Without getting too deep into the ugliness that decended on my NCAA picks as early as Friday, this years tournament still represents exactly what everyone would like to believe any playoff situation should be: if you get it together for even one night, how many games anyone won before that means zippo--you have more points at the final horn, they go home. Kansas, Georgetown, Vanderbilt and Villanova know this all too well at this point, and Wofford, my sincere apologies for dissing your chances. While I won't have to pony up those wings I so easily promised and you'll still be known more for being where the Carolina Panthers hold training camp, you did yourselves proud scaring Wisconsin 53-49. C'ya next year maybe.
If you haven't watched the interviews of the Cornell team after the victories that moved them to the Sweet 16, its probably on YouTube. These guys may be smart, but they definitely weren't taking their major win against Wisconsin too seriously. Point guard Louis Dale (26 pts.) ripped off a line from the television series 'Friday Night Lights' (...we want to take this ride as long as we can because after this it's just nothing but babies and memories...) that you probably wouldn't expect after their 87-69 Badger-beating, and 7-footer Jeff Foote began his interview session after the Big Red beat Temple Thursday by talking about the ride to the stadium and the police escort after being asked about academic requirements because he'd lost a bet with teammates that *required* he answer incorrectly.
My brother Steve played a year of JV ball at Cornell, and while visiting him senior year, I recall a conversation regarding a roommate ('M-squared' because his initials were MM) who'd had to jack up a looong range jumper in practice that day because a buddy in the Sports Information Dept. had yelled 'pull!' like in skeet shooting. It was a private joke, but he'd jacked it up in front of the coach because they honor stuff like that, and more power to Dale and Foote for livening up press conferences with some wonderfully alternative answers. Lets face it, you HAD to find out what was going on when the guys on podium were obviously cracked up about it.
As for Michael Jordon's full page open letter in the Sunday paper (www.CharlotteObserver.com), it was straight up if not nearly as much fun. He began by noting that Carolina roots run deep, and its his passion for both the game and the business of basketball that has lead him to this moment, meaning his opportunity "to build a legacy as an owner by turning this into a model franchise that's focused on winning and creating a great fan experience." He notes that "earning your trust is my first step" and that he doesn't expect anyone to blindly support the team just because he's the owner.
That's a solid start, and compared to previous owner Bob Johnson, who called the Charlotte business community "arrogant" and "incestuous" after receiving an award from the Urban Leadership Institute just days after selling the franchise to Jordon, in line with basketball fans who *KNOW* what a good team should look like. While Johnson brought NBA hoops back to Charlotte six years ago, there was plenty of recriminations about the deal on the local front, especially after the team was a consistent under-performing bunch. That he got a new arena delivered despite voter negatives about its place in the city budget AND all the police (and OT pay) necessary to control the area around the arena was a bit of a rankle, and say what you will about any UNC-type 'whine and cheese' connection, they do know about winning as well.
Charlotteans had loved their Hornets, but soured on things somewhat when George Shinn demanded new facilities and sweeter concessions, despite the support the locals exhibited during several years of league leading attendance, and at least for many, while also being a personal cretin. Johnson won the new franchise because he was solid as hell financially and, as one writer noted, "if you don't select this guy to break in as a minority owner (Johnson was/is black), who the heck would you *ever* take?" but its obvious he expected to just print money because of the NBA, and its still about *earning*, as MJ noted. Yes Michael, there *is* a Hall of Fame coach here, and now that the team has eaten some guaranteed contracts, a group that actually plays 'right'.
Relative to Jordon's assuming the Bobcats reins, and the recent departures of All Pro defensive end Julius Peppers to Chicago (a $90+ million deal after making over $18 MM last year as a franchised player) and QB Jake Delhomme to Cleveland, I was more than just ready to enjoy March Madness. No matter that I was blown up early--I saw as many incredibly tight, buzzer-beating (Michigan St. taking out Maryland, Xavier-Pitt going at it all the way to the end) games as I could imagine--and then I saw those interviews and enjoyed a couple college guys having a good time.
I know I'll be looking to see how they handle the press no matter which way their next game against Kentucky ends up. I'll also work on my baseline jumper tonight, and honestly hope I enjoy the playing as much as those guys did.