Don’t worry, this isn’t a whiny, frothing rant on the shitty state of the sports world. No . . this is a whiny, frothy rant on the shitty state of college basketball.
I used to be a fan of college ball back in the day. Back when players stayed in school all four years. Back when conferences made sense. Back when fundamentals mattered more than gangster posing and preening and three pointers and slam dunk highlights.
This isn’t to say that players shouldn’t make the jump to the NBA if they possess the skills. Hey, if you can make baller money . . go do it! But this is to say that the pillars of the sport- Roy Williams, Jim Boeheim, Jim Calhoun, Mike Krzyzewski- have failed their young charges. Miserably. Not the one tenth of one percent who end up playing at the next level. They have failed the ones who won’t. But since those kids aren’t where the money’s at, no prob.
Rail on all you want about John Calipari being shameless. Damn the basketball factory he’s running at Kentucky, but yanno what? He is the only one who ain’t lying. And most of his starting lineup actually will get drafted by an NBA team. So there’s that. See, all the rest of these coaches love Calipari, because he’s the punching bag for their transgressions.
This didn’t just happen overnight, mind you. It happened over decades and decades, as the money got bigger and the priorities of these institutions of higher learning became increasingly narrow and subversive. How else to explain how it is that many taxpayer funded schools wantonly recruit athletes with rap sheets . . recruit athletes from the other side of the world . . hire coaches in order to ‘bribe’ recruits into playing for them.
Why doesn’t someone ask Jim Boeheim how he got out from under the Bernie Fine scandal? Why doesn’t someone ask Jim Calhoun how, if he loved his kids so much, he could leave them and his school holding the bag when he walked away from a litany of transgressions, unscathed? Why won’t someone ask Pimp Daddy Rick Pitino what he’s smoking when he boasts of always having run clean programs? And why in the blessed fuck doesn’t someone ask Michigan State coach Tom Izzo to be real, or at least try? When Izzo says he won’t answer any non-basketball related questions in fairness to his players, why doesn’t someone ask about the women and the girls? Was it fair to them? Every single fucking question he is asked should be about the women and the girls.
And now we get “March Madness”- the most over hyped production since Waterworld, and every bit as anti-climactic. How else to explain a tournament where every single ‘upset’ is a subjective enterprise? I mean, a committee seeds the teams, which is overwhelmingly subjective. And then, when a nine seed beats an eight seed, everyone screams UPSET!. The truth of the matter is there are very few true ‘upsets’ in the tournament, yet we are led to believe it happens all the time and every year. It’s nonsense, perpetuated by networks who buy the rights to televise this tournament for a shitload of money, after which they lord over the NCAA. The tail wags the dog, and the tail is big money that leads to more corruption, which leads to the next scandal. After which the NCAA will get tough by taking wins away from a school, titles too. But it won’t change a fucking thing, because the system is built for cheating.
I know exactly one thing about this year’s tournament. My son’s school (Penn) is slotted as the sixteenth seed in some regional . . somewhere . . Whoville or Buttfuckswana who knows? What I do know is that these kids- all of ’em- will be pulled out of the classroom to go play tournament basketball for days, maybe even weeks at a time. Not that the high profile athletes have to worry themselves with missed class time, unless they want to be students. The academics are optional for too many of these kids, and the sad fact is that too few of these kids will make an NBA roster, so yanno . . a college education is kind of important.
The Penn Quakers will be playing the number one seed Kansas Jayhawks. The game will most likely be over before halftime, and Kansas will probably make another title run because they’re a minor league basketball team whose integrity as an academic institution now runs a distant second to being a basketball power, since that’s where the money is.
The Penn kids will be just fine, and who knows . . maybe a few of them will even be representing the Kansas kids before too long. Either as player/agents or in a court of law. Harsh, sure. True? Absofuckinglutely.
I’ll fill out a bracket in which I guess my ass off, but I will not watch a minute of the tournament. Because college basketball doesn’t need me, they already have their money.
Maybe it was always going to be this way. Maybe college basketball was destined to be a runaway train whose allegiance to the almighty dollar over every single other thing was gonna happen regardless. Maybe it was always destined to crash and burn in the same way Bobby Knight’s coaching career did, after one too many bad grandpa acts. Come to think of it, Knight is symbolic of college basketball- a high profile bully whose boorishness was overlooked because winning games mattered most. Knight was the literal bottom to a bottom line that honors winning games over all else. I wish Bobby Knight would’ve tried his act on the wrong person, just once. Because he didn’t need kudos and applause. What he needed was a good ass kicking.
So too, does his sport.