Yes, I know it’s Super Bowl Sunday, and no, this isn’t to report more bad news for the U of L Cardinals. Though the header might lead regular readers, Card faithful mostly, to believe so.
This endeavor is, in point of fact, a riff about the innate provincialism of college basketball.
As if you might not have noticed.
Which character trait is what annually makes March so very magical.
But, as I do, I’m going to lead in with a personal anecdote. Which if illustrative of the primary thematic element of the subject matter has nothing at all to do with hoops.
Other than it happened in HoosierLand, where, ya know, basketball is of consequence.
As this tale is told, back in the day, I managed a band which played a gig in the Nimrod Room of an old, otherwise closed hotel in Scottsburg, Indiana.*
*I did go to a HS game in that town years after the incident, when the Scotties hosted then #1 New Albany. Honest to Chuck Taylor (a Hoosier), it was a time warp, like being back in the era of Miracle Milan. Very cool.
During the band’s gig, we made the acquaintance of some local ladies. Whom attempting to close the deal, we needed to take to breakfast afterwards at a Denny’s, I recall, on the outskirts of town.
Somehow as we were consuming Big Breakfast, workin’ to make it work, there was mention of Columbus. As in Ohio. To which, the lass I was attempting to convince of my total undying devotion and neverending love til the end of time, advised, as if to present herself as a world traveler, that she had traveled to Columbus.
Columbus, Indiana. 40 miles up the road.
Now, I am not someone who has globetrotted the seven seas, but I’ve been to a few more exotic spots, and therefore did get a sense like never before of a vast culture, where the parameters of many people’s existence is relatively limited, and narrow.
* * * * *
The world of college basketball is like that in many regards.
At least most of the year, until about this time of the season, invites to the Big Dance soon to be sent out, when fans of, say, West Virginia, start paying attention to, oh, how similarly bubblicious San Diego State is faring.
At least the smarter ones. Many fans, again with that overwhelming focus on only their particular neighborhoods, just compare the resumés of foes within their conference. As if that’s particularly whom they’re vying with for a Dance card.
Which is not how the secretive processes of the Selection Sunday gang work. Or, so I’m told.
* * * * *
This sense of how narrow our thinking can be about the institutions to which we’ve pledged our lifelong fealty came to me — again — the other day when reading about the perils at Georgetown.
Favorite son Patrick Ewing has lost about 15 games in a row. He was the designated choice of Pope JTII, the founder of Hoya Paranoia, and Ruler of Hoops at this DC university until his passing.
The current powers that be are wondering what to do? Can they actually fire the school’s best and most famous baller ever?
So, yeah, U of L is far from the only program with serious tsouris.
By the by, to some Cardinal fans that G-town fable could resonate as a cautionary tale?
Sidenote: The fellow who penned that piece on Georgetown suggested, perhaps in jest but maybe not, an interesting scenario. Kenny Payne to Louisville. Patrick Ewing, back to his seat on the Knicks bench to replace KP. A fellow you might have heard of, Rick Pitino to Georgetown.
Oh what webs we get woven.
* * * * *
I’m sort of meandering here, but my point is college basketball fans tend to be myopic, to think locally. In terms of how their teams stacks up against those geographically close. Or those who belong to the same confederation.
Until the lead up, then reveal, then later that important Sunday night.
When, all of a sudden, Xavier fans are wondering why they’re underdogs to Colorado State?
That’s why March Madness is the best. Why the whole country, hamlet, village and metropolis alike, are galvanized with the splendor of the Dance.
That’s why we’ll soon read an article about how many work hours are lost with people comparing brackets standing at the copying machine.
Iowa State vs. UConn. Southern Cal vs. Providence.
Can Liberty really be Duke?
That’s why those first four days, the Rounds of 64 and 32 are to be treasured. E vs. W. N vs. S. Best weekend in sports.
I love it even if my team once again is standing outside with its face pressed against the candy store window.
Local goes global.
Brackets are B.A.D., brackets are nationwide.
* * * * *
I watch a lot of college basketball. I’m more obsessed than most.
Which allows perspective on the state of the Cardinals, more contextual than if they were the only outfit I watch.
Just considering other city schools — Providence, Marquette, Xavier, DePaul, Houston, Memphis State, DePaul for Naismithius sake, et al — here’s what I can say.
U of L basketball is oh so very not up to par.
No offense I’ve seen, not of those schools, not even Wright State and Longwood whom I watched the other evening, is as static as that of Mack/ Pegues. A lot of those team have ballhandling alpha dogs they go to early and often. But the other guys are in motion, carving up space, not standing with thumbs up their buttocks.
Similar issues on D.
So here’s a tip. If you don’t want to really really lament the state of the Cards anymore than already, stream a series on Netflix until the NC2A starts.
Some Cardinal fans are doing just that, whether U of L is playing then or not.
* * * * *
As for that night in Scottsburg, you might wonder?
It ended, belly full of pancakes, unrequited, in the chain eatery’s parking lot hard by the interstate.
“When you boys comin’ up here to play again?”
— c d kaplan