The Weekend Side Note…

So I got the house in order last night and sat down to a peaceful hour of television. It was the mindless, info-letting that occurs at the end of most days. Every now and then Stella sits with me, but the point is the same. Shut down, and just let it go…

But anyway, I popped through my assortment of college hoops games and stumbled onto an oldie between Kentucky and North Carolina on, I think, MASN. (Miami vs. Mississippi State wasn’t doing it for me, even though that kid from MSU looks ridiculously good.)

This game was from the early 1980s and the UNC Worthy, Perkins, Doherty, and Jimmy Black team. The really good one that had a freshman named Jordan. Kentucky had Dirk Minnifield and Dinnerbell Mel Turpin. Plus, Al McGuire was on color commentary and that is worth your viewing anytime. I got sucked in.

Here’s what struck me: I’ve never seen so many 15-foot jumpers taken, and made, in my life. Guards, forwards, and centers–in the days before they were numbered 1-5–were taking them. And making them. Offensive patterns consistently opened up a midrange jumper.

It’s amazing how we get comfy with how the game is played. The game today is a bevy of three-pointers and slashes to the hoop. It seems the goal of an offense is to get really close to the hoop or fire it from a looong way away for an extra point. When a player stations himself at the high post, turns and faces the basket, and knocks down a jumper your eyebrows raise, as if he just hit a shot from behind the basket. About 25 years ago that shot was like making a layup in pregame warmups.

I consider myself both old school and a purist and this got past me. Once I landed on the channel, I couldn’t take my eyes off of how the game was played: no shot clock, no three point line, and fans booing the vaunted “four-corners” offense of Dean Smith. There was a poetry to that game that I don’t feel these days.

Interestingly, McGuire at one point commented that the four corners was not just a stall tactic but an offensive gameplan. After the third backdoor cut for a layup, I nodded my head and wondered: when did something so basic as passing and cutting become a brand–the “Princeton offense.”

I’m not saying one is better or worse than the other. I’m just saying it is very different. It is interesting to watch how the game has progressed and take note of those changes.

When this game was played live, I was about 16 years old. I had a mindset of “college basketball.” This game reminded me to revisit that mindset. Keep that in your mind as you wander the stores this weekend. Notice the people, the commericalism, the attitude, the seemingly forced nature of it all. Then come home and flip on a hoops game. Take it all in and think about it. Not like when you were 16, huh? But you still enjoy this season for what it is, and that is a good thing. This holiday season, despite everything surrounding it, is wonderful because people act for one month the way they should for 12 months. Similarly, sports should all be like college hoops.

And that is why college basketball is like Christmas. And Santa Claus is a 15-foot jumper. (I think, though “Santa Claus is a 15-foot jumper” could be the new name of this blog.)

Oh, and the short-shorts cracked me up. We can keep those in the past.

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~ by mglitos on December 14, 2007.

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