Thoughts on sports: When should teams keep playing?
There is something in the American spirit that will not let us quit at anything, whether it's for the good or bad.
We have all seen the washed up athlete who continues to pursue his or her sport, even though their skills and timing are gone. They continue to play, often for money, even though they are just a shadow of their primetime selves. Others, who were once great have tried comebacks, but their return to the field of play seldom works out. There is something about the edge people have when they are at their prime that doesn't exist in a comeback.
But even worse than any of these individual examples are those that never were that good, but still return or continue on playing despite their lack of credibility.
That's why I think of the University of Utah's men's basketball team accepting an invitation to play in the new College Basketball Invitational was a pathetic decision. By the time you read this they will have played their first game in El Paso, Texas on Wednesday night. Whether they won that game or not, in my mind that team shouldn't have gone anywhere but the locker room after their final loss at the Mountain West Tournament.
My reasoning for these feelings?
First and foremost, who cares? Even if they win the CBI tournament they would still be only the 97th best team in the nation. What an honor.
Let's face it; the NCAA tournament takes the top 64 teams that played this year and realistically, that is where everyone really wants to compete.
Then the National Invitational Tournament, the oldest post season tournament in America, takes another 32 teams. I have never been thrilled by that tournament, but there certainly are teams that get left out of the big dance every year that probably should have made it, so it is a good thing this tournament exists. I guess you could call the NIT the small dance.
Now, as of this year, we have this new monstrosity called the College Basketball Invitational, organized by a business consortium called the Gazelle Group. Obviously it was done as a money maker.
If the NCAA is the big dance then this tournament should be called dance lessons at Arthur Murray. The only people interested in it are the schools that are playing, period. There is no national interest, or for that matter national coverage as far as I know. The game between the Utes and Miners Wednesday wasn't even televised to the audiences where the schools are geographically located.
People complain constantly that the NBA has too long a season and that the playoffs have too many mediocre teams in them. At least the NBA is honest about why they do what they do; money. The large colleges and universities in this country would have you think their athletic programs are about student athletes; but we all know it is about the green stuff.
And if you really believe that touchy, feely, student athlete propaganda the large schools put out, also consider this move to an additional tournament fits into the malaise our nation is falling into with kids from ages two to adult; no one should lose at a game or not be allowed to play. This kind of tournament is just an extension of that philosophy; we wouldn't want anyone to be left out of postseason play.
The conference tournaments that started being held a few years ago have already degraded long term regular season play, and made it so some mediocre teams make it into the big dance by getting hot for two or three days. So another tournament for might-have-beens fits right into whole mess.
Soon the tournament play for basketball at the end of the season will rank right up there with the football bowl season, where mediocre teams go to mediocre bowls and only five of the games really count for anything, except, of course, money.
I noticed that the University of Alabama turned down an invitation to the CBI on Monday.
They didn't really give a reason, but I know it was because they had pride in the fact that if they aren't good enough to make the top 96 teams in the nation they shouldn't be going. Good for the Crimson Tide; they showed that they believe in excellence and not mediocrity.
I just wish another school with those same Crimson colors would have had the guts to do the same. I think it would have showed a lot more character than playing some meaningless games in far away places.