Dangerfield routine at Final Four

March 28, 1996|By John Eisenberg

If you have any extra respect lying around the house, could I borrow it for the weekend?

I'm going to be heading up to the Meadowlands for the Final Four, and I don't think I have enough respect in my personal cache to satisfy those who will be asking for it up there.

None of the four teams headed for the Meadowlands thinks it gets enough respect.

Syracuse doesn't. Mississippi State doesn't. Massachusetts doesn't. Even the favored Kentucky Wildcats don't think the world understands their pain.

The Final Four's theme this year is "I Don't Get No (Respect)."

Ask one question and you're liable to get a half-hour lecture on the idiocy of the rest of the world. These lectures are also available in abridged versions, suitable for sound biting.

I'd like to be a nice guy and give some respect to all four of these teams, considering that making the Final Four is quite an accomplishment. But I'm going to need help.

The problem is that no team in any sport thinks it is getting FTC enough respect anymore. The whole world is underrated, overlooked, misunderstood.

The only exceptions are Cal Ripken, the Bulls, Secretariat and Mira Sorvino. And Secretariat is dead.

Otherwise, no one feels they're getting the respect they deserve. Everyone has a complex. It's quite a problem.

I'd like to make them all happy, from the Final Four teams on down, but I have a problem myself. The demand for my respect is far exceeding my supply.

These days, all it takes is one halfheartedly indecisive comment on "SportsCenter" or one cheap throwaway line in an out-of-town column, and a team circles its wagons and starts sending war cries into the sky:

"They don't give us any respect!"

Pause.

"They didn't think we'd get here!"

Pause.

"They can wash our socks in their drinking water! Ha!"

It's the cheapest kind of motivation, but everyone is using it. And as a card-carrying member of the "they" they're all referring to, I'm here to plead poverty.

My respect gauge is hovering permanently on empty.

Hey, I'd love to dole out enough to go around, but it's hard when so many teams and players have become convinced that the world is out to get them simply because Dick Vitale forgot to call them PTPers or they didn't land enough guys on the All-Madden team.

People should lighten up. Life is hard for we theys. No one gives us any respect, either.

It would help if some of these teams were a little more realistic about their own circumstances.

Take Mississippi State. The Bulldogs are claiming gross disrespect because they were the only ones who thought they could reach the Final Four. Well, they're right, they were the only ones. But was that such an injustice? What had they ever done other than bark and roll over in the tournament?

I'll gladly give them my respect now that they have earned it, but was I so horribly wrong not to believe in them?

State coach Richard Williams would have you believe it was the second coming of the "Dewey Beats Truman" headline, of course.

But I don't want to pick on the Bulldogs; they're a fine team that really hasn't gotten enough credit for beating Kentucky, UConn and Cincinnati.

Massachusetts is another story. The Minutemen have a 35-1 record. The national polls haven't ranked them lower than second since Christmas. They were the No. 1 seed in the East Regional. Yet . . .

"The respect isn't there," Minutemen coach John Calipari moaned last weekend.

What does he want, a notarized letter from the pope?

I'm going to do my best this weekend to give him the respect he feels is lacking, but I fear there isn't enough in the world, not even if we pool our supplies.

Kentucky doesn't whine about a lack of respect too much, which is fortunate considering that the Wildcats win every game by 47 points. But they'll gladly tell you about the pressure they live with as the idols of a basketball-mad, win-or-else following.

They're under a lot of stress. And we can't possibly understand.

Sigh.

I'm just going to do what I can when I go up there this weekend. I'm going to give 'em my respect, for what it's worth. Again, if you have any extra, I sure could use it. Just fax it to me, if you want. You can fax respect in the '90s, can't you?

Pub Date: 3/28/96

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