Wednesday, April 9, 2008


It was tough to enjoy the Jayhawk’s Championship victory Monday night. For one thing, the game was so close that at one point I wondered whether they would even pull it off. Then there was the physical play and fouling by the Memphis Tigers that went unpunished by the referees. Most of all, though, was the constant salesmanship of the Memphis team and its players by the commentators.

It wasn’t as bad as the commentator in the Kansas/North Carolina game, who, with more than 7 minutes left to play in the first half actually declared “This game is over!” WHAT?! Did anyone bother to tell the players or the coaches? Because I saw quite a bit of basketball played after the game was over. That eruption was as bad as it gets with these talking heads, but last night’s game had its share of irritating chatter.

It irritated mostly because of the love affair that the commentators were having with the Tigers. The so-called experts on the pre-game show picked Memphis to win (just like they picked North Carolina last game). All night long the play-by-play guys sang the praises of the Memphis Tigers. I kept hearing about this player’s tremendous talents and that player’s excellent skills. When one of the Memphis players snatched the ball after a basket and hung on to it while his teammates got their defense set, they gushed over his mischievous grin. Even during the post-game show, the commentators were still talking about Memphis…and the way they lost the game.

Everyone likes a Cinderella story. So, I guess the country wanted to see the Tigers, who have never won, win this one. All fine and well, but has everyone forgotten that this Kansas team has never won one either? It’s not like Kansas goes to the Championship every year, either. It’s been twenty years! Kansas battled to get there just like everyone else. Did they deserve less credit because other Kansas basketball teams have been there before?

Apparently, this was a victory by default. The Jayhawks didn’t win the game, so much as the Tigers lost it to them. They won because they were the other team on the court when the Tigers blew it. Now, I know that the sports commentators and writers have to find a spin to put on the story, but is this really what they came up with??

Give the Jayhawks the credit that is due them; they won. They worked hard. They used their skills, talents, determination and drive. They didn’t give up and they didn’t give in to frustration. (Had Sasha Kaun bounced the ball in frustration, would Ed Hightower have been so quick to overlook it?) They played a great game and they stuck in there and won it. Nobody handed it to them on a silver platter, but that is what is being inferred.

Yesterday’s New York Times article about the game reads pretty much the same way. “Kansas Prevails” is the headline. First Pete Thamel says this:

Point guard Mario Chalmers took a pass from a stumbling, almost-out-of-control Sherron Collins and hit a rainbow 3-pointer from the top of the key with 2.1 seconds to force overtime — the first overtime in 11 years in a title game and one that will be remembered for 50 — and the Jayhawks stormed to a 75-68 victory.

Then he says this:

Perhaps what will be remembered more than the Jayhawks’ victory was how Memphis (38-2) blew it.

Memphis assistant coach John Robic was quoted as saying:

“It’s a nightmare when you have a chance to win a national championship and everything that needed to work for Kansas worked in their favor. There’s really not much more than you can say.”

Things may have gone Kansas’ way at some points of the game, but this ignores the pushing that was going on under the basket and the never-say-die attitude of the Jayhawks when they were down 60-51 with two minutes left in the game. Some people believe that each of us makes our own luck. The press and television commentators acted like Mario Chalmers’ three-point basket (to tie the game and send it into overtime) was nothing more than a lucky shot. I’ve got news; Mario’s been hitting them all year long. It’s a SKILL.

Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal lumped the Jayhawks in with all of the other "loser" Kansas City teams that only get somewhere every blue moon. Apparently they believe not only that Kansas Citians are content with losing, but that Kansas City and Lawrence are one in the same. They might be very surprised to know that there were people in this city that would have loved to see the Jayhawks fall.

Today’s Philadelphia Daily News had an article by Dick Gerardi making what I thought were some specious points about how everything went the Jayhawk’s way, making it sound again like they just got lucky. He asserts that the key play was a Memphis turnover after a Kansas basket. Turnovers do not just happen; they are mostly the result of excellent defense and focus by the opposing team. He also brings up the foul by Joey Dorsey on Mario Chalmers. For one thing, you can’t blame Dorsey for fouling Chalmers because so many fouls in the game went uncalled, he probably thought he would get away with it. For another thing, this is a T-E-A-M game; one of the reasons Kansas has such a winning record is because they have a deep bench. Losing one player should not destroy a TEAM’s chances of winning a game, especially one this big. But I have to give it up to Dick, because he hits the nail on the head when he goes on to say this:

History will mostly record that Memphis lost the game because that is how this works. But Kansas absolutely won it. This was a wonderful team all season whose NCAA stats mirrored its dominating season-long stats.

Maybe Kansas will never get the respect that they deserve from some of the media in the country, but they have what is important—self-respect. They didn’t lose their cool over the no-calls. They laughed it off when the calls were bad or did not go their way. They played their game, they played their hardest and they did not whine, complain or quit when things didn’t go their way. They just played until they won. NCAA Champions; end of story.

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