by Eddie Mayrose

College Basketball Winners and Whiners

What’s better than the opening of the NCAA Tournament?  Not only does it signal the beginning of the best event on the sports calendar, it brings to a close the four days of whining we are forced to endure annually from the coaches that feel their teams were unfairly excluded.  Here’s a thought, guys.  Beat someone.

For the second year in a row, Virginia Tech’s Seth Greenberg is telling anyone who’ll listen that his Hokies got the short end of the stick.  He counters the argument that his non-league schedule included a few high schools by pointing out that his squad had a better record than NCAA-bound Wake Forest and even beat the Deacons head to head.  That’s fine.  However, with the Big Dance on the line, they got knocked out of the ACC tournament by Miami; the worst team in the league.  So, spare us all, coach.  You had your shot and blew it.  Don’t expect the Selection Committee to clean up your mess.

As for the Tourney, itself, I have to agree with ESPN’s Jay Bilas, who points out that the field is flooded with weak, at-large teams.  While that should make for an interesting first round, it will, ultimately, allow the heavyweights to advance with little resistance.  I like Wisconsin, Duke, Kansas and Pittsburgh to make the trip to Indianapolis.  Given my history, however, you’d be wise to eliminate all four from your brackets.

New York Yankees’ Rotation Upside Down

I get a kick out of the idea that Javier Vasquez, one of the game’ top ten pitchers over the last decade, will somehow be the fourth starter in the Yankee rotation. Bombers’ fans take issue with the fact that he was the losing pitcher in Game 7 of their epic collapse at the hands of the Red Sox in 2004.  What they forget is that Vasquez garnered an All Star bid off of his first half performance and pitched through shoulder pain for much of the second half of that season.  The thought that either A.J. Burnett or Andy Pettitte is better than the righthander acquired from the Braves is laughable.  Sit back and enjoy this guy, Yankee fans, as he and C.C. Sabathia will give you the best one-two punch in all of baseball.

“I Know You Are But What Am I?”

Caught the YouTube video of the dust-up between Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras at a charity tennis match last week.  After watching each become furious with the other over comments dealing with how they walked and spent their money, I got a good laugh wondering what NHL or NFL players might think of the little, snippy, hissy fits thrown by both.  Another reason, I guess, that I wouldn’t watch tennis on a bet.

New York Giants To Play Inaugural Game

When I saw that the Jets had lost a coin flip with the Giants that determined which of the two would open their new stadium I thought immediately of The Honeymooners.  In the episode where Ralph and Norton share the cost of a new television, the TV ends up in the Kramdens’ apartment as the result of a coin flip in which Ralph tells Ed, “Heads I win, tails you lose.”  As if the Jets ever had a chance of hosting the first game.

Speaking of Gang Green, GM Mike Tannenbaum deserves kudos for signing LaDainian Tomlinson.  While LT is clearly on the decline, he’ll be a mentor for Shonn Greene while giving the Jets some insurance against the possible departure of Leon Washington.

Some have wondered why Thomas Jones was released, given that Tomlinson received similar money.  They are two very different backs.  Jones would have been competing for a starting job with Greene; a runner of identical style, while Tomlinson comes in as the backup and gives the offense more versatility.  Loyal Cheap Seaters know that it’s not often I’ve got good things to say about the Jetsies but, this time, they got it right.

High School Basketball Has Room For Compassion

It’s the toughest thing a high school coach has to do.  Despite all of his competitive instincts and the months spent prodding and cajoling his team to strive for excellence, when it comes to an elimination game, he must recognize and concede to defeat before his players do; especially the seniors.  It is his shoulder they’ll need to lean on when they make the heartbreaking realization that their season has run its course; that the daily routine of practice and bonding with teammates has suddenly been taken away.  It’s all the more poignant when it occurs at the end of a long playoff run; standing in stark contrast to the success already gained.  It’s where Steve Oliver, rookie basketball coach at Fontbonne Hall Academy in Brooklyn, found himself last Saturday as his girls trailed badly in the semi finals of the NY State Catholic Championship.

After garnering the first New York City B title in school history, Oliver’s Bonnies were paired with Sacred Heart of Valley Stream, LI;  a sharp shooting opponent whose size would be very difficult for Fontbonne to handle under the best of circumstances.  That they would also have to overcome the loss of their point guard and lead defender to a knee injury in the first two minutes made the task nearly impossible.  For Oliver, he would not only be forced to juggle his remaining players but also his emotions, as the injured star was his daughter, Jill.

With its top scorer, Katie Henderson, now handling the ball, Oliver’s squad struggled to find good shots against the Sacred Heart zone.  Worse, without Jill Oliver,  the Bonnies had to abandon the aggressive man to man defense that had become their trademark throughout the championship run.  Taylor Higgins took full advantage as she dropped a number of three point bombs in leading the Long Island school with 21 points.

With three minutes left, the Fontbonne players had still made no concession to the game’s outcome.  Despite their fatigue, they continued to dive on loose balls and press from end to end;  but their coach had seen enough.  He removed his seniors, each of whom received a warm ovation, and then the rest of the starters that had played most of the contest.  “I wanted to speak to each of the seniors; to thank them”, he said after the game.  He also wanted to remind them of the great season they’d had.  “Tremendous year. The girls gave me everything they had.”  He’d also given them everything he had, and, as he carried his injured daughter out of the gym, it was obvious that she wasn’t the only Bonnie in good hands.

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3 Responses to “March Madness Upon Us: The View from the Cheap Seats”

  1. Hey Eddie,
    Great Column as always. Especially on Fontbonne Hall and the insight as to what goes through coaches minds, especially at the HS Level. Alot of people do not appreciate what these coaches do.

    As for Fontbonne, what a Tremendous season for their program. And kudos to Stephen Oliver and his staff for the REMARKABLE JOB they did. The program will only grow from here.

    As always Eddie, a pleasure to read such a well written, very knowledgeable column.

    Neil O\’Donnell

  2. Great column Ed! The story about the Bonnies was excellant! It is stories like that which make up for the bad Tiger Woods type stories in the news. Keep up the good work.

  3. As usual good call on NCAAs. Duke, my team is in but I did not have them in final four. First round clobbered a lot of people. Nice article.

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