July 29, 2014

Elyria
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Doug Clarke: Sorry, basketball, you’re just here to fill the void between football and baseball

Irrational ravings …
These are the times that try men’s souls. Getting from the Super Bowl to when pitchers and catchers report takes like … forever. Get through this period and a man can conquer almost anything. Within reason.
For example, it’s no accident they squeezed Valentine’s Day in between the football and when pitchers and catchers go into camp. Ol’ St. Valentine knew what he was doing. He might have been in cahoots with the Hallmark people, of course, but still … this love connection business he started was a way of sparking up a really dead period in man’s life.
There is basketball, though, isn’t there? Well, sort of.
As a kid, it was the sport you played in between football and baseball season. Wasn’t to be anything more than that — unless you were a loose-limbed, really tall geek who didn’t play either football or baseball.
Now look at it: It’s the sport you check in on during the commercials on “Without a Trace” and Wolf Blitzer’s “Situation Room.” (You ever notice that Wolf can never quite spit out a clean sentence? Drives you crazy with all that stammering and hesitation.)
For me, pro basketball is still about the last five minutes. That’s during the regular season, which begins before the kiddies come ’round to your door tricking and treating — and lasts until the first fireworks display on The Fourth.
Why, a woman can get pregnant and go beyond full term before delivering the bumble of joy. That’s what we call way overdue. The basketball, not the pregnancy. (As in, it’s overdue to get off the stage.)
The NBA playoffs are different. PROVIDING your team is in them. Is a whole different game, a whole other style of play. Why, they even inject defense into it. Which means you can boil pro basketball down to the two-and-a-half months in takes to crown a playoff champion.
College ball? The only college game left anymore is the NCAA Tournament in March. One month of absolute madness including games that start at noon, office pools and the gal in the raspberry sweater who purrs like a kitten over her computer while winning the whole thing by picking winners according to nicknames.
What’s not to love?
For starters, the first four months of the collegiate season lack something. Like, say, juniors and seniors. All the good ones have already turned pro. The last college team I rooted for was the Ohio State team with Oden and Conley. Figured to be at least a three-year powerhouse and a three-year love affair.
You saw what happened. Oden and Conley managed to stick it out all the way through orientation week and one basketball season. Then they ran off to the pros. 
Swell for them, I guess. Not so swell for us. Every year we have to learn a whole new set of names and starting fives before starting all over again the following winter.
Continuity? Can rattle off Lucas-Havlicek-Nowell and Siegfried for you … and Thacker-Yates, Hogue-Wilson and Bonham ( Cincinnati ’62 )… and Egan-Harkness-Hunter-Rouse and Miller ( Loyola ’63 ). But I couldn’t tell you a starting five since they did away with freshman teams and kids started “coming out” between the high school senior prom and their sophomore year in college.
Would be different, I suppose, if you lived along Tobacco Road. All those Dukies jumping up and down in their painted blue faces. Why, the loathing  alone would keep you going all winter. If it’s not ACC basketball, it’s just not worth getting all in a lather about.
(Official timeout: A week after the BCS Bowl, in which LSU skunked Ohio State … remember, Buckeye fan? … I’m working my way through that ridiculous line at the airport where you take your shoes off and put them in a hamper. This is so the guards can see that you aren’t walking around with an Uzi or a grenade jammed  between your socks and the sole of your shoes. Up ahead of me and around a bend is a grown man in a scarlet sweatshirt with Ohio State emblazoned in gray. I cup my hands around my mouth and start to chant in a hoarse stage whisper, “SEC … SEC … SEC …” Thought the guy was going to go ballistic. He looked everywhere for that sound: up at the ceiling … behind him … at the security guards. My expression was so innocent I could have passed for St. Teresa. Maybe even Karl Rove. But that’s a football yarn, isn’t it? Just had to get it off my chest. Was a lot of fun.Trust me. )
But back to the Dead Zone. 
Every now and then a man who types for a living will climb up on the knee of the basketball coach at (fill in the name of the local team that’s looking for a satin pillow ride from the media: CSU … Kent State … Akron) and pump up the verbiage on a program that inspires rampant apathy. (Fact: More people watch a single adventure of Rob & Big & Meaty & Mini-Horse on MTV than read about all these games together.)
Once upon a time there was Mouse McFadden, Run ’n Stun and Kevin Mackey. And then came 30 years of pretending and wishful thinking. It’s no wonder I watched my first ever C-Span the other night.
(Second timeout: Just between you and me and the telestrator, it could be that the wrong Obama is running. At least when it comes to giving a speech. Michelle Obama, once a silent partner in the campaign, knocked it out of the park the night I caught her on C-span. Very impressive.
Great drama, the campaign. Is the best sport going right now … especially with Varajao and Sasha and Gooden out. Am a sucker for Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann on MSNBC. Still, nothing gets the blood roiling like O’Reilly over at Fox. Talk about being put through a wringer. Is like being put inside one of those cages on Ultimate Fighting. Watch out for rabbit punches and Mary Matalin Carville, though.)
Another 10 days or so and we’ll be out of the Dead Zone. Pitchers and catchers will be in camp and things will start to fall in place: winter becoming spring, the political races, the Cavs obituary, Hillary’s pantsuits, the TV program “Lost” – a.k.a. “Danny Ferry: The Missing GM” — and maybe even The Case of Roger Clemens and The Bloody Gauze.
(Question: Who on earth would save something like that? Also, have you ever met anyone who actually watches either “CSI,” “Lost” or “Prison Break”? If you have, send that person’s name along with $1.75 to me in care of this paper.)
This concludes this week’s Dead Zone programming. Up next: The Grammys. Plus the next installment of Rob & Big & Meaty.
Seacrest Out. Me, too.
Contact Doug Clarke at ctsports@chroniclet.com.