So no more confetti on the Dance Floor—another NCAA Tournament is history. I did have Louisville winning it all but I also had Gonzaga, VCU and Miami in the Final Four (whoops) I was wrong and am clearly like many of you not smarter than a fifth grader as my 11 year old Morgan Grace blindly filled out her first bracket and dusted away her ole man.

“They” say it was one of the uglier college basketball seasons in recent memory and the stats back it up. Teams averaged 67.49 points per game—lowest since 1951-52!! Field goal percentage was merely 43.3 percent–lowest since 1964-65!! To cap it off the zebras surely kept their collective whistles in their pockets as fouls per game were the lowest since the stats were first recorded back in ….1947!!

If numbers don’t lie this college hoops season was a stinker but I’ve never been a huge stats guy so I contend this tourney was one of the most enjoyable in recent memory (see FGCU & Wichita St)—one of many thoughts this week in the Naborhood…

DANCE MOVES: Despite the horrid stats, you gotta admit that was one of the best championship games we’ve had in awhile. It had non stop action on both ends between two skilled and extremely athletic teams. Like the regular season, the refs let the kids play where they nearly killed themselves down the stretch. You had Spike Albrecht score 17 first half points—more by the way than Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard and Ray Jackson all had the ENTIRE game versus Carolina in Michigan’s last trip to the final.

As good as Spike was Louisville had a better Cinderella story and in the end a better team. With Kevin Ware inspiring his guys—nobody was more inspired than the man who would benefit from more playing time in Luke Hancock. His was 5 of 5 from 3 pt land vs Big Blue and finished with 42 points in the FInal Four netting the MVP honors.

Only the Final Four gives us these kinds of games and these kinds of stories. I don’t care about the numbers—watching Ware cut down the nets despite the crutches was TV Gold and why we love the Big Dance.

C-WEBB CRITICS: I was always a big fan of the Fab Five but then again I’m always fascinated  by the villains (see Henderson Marshall) I was intrigued by their story 20 years ago and don’t agree with the Bill Walton’s of the world who said they didn’t win anything—-ok they never won a Big Ten or National Title but their back to back appearances in the National Championship game was good enough for me.

Fast forward 20 years later and while the NCAA doesn’t recognize their accomplishments–I thought it was great that they were in the stands for Michigan’s return to the big game. I didn’t think Chris Webber would be there but he was despite the many national voices such as CBS’ Greg Gumbel who said he should stay away–lighten up guys! Its Webber’s right as an alum and as an important part of the school’s hoops history.  I disagree with the notion that they were trying to become the story over the current players–can’t they just enjoy the event too? Webber lives in Atlanta and I was thinking it would be a shame if he didn’t show up, you never know when Big Blue will be back. He has survived the “Timeout” jokes for years—time for C Webb’s critics to take a T.O.

RAYS RETRACTORS: OK, I get it columnists have to be critical and sports talk hosts have to stir up conversation but please after all these years I will never understand why the critics of the Rays don’t understand the method to their Madness. After its opening day loss, the naysayers immediately came out of the woodwork again saying they need more bats, Joe Maddon tinkers too much and even questioned its battle tested pitching staff? Its a broken record ever year—when will the Tampa Bay media understand the way this team works.

I’m not saying they should not be criticized but let’s wait till we get a decent sample size—they should all know the drill by now. They will never hit like the fans want them too but the key to this team is playing defense (Joe Maddon term) better than a year ago, keeping Longoria healthy for a full season and hoping the pitching can just keep hummin. My biggest concern is the loss of James Shields, He,despite Evan Longoria’s recent comments, was the kind of bulldog this staff needed on and off the diamond. David Price, Jeremy Hellickson and Matt Moore don’t possess that kind of personality despite all of their talents.

Shields loss is much bigger than the loss of BJ Upton. I won’t miss his lack of hustle and his scowl after taking yet another called third strike. Good riddance BJ, the Rays will be better without you and with Desmond Jennings in center. To the critics—please give the team more than a few days or even a few weeks before hitting the panic button—the baseball season is a long and winding road.

BOOK REVIEW: From time to time, I like to pass on a good book to check out–this one is for you history buffs.  Just finished  Jon Meachem’s profile on Thomas Jefferson “The Art of Power.” It was an educational, enlightning and sometimes entertaining look at our third President and author of the Declaration of Independence.  This founding father was certainly unique on many fronts. Many past biographies have put Jefferson in a different light both in his public and private life but this one offered more than a few fresh perspectives.

A couple of  things I took is that no matter how much time passes in our country we are always gonna have different viewpoints and highly contentious political arguments. We know how combative today’s Democrats and Republicans are on Capitol Hill, it was the same ole story between Jefferson’s Republicans and the Federalists. Many similarities between the struggles of Jefferson and the struggles in Bob Woodwards’s recent offering “The Price of Politics,” even though the two scenarios were separated by a few centuries.  This  book was interesting politically and gave great insight to many of the personalities of our early leaders. I could have done without all the stories of Jefferson’s love life but that was certainly part of his story.

“42”: I was fortunate to attend the recent movie junket of “42” in Los Angeles this month. The movie of course is about the year #42 Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball. Robinson is the story but the protagonist is Dodgers Hall of Fame General Manager Branch Rickey who saw what none of his peers did 66 years ago—-change was certainly needed.

I also had a chance to see an advanced screening in Tampa where I sat behind one of Jackie’s former teammates in baseball legend Don Zimmer. Afterwards he told me the movie brought back “lots of memories.” Despite all the graphic scenes of verbal and sometimes physical abuse, Zimmer says the film was tame compared to the real thing. In LA, I talked to Robinson’s former teammate Don Newcombe who said it was a realistic portrayal but told me despite all the progress baseball has made—they still have a ways to go especially in terms of getting more young African American players involved.

“42” certainly isn’t the best baseball movie I’ve ever seen but I thought they did a good job with the cast. Chadwick Boseman did  a believable job with Jackie as he was athletic and didn’t overdo the part. Harrison Ford told me in LA he’s not a baseball fan but wanted this role despite the fact that initially they didn’t want him. Ford moves away from his action figure persona in this one to portray his first historical figure and pulled it off.

This movie has some tough language but its good for teenagers who I’m guessing will be surprised how Robinson was treated. For older viewers its a great depiction of the most troubling year in major league baseball history.

NOBODY ASKED ME BUT: Never cared much for Bobby Knight. Don’t like him on TV, don’t like his Applebee’s ads and have heard how he’s treated several people not to mention his own players. Found it interesting though the way he handled himself on his recent interview on the Golf Channel with David Feherty. Feherty has the great knack for bringing out the best in his subjects and he succeeded with the volatile coaching legend. Knight likes to play tough but I think a lot of it is for show. He says he doesn’t care what people think—I tend to think he does. Nice job by Feherty lassoing one of the tougher interview subjects and interesting personalities.

EXTRA POINT: I’ll take the field against Tiger at Augusta but once he wins a major and I believe he will this year—look out Jack.






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