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Thursday, March 17, 2005

Hello Madness

What's not to like about March? There's my birthday, Frank Paynter's puppy's birthday, St. Patrick's Day, green beer, daffodils, the end of winter, and best of all, March Madness--i.e., my very favorite sporting event, the NCAA basketball tournament.

There's a purity to college hoops that doesn't exist in the NBA. By that I mean good playmaking, team discipline, putting the team before the self, and indomitable spirit. And, unlike football, where only a handful of elite college teams are skillful enough to be worth watching, the level of play in college hoops is excellent throughout the whole tournament lineup of sixty-four teams.

There's a gathering dark side, unfortunately. More and more players, especially African-Americans, are not graduating. At some of the top basketball schools, take Georgia Tech and Oklahoma State as two examples, the graduation rates are bordering on the scandalous (around 20%).

Fortunately, the NCAA is finally deciding to address this unfortunate turn of events and will adopt policies next year which punish schools who fail to reach a 50% graduation rate. I have to say, though, that even 50% seems ridiculous to me.

When I was at Indiana, a basketball powerhouse (although not so much since the much-maligned Bob Knight got forced out), they were very serious about the players being able to cut it as students. Say what you will about Knight's tirades, he had one of the best graduation rates in the country, not to mention a Hall of Fame record.

I spent one summer working as a remedial writing tutor to the freshman players who were having trouble. They would not allow these guys, no matter how talented, to put on the uniform the next year if they couldn't get a passing grade in Freshman English. And it also didn't matter how rabidly insistent the fan base was about having top teams, the school would not let you on the court if you couldn't meet the same standard required of every other student.

Some of these guys were truly woeful when it came to tackling basic writing skills. Products of forlorn ghettos in rust-belt industrial towns, there was many a day when one of my charges would storm out in frustration, yelling, "Fuck it! I can't take this shit."

Next day, coach would have them sheepishly returning for the next session. Coach would say, "You can fuck the mother-tongue, or you can play for one of the top programs in the country. It's up to you."

Indiana's teams were noted for their disciplined team play, attention to fundamentals, and understanding of the game. Of course, that was the coach's doing, but I like to think that our rigorous tutoring sessions may have contributed a smidgeon.

After all, every experience that the brain has alters the neural paths in some way. Maybe our repeated bashings of these guys' heads with a structured approach to language had some small effect.

Well, I can't root for the Hoosiers this year. They didn't even make it to the tourney, for heaven's sake. How the mighty have fallen. But I'm a Big Ten guy so my money's on Illinois. Besides, my niece is a student there. That's as good a reason as any. As a birthday gift, my son has paid my entrance fee into a big betting pool. Go Illini!


  • I agree,

    I love NCAAB. and recently I have bought stock in it. Not like real stock on Wall street, but a stock market that is strictly for sports.

    You have seen it? Its pretty cool. You buy issues for your favorite teams and you make real money. Not like a fake stock simulator. I cash out Dividends each time the team wins. Also I can sell my team stock when the price goes up.

    check it out if something like this interests you.
    heres a link
    you can log in and check it out for free..

    They just released IPOS for NCAAB this week, so there are alot of good deals there.

    Hope that helps

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