droning head.
29. NBA has D. Miles & Q; NCAA wishes it did.
Ralph Wiley spent nine years at Sports Illustrated and wrote 28 cover stories on celebrity athletes. He is the author of several books, including "Best Seat in the House," with Spike Lee, "Born to Play: The Eric Davis Story," and "Serenity, A Boxing Memoir."