College Basketball and 'Cult of the Coach'

College Basketball and 'Cult of the Coach'

There are some games that lead a viewer to worry for Dick Vitale's sanity, and there are others that lead you to worry about his health. When Vitale is tasked, as part of his ESPN duties, to crank up the Oh Baby Machine for some root canal of a Virginia Tech/Florida State game, it's natural to start to worry for the dude's mind -- all those backrimmed jumpers and chunked foul shots, all while Vitale tries deliriously to keep his signature delight aloft by telling stories about having lunch with Leonard Hamilton or (if all else fails) telling stories about bygone Duke backcourts and their stellar character, what fine men they've become.

 

 

And then there are the actual exciting games, when Vitale doesn't have to fake it, and when the full college hoops experience -- the relentless, leavening likelihood of human failure by the flawed teenagers on the floor; the manic bouncing crowds; the in-the-red emotionalism and constant improbability that makes the college game great -- seems likely to blow Vitale's heart to bits, and shred his esophagus, and otherwise happily and utterly destroy him. It's how he would want to go, of course, but it's natural to worry. And then there are games like last week's pairing between top-ranked Indiana and fourth-ranked Michigan State, in East Lansing, which seemed a threat to Vitale's tenuous mental health and oft-repaired ticker.

 

Which is to say that it was both a terrific game, and a terrifically college basketball-y game. Both teams played hard and mostly well, which is the first part. The game hinged in large part on egregious mental errors by freaked-out freshman and one spectacularly ill-advised, ref-witnessed scrotum-slap by Michigan State's Derrick Nix on Indiana's Cody Zeller, which is the college basketball-y part.

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