There are many things that drives me crazy: that Christmas ads start airing in October; that about three times as many people watch 2 and A Half Men than watch Parks and Recreation each week; that some people refuse to heed Glenn Beck’s warning about the ongoing progressive conspiracy.
But there’s one commonly held belief that annoys me more than any other: that college basketball is even debatably better than pro basketball. Somehow, the evil cabal of the NCAA and CBS has convinced the American public that college basketball is as American as apple pie. When really it’s as American as Apple Toaster Strudel…it’s nothing but empty calories and pretty packaging.
The entire reputation of college basketball rests on the gimmick of March Madness. It would be hard for me to debate that there aren’t compelling components. The one-and-done format may mean that the best team rarely wins the title, but it ratchets up the drama to a fever pitch. We get to see college kids celebrating and crying, all because of a ball bouncing through a basket. Add to that the rooting interest if your school is in the tourney. Add to that the distraction that office pools bring to your work day. Add to that the 19-year-old cheerleaders – it’s not like I can’t see some of the appeal.
The problem is, it’s almost complete bullshit. Yes, every year has some compelling games…that’s especially been the case this year. There’s a reason for that though…there’s 63 fucking games. Pick any sport you want…put four games on at once four times a day over two days. I don’t care if it’s football, hockey, baseball…whatever. At least one game per slot will be compelling, and a couple of games a day will be awesome, regardless of the quality of the product.
But fine…March Madness buzzer beaters are awesome. But that is literally all that college basketball has going for it. The quality of the play itself is atrocious. These kids may be scrappy, but they can’t shoot or play defense. The three-point line is a joke, close enough that even The Dilemma could make a couple. The end of every game is a turgid parade of free throw shots and timeouts. Any player with an iota of talent stays for one year, only because the NBA won’t take them. Guys like Tyler Hansborough become gods, because they aren’t talented enough to be a star in the NBA, but talented enough to dominate their horrible competition.
There’s only one reason that college basketball is beloved while the NBA is suspect: Race. Race. Race. That’s it. There are twice as many white players as in the NBA. And those “scrappy”, “smart” teams that really draw in the viewers (Duke, Gonzaga, Valparaiso, Butler, etc.)…they look like they were recruited from the Aryan Nations AAU team. Is it an accident that the upsets that sell March Madness almost always feature unknown white players beating highly-recruited black players?
But even this isn’t as bad as the lie on which the entire enterprise is based…that college basketball has anything at all to do with college. To be eligible for the tourney, a one-and-doner only has to complete six credits. That’s passing Rocks for Jocks and Beginner Pottery. That’s it. And this isn’t to blame the players…any 18-year-old that knows he has to play one season of college basketball to bide his time before making millions of dollars would be fucking retarded to think anybody cared about educating him. And any coach that thinks he’s going to continue to be employed if he graduates all his players and loses most of his games…well, those coaches don’t exist, and if they do they’re next to you at the unemployment office. And any college president that cashes his portion of the half-billion CBS pays annually for the tourney, or the millions Nike gives him to put a logo on his “amateur student-athletes”, or the check he gets from selling the naming rights to his stadium; then turns around to give a coach like John Calipari $32 million over 8 years even though he’s the only coach to have Final Four appearances vacated from TWO SEPARATE SCHOOLS…well, they should be forced to listen to Jim Nantz wax poetic about the purity of March Madness with their eyes clipped open like Malcolm McDowell in A Clockwork Orange while being force-fed McDonald’s until they burst, their fattened liver fried up like Foie Gras and offered to all the players that were promised scholarships at their school only to have them pulled when a new coach came in.
One Shining Moment – what a bunch of bullshit.