Don Locke: Looking Through Bifocals
As always when I visit with you about NCAA basketball around tournament time each year, I must always put forth the disclaimer that I never played in an organized game. As a seventh and eighth-grader I did get to dress on our high school B-team at home games. We got to come out before tip-off and shoot, then, during the half-time of the A-team games. I did have a jersey with our school colors, but that's where the complete uniform ended. Oh, I had trunks, such as they were. They were olive-drab and very much resembled World War-Two soldier's boxer shorts. The reason for that is, Mister Mitchell, our coach, promised that if you came out for basketball, you would get some kind of uniform and get to dress. There were so many who showed-up, I must have gotten the last pair of trunks. Heck, I was out there in my army underwear . . . the color of which didn't matter . . . I was shooting basketball before a crowd. H.B. Mitchell was one of the fairest men I ever knew.
Kids worry about the strangest of things. I thought if I ever was called-on to go into the game (which was a useless worry), what I would say when I got to the official scorer's table, where all those important-looking men sat, checking players in and out. No one had ever told me. I finally decided I would tell them, "I'm playing now." I figured that would get the job done.
As always, during the entire NCAA college season, new sports-speak shows-up--inside expressions and clever cliches by the people who do the announcing and the ones who do the color--mostly the guys who do the color. Here are some old, and some brand new: "That team plays good half-court basketball." Where else do you play, except the ten seconds when the offense brings the ball down the floor? Both goals are located on each half-end of the floor.
When the coach, "Hands the keys to the car," he is putting into the game an inexperienced player. Also, it used to be "string music," now it's "all cotton." That of course is where the ball goes in and touches nothing but the net. I'll stop here; it gets worse.
Some of the old ones are still around: The game is tied 62-60, there are only a few seconds to go. The announcer or the color-person will say something intelligent like, "They (the team with 60) don't need a THREE now." When, pray-tell, if not NOW!?
Oh, in my list of new ones I forget, "He's a ball facilitator." Figure that one.
Some of the rules of basketball need changing. The "possession arrow" is a sorry rule. If I jump into the fray and tie up the ball, my effort is wasted if it's the opposing team's turn to take the ball out. This could mean the difference in a won or lost game. The referees got that changed. They claimed the players were so tall anymore they couldn't toss the ball high enough for a good tip-off. Any ref that couldn't do that ought to turn-in his whistle. That's baloney. I remember when I was a young-un, Graham High School in Muhlenberg County had a player by the name of James Glispie, who lacked a cat's whisker being 7-feet tall. The refs back then got it up high enough. I guess they were stronger . . . and back then they tipped the ball off after every point was made.
I won't go into what a poor rule I think "bracketing" (who plays who--when and where) is. If you said MONEY is the underlying factor, give yourself a ginger cake. My daddy used "ginger cake" a lot. Bracketing? Done by a committee! Is that frightening or what? I'm glad God didn't send a committee for man's redemption.
I hear the dinner bell; it's time to take-out my mule.
Kindest regards . . .