Saturday, January 10, 2009


The college basketball season has begun. Here in North Carolina this is a near religious event. This means that I have to spend the next four months telling people that I don't have a team that I follow. It means that you can't turn on the TV or pick up a newspaper without seeing basketball stories.

So why do you hate college basketball, Gilbert? Excellent question, glad that you asked. First, let me elaborate. I don't just hate college basketball, I also hate pro basketball, high school basketball, and almost all other organized forms of the game. Let me share my reasons with you.

The game of basketball has changed dramatically in the last thirty or forty years. It has changed so much that if James Naismith, the inventor of basketball, came back to life, he wouldn't recognize the game that they play today.

Basketball players get taller every year. When I was in high school, we had a couple of players that were six feet tall. Today that would be a small middle school team. I think we are feeding the little bastards too well. The goals in basketball are still set at a height of ten feet. With players getting taller, wouldn't it make sense to raise the goals?? Let's face it, how much athletic ability does it take for a guy who is 7'4" to grab the ball and cram it through the hoop??

Let me insert a disclaimer here and tell you that my personal experience with organized basketball is extremely limited. In 1968, I was the scorekeeper for the Pierce Junior High team in Tampa for part of the season.

Junior high school basketball in Tampa in 1968 was nothing like basketball today. The only time that we played in a gym was during regular season games. They were played at high schools, junior high schools didn't have gyms. The teams practiced outside on concrete and asphalt courts. How many schools do that today?

The junior varsity teams played regular season games at their schools, they didn't go to the high schools. They played outside on concrete or asphalt courts. Players today are pussies. They whine if the air conditioning goes out in the gym. In 1968 the JV's just hoped that it wouldn't rain. Today when a player falls, some kid runs out and wipes up the sweat from the floor with a towel. In a JV game at Pierce, if someone fell, they took a broom and swept his skin off the court, then resumed play.

Fouls? I see guys in games on TV take dives and lunges that an Olympic gymnast would envy . Let's face it. When a 250 lb guy sails into the cheap seats with a bump on his arm, something's wrong. These guys are obviously trying for Emmys, not playing basketball. At Pierce, a foul had to include stitches or a splint or at least some smelling salts. If it didn't, Coach Beltzner would just scream "Let them play!" at the officials.

Kids playing in middle school or high school travel to games in "Activity" buses or vans. At Pierce we loaded up Coach Beltzner's Ranchero and headed out. Another coach would throw the starters in his car and follow. I guess that if anyone fell out of the Ranchero, the other car might pick them up.

I will wrap this rant up with a word about players. The worst guy on our team was Billy Aucoin. He made the team because he tried harder than anyone. He would be out on the court practicing long after everyone else had gone home. Billy was the ultimate overachiever. He moved the next year and I lost track of him. He has probably been the governor of some state or something. If not, he's still running for the job.

Next week in Part 2, we explore ball handling practices.


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