That first Friday night, going back and forth between those two phenomenal overtime games (Ohio State-Sienna and Wisconsin's stunning upset win) was amazing. No commercial breaks, no awkward pauses for unnecessary free throws, seamless back-and-forth coverage. A fantastic way to end a fantastic first round.
Since then - boooorrrrrrrrinnnggggg! One-sided games. Only a few close ones (thank you Missouri). And I'm tired of 37 minutes of good basketball then three minutes of score/timeout/foul/free throws, repeat. The final three minutes can and often do take as long as the first 37. Unnecessarily. Ridiculous.
It's time to change the rules. If you can't beat the other team by playing basketball, you are allowed to cheat to beat them at the end (yes, fouling is cheating, that's why the other team gets the ball or free throws or some combination thereof). But these are deliberate fouls committed by a team that couldn't play well enough to stay in the game otherwise, so they "cheat" and catch up.
And then listening to the "expert network analysts" tell me over and over that the only way the trailing team has to make up the lead is to foul and stop the clock, well, that certainly adds a lot of insight and color to my enjoyment of the coverage. Does it turn you on too?
Let's change things and speed up everything. From now on, in this situation, you foul, you give up two free throws and the offended team keeps the ball. Then you have to (omigosh!) play basketball to get back in the game instead. If you couldn't outplay them the first 37 minutes, you shouldn't be allowed to out-cheat them the final three and steal the game. So why is it allowed?
Because it works and the rules let it work and the networks love it because it provides extra timeouts for more commercials. Well, unless you're Chris Webber and Michigan, that is. I'm sorry, but I just can't watch what was a basketball game become a free throw-shooting contest. That's not "basketball," not "pure" basketball. Free throws are part of the game. They shouldn't be the game.
Stick to excitement and hustle and hard work and you'll get results like the first Friday night of this year's tournament. Too bad UConn just knocked out Mizzou. The Tigers played the game right, but they and my argument just got knocked out. Sorry, Catherine (Mizzou, M.A. '09).
Enjoy the free throws, everybody....
I have no sympathy for the Houston Texan player who was pulled over by a Dallas cop en route to the hospital to try to see his ailing mother-in-law's final moments. He drove excessively fast and violated any other number of traffic rules, endangering himself, his passenger (his wife) and any number of other motorists whose paths he crossed.
But he's an athlete, so he gets the media's sympathy. I have to believe if he'd pulled over immediately when the officer first tried to approach him and if he'd told the officer his story, then the officer likely would've accommodated him and expedited his trip to the hospital.
Puh-leez. If that was you or me, we both know the officer involved never would've been issuing the media statement he did, apologizing for his treatment of someone driving illegally, allegedly to go see his ailing relative. I say "allegedly" because it could've been a drug dealer on the run or a robber on the lam or a kidnapper on the fly or a drunk out of control, for all the officer knew. Or it could've been you or me and we'd still be in a jail cell.
But the media played it so sympathetically for the Houston Texans' player that you'd have thought he was league MVP and a former Heisman Trophy winner. I heard no media commentary about what would've happened if the driver had just been an ordinary "Joe" like you or me. Where's "Joe the Plumber" when we need him?
Which reminds me, next time I get pulled over, I'll tell the officer I'm en route to the hospital to see my ailing mother-in-law, who does live in Dallas. I just happen to live in Chicago.
Depressingly, a good friend and former student who I helped line up a job as the most unlikely but super-effective sports writer at the newspaper where I work was laid off this week after seven years there. Seven years of loyalty. Seven years of hard work. Seven years of always-improving work. Seven years of long hours, pay freezes, pay cuts, ever-increasing workload and never a complaint. Always a good attitude and even better production. Someone who sculpted herself from a writer into a solid sports reporter.
Until last week.
The industry is suffering and no one has figured out the formula for making money steadily online. The old days of sending out reps to pick up ads and checks to go with them are long ago over. Only the strong will survive, if they figure out what the content mix is that will allow them to survive, in print or online. The other day, a friend at the health club on the cross-trainer next to me with a newspaper to peruse griped instead, "This is hardly thick enough to line my bird cage."
Please, forget all this synergy and convergence stuff. Go do good work. Build a positive attitude around the newsroom. Pays off. Sometimes.
I'll miss ya' Jen, but I love ya' and am here for ya'...it was nice to have a beer with you the other night. Stay strong. I'll stay on the lookout for you, in the meantime.
Grow up, Joan.
Howard Schlossberg is an associate professor of journalism at Columbia College Chicago (http://www.colum.edu/) and a sports correspondent for The Daily Herald (http://www.dailyherald.com/). He also serves on the editorial advisory board of and contributes to The Journal of Sports Media (http://www.nebraskapress.unl.edu/ and www.olemiss.edu/depts/journalism/JSMindex.html).