It's shame 'pits' of college basketball are slowly but surely growing extinct

Phil Jackman

February 17, 1993|By Phil Jackman

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There was an interesting and diverse reaction by Boston College coach Jim O'Brien and player Bill Curley to playing (and losing) at St. John's campus gym the other day. While the coach complained about the bestiality of the Redmen fans, Curley said: "I wish we had fans like that back in Boston. That's what home-court advantage is all about: making the other team hate to come in here."

Unfortunately, some of the good ol' campus "pits" are going the way of the dodo bird. A personal favorite was the National Guard armory that St. Francis of Brooklyn used to call home. If the visitors were ahead at halftime, they used to start the engines of about a hundred Army vehicles and you couldn't cut the exhaust fumes with a bayonet. Funny thing is, the fumes never seemed to affect the home team.

* The more you look at the proposed three-division alignment for the American and National leagues, the more appealing and sensible it becomes. Especially when considering the inevitability of a soon-to-be additional round of playoff action.

The AL East would contain the Orioles, Blue Jays, Yankees, Red Sox and Indians, with the Brewers and Tigers taking up residence in the AL Central with the White Sox and Twins. The Rangers, A's, Angels, Royals and Mariners would constitute the AL West.

The three division winners and a wild-card team would provide the championship series semifinals, providing yet another desirable postseason property for sale to television. Drawbacks include realignment's being more conducive to that scourge, interleague play, and unbalanced schedules.

* Once a co-feature of the NBA's All-Star Weekend, the slam dunk contest appears to be on its last legs, the game's famed aerial artists having long since begged off from participating. However, one more Michael Jordan vs. Dominique Wilkins vs. Spud Webb vs. Larry Nance show would be nice before a trick shot competition is tried (remember the Jordan-Larry Bird commercial during the Super Bowl?).

* Anybody who plays the lottery consistently should seriously consider getting a buck or two down on New England, Phoenix or Seattle to win the 1994 Super Bowl. Each is more than a million-to-one shot to go all the way.

* Speaking of odds, it's nothing shy of incomprehensible that Eddie Murray has recorded the fewest triples in big-league history among players who have at least 2,500 career hits. Just as strange is the fact Brooks Robinson had 68 three-baggers to Eddie's total of 32, and B. Robby often appeared as if he was running in place. You don't suppose Murray stopped at second to up his doubles total, do you?

* Good news from the old folks home. Bjorn Borg, the former tennis great still trying to make it back on tour, came dangerously close to winning his first match in 10 tries in San Francisco. "It's the best I've played in a regular tournament," he said after winning his first set from a regular tourist.

* A kid named Emery Martin of Painesville, Ohio, registered a quadruple double of 60 points, 13 rebounds, 10 assists and 10 steals in a high school game last week. That's in just 32 minutes, remember. In the long history of the NBA, only two players, Alvin Robertson and Nate Thurmond, have scored a "quad" and that's over 48 minutes of playing time.

* I don't know about this guy Leonard Tose, former owner of the Philadelphia Eagles. He's trying to recoup some of his nearly $15 million in gambling losses from an Atlantic City casino, arguing they plied him with booze. What did Lenny think the object of providing free drinks for players by the house was, an amenity?

* A couple of weeks before Lou Campanelli got the gate as basketball coach at Cal-Berkeley, Tom Miller got run off as coach at Army for pretty much the same thing. Miller, it is said, "publicly degraded" his players, leading to his dismissal. A spokesman at the Academy said: "The whole purpose of West Point is to develop leaders. Things such as yelling in the face of a cadet are totally inappropriate."

Obviously, things have changed a bit in the military. Time was when the sole purpose of drill sergeants, the top kick and cadre was to get in your face and screech incessantly until you were discharged.

* Perhaps someone at the U.S. Olympic Committee would like to explain why it was felt George Steinbrenner was needed as a policy-making vice president after he totally messed up the Yankees before the embarrassment of being suspended from baseball, and Congress just provided a $58 million bailout to save George's shipbuilding business. Steinbrenner wants to link the USOC more closely with college athletics, but that will be over the NCAA's dead body if it has any brains.

* The Toughman World Championship, a "grass roots" competition that has introduced the likes of Mr. T, Tommy Morrison and Greg Haugen to the world, will be staged in Atlantic City March 27, and there to record the action for the clamoring masses will be SET pay-per-view.

Local and regional toughman shows will rage for a couple of months in small and medium-sized cities (what, no tough guys in the big city?) before the toughest of the tough congregate at Donald Trump's Taj Mahal. "The Don" has indicated he might challenge the victor.

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