NCAA puts Series, Super Bowl to shame

Phil Jackman

March 29, 1993|By Phil Jackman

Far too much happened in sports during the last couple of days to stick with college hoops, although it's scary to think how mesmerizing "The Road to the Final Four" has become.

Think about it for a minute. For years, the World Series far outstripped anything else for sheer interest as men, women and children felt compelled to take a side even if they had somehow failed to take note of diamond doings the six months previous.

Now the fall classic is a late-night marketing instrument to peddle cars, telephone services and computers while constantly reminding bleary-eyed viewers of the battery of sitcoms and cop shows the network has planned for the fall season. That dramatic home run Kirk Gibson smote a few years ago to win a game for the Dodgers, by actual count only 137 people in the state of Maryland witnessed it live on the tube.

Some clever sage decreed a couple of years ago that Super Sunday had passed Easter as a day of rejoicing and was rapidly closing in on Christmas. But folks know there's a lot more smoke than fire involved here and have a practiced disregard for the two weeks of hype that ushers in a football game pretty much known for its one-sidedness.

But college hoops, yeow! The old office pool is back in vogue. Alums, fans and just plain residents of states laying claim to 64 different schools go ape until their team is eliminated. Then, barely stopping to draw breath, they adopt another as "their" team.

Something for the NCAA to consider seriously: Have each state represented by at least one team, even the Dakota that is not inhabited.

The NCAA orders up 63 games spread over 11 days of three long weekends and the whole thing is over in 22 calendar days. That sounds like a long time, but, in actuality, it's just about the right amount of time to fall back, clear the head, rest up, second-guess and get revved up for the next act.

Anyway, to escape the lower back pain that inevitably shows up while soft-chairing hoops from dusk to midnight or from noon to prime time, the last two afternoons provided an excellent opportunity to check out the recent progress of the on-fire Washington Capitals. In a word, the conflagration more closely resembled the pilot light on your water heater.

Out of it just about sums up the Caps' losing efforts against New Jersey and Pittsburgh while being outscored 9-3. The Devils and Penguins are Patrick Division foes, remember, and the team's 11-18-2 mark in the Patrick probably gives excellent indication of how long the Caps figure to be around in the playoffs beginning in three weeks.

People who go around waving Old Glory in the faces of tennis players when time comes to contest for tennis' Davis Cup are a bit much. Certain freedoms are guaranteed in this country, and one of them is liberty to pursue the almighty buck and rest and relaxation.

There is something we can take umbrage at with regard to a U.S. team getting waxed in straight matches by Australia, however. Chances are the best Americans, all young players, were guilty of playing politics.

See, these young, impressionable youths have made no secret of the fact they favor John McEnroe as captain (coach), and what better way to achieve that end than to do their part toward assuring the team suffer a bad defeat such as this under the present captain, classy Tom Gorman.

Guy Forget, one of the heroes of France's upset win over the United States in the final two years ago, hit it right on the head when he said: "You have to congratulate the Americans. They did everything they could to lose, and they succeeded."

In the world rankings, U.S. players hold the Nos. 1-2-7-8-9 singles spots, but the defending champs ended up playing the No. 30 (Brad Gilbert) and No. 48 (David Wheaton) players. But don't paint anyone as unpatriotic. That lends too much importance to a situation bordering on insignificant.

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