Tag Archives: Duke Blue Devils

Jalen, Grant, Race, Etc.

Before I say anything that has anything to do with race relations in America, let me be clear:  I’m completely aware that nobody comes to this site to read my musings about history, politics, sociology, or any of the hot-button issues that tend to divide Americans.  So, I generally stay away from even touching on any of those issues here.  (In response to that, some might observe that nobody comes to this site to read what I have to say about basketball, either, and, yet, I continue undeterred.  Fair point.  Wiseass.)

For a few weeks, though, I have been compelled to dip my toe into that dangerous water, because of the brewhaha involving, Jalen, Grant, Duke, and Michigan, in the wake of the airing of “The Fab Five” on ESPN.

To even dip a toe in the water, it is necessary to first set the table for a discussion that touches on race:  In my experience, it is impossible to talk about race in America. Regardless of what position you take in a discussion about race, there are people who are ready to accuse you of racism.  Against affirmative action?  Plenty of people will call you racist.  In favor of it?  Same thing.

Because there are accusations of racism around every corner in a conversation about race, I appreciate people who are honest about their racial feelings.  Of course, that appreciation only goes so far — people who shamelessly espouse racist feelings get no appreciation from me.  But, in general, assuming people are expressing opinions that I consider to be on the spectrum of opinions that people of good faith can have, I’d rather have someone who is fully open about their feelings than someone who speaks in code, or hides their feelings.  So, when I hear that someone used controversial language about race, I try to put the comment in context before being too critical.

Which brings me to Jalen Rose’s comments.  I watched the film, and it sounded to me like Jalen was expressing jealousy at Grant Hill’s upbringing; Jalen pointed out that Grant’s father was a professional athlete who raised Grant in a loving, supportive household, while Jalen’s father was a professional athlete who wanted nothing to do with Jalen.  It was also clear to me that, when Jalen talked about hating Duke because the only black athletes it recruited were “Uncle Toms,” it was obvious to me that Jalen was expressing the feelings he felt as a 19-year-old, not the feelings he holds now.  I mean, the guy sits in a tv studio cracking jokes with Hannah Storm; it’s quite clear that he thinks black folks can work with white folks without giving up part of their identity.  Thus, while I generally find references to “Uncle Toms” offensive, I didn’t have much of a problem with Jalen’s comments, because I understood the context.

In light of that, I was a bit surprised at the emotion the comments stirred up in Grant Hill. I thought Grant’s response (here) was both thoughtful and thought-provoking.  It just seemed slightly over-the-top.

There’s much more to say about the comments from Jalen and Grant, and the various issues those comments bring up, but I don’t think I could add much to the statements above and to the insightful analysis of Michael Wilbon (here).

So, let’s switch the topic to some hoopservations about the film.  I have two:

1.  Mitch Albom’s comments about the money Chris Webber allegedly received as an amateur resonated with me.  Mitch said that he spent lots of time with Webber in Ann Arbor during his days at Michigan, and, if Webber was taking hundreds of thousands of dollars of money from a booster, he was doing a fantastic job of hiding it.  I wasn’t at Ann Arbor when C-Webb was (and, if I had been, I’m pretty sure that he would have been able to find people to hang out with who were more fun than I am), but I’ve been hearing stories for years about Webber having to go without things that he wanted even while his jersey sold for $70 in stores that he would walk by.  (Perhaps I just spend too much time listening to and reading Mitch Album.)  Something about the notion that he was taking hundreds of thousands of dollars while he was there doesn’t make sense to me.

2.  As a basketball fan, it was sad to look back on that footage and that era of college basketball.  None of the players in those videos, who seemed to have such promising careers at the time, wound up being an important player on a championship team in the NBA.  I’m not just talking about the Fab Five themselves, I’m also talking about Hill, Laettner and Hurley from Duke; Johnson, Augmon, and Anthony from UNLV, and all of the guys on the Carolina team that beat Michigan in the famous national championship game.  It just goes to show that, no matter how talented college athletes are, there are no guarantees about what the future has in store for them.  For all we know, the high-flying, trash-talking, trend-setting, rising young star might one day retire from the NBA with no championships, and move on to become an ESPN analyst alongside Hannah Storm.

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Let the Madness Begin

And here we are, ladies and gentlemen.  March Madness.

I have a bunch of hoopservations about the college game, none of which is worthy of more than four or five sentences.  Thus, here is a potpourri of mini hoopservations:

1a.  For starters, this is not the site to come to for upset picks based on super-duper-insider info and fantastic scouting reports.  If you want that kind of analysis, keep surfing the ‘net and you’ll find it without too much trouble.  I’ve never seen St. Peter’s play.  Or Indiana State.  Or Belmont.  In fact, I thought Belmont was a horse race, not a college.

1b.  Great, I just offended all of my readers from Belmont.  When you only have eight loyal readers, you can’t afford to offend anyone, but I just did.  No wonder I’m having so much trouble attracting new readers.

2.  BYU, at one point this season, looked like a legit contender.  Then it suspended one of its best players for having sex with his girlfriend.  I have plenty of opinions about this, but they’d certainly offend some people and, well, I just can’t afford to offend anyone at this point.

3.  Is it too early to declare the expansion to 68 teams a failure?  If not, what additional information do we need before we are able to determine that the expansion was a bad idea?

4.  Jeff Capel got fired this week.  Not the biggest story out there, I know, but I think it’s interesting because of what it says about the way we perceive college coaches.  When Capel made VCU competitive, he was a hot young candidate for a job at a bigger program.   He took the job at Oklahoma, and did quite well, when he had Blake Griffin.  Since losing Griffin, he hasn’t done so well.  Funny how that works.  Take a step back and look at this: when he makes a team like VCU competitive, people think he’s a coaching prodigy.  When he recruits Blake Griffin, people think the praise was worthwhile.  Then when he loses Griffin and stops winning, people think he doesn’t even deserve to keep his job.  How about some perspective, folks?

5.  Last year, I hoopserved that tournament upsets, contrary to popular belief, generally did not involve a team with five underrated upperclassmen beating a team with five overrated underclassmen.  Rather, they generally involved a lower-seeded team having a star who carried it to a win.  (Here, if you’re interested.) In light of that, I looked at the list of this year’s leading scorers, and note that teams to keep an eye on are Penn St. (Talor Battle averages 20.1 ppg), Wofford (Noah Dalman averages 20 ppg),and BU (John Holland averages 19.2 ppg).  If you’re kind of into this angle, but you’re more interested in rebounds than points, I note that the list of leading rebounders includes Nikola Vucevic from USC (10.2 rpg) and Keith Benson from Oakland (10.1 rpg).

6.  It’s interesting that people can see what they want in this tournament.  Those who are down on the game will see that the top eight seeds are about as weak as the top eight seeds have been in a while.  Florida?  Notre Dame?  They’ll also see that the tournament is wide open, essentially because there is a lot of mediocrity, and very few teams that have potential for greatness.  Those who are not down on the game will see a lot to like about this tournament.  For starters, the defending national champion returns multiple critical starters, and heads into the tournament as a #1 seed.  And, they will see a bunch of potentially great matchups.  UCLA-Michigan State in Round 1?!? Seriously?  Plus, a potential matchup of St. John’s, the revitalized school from NYC, and BYU, the school that kicked a player off of its team for violating the school’s Honor Code — an Honor Code that, as I understand things, does not allow students to drink caffeine.  Like I said, I’m not going to comment on BYU’s decision, but you don’t need my commentary to see that St. John’s / BYU would be an interesting clash.  Looking down the road, a potential Ohio State / Syracuse matchup would be awesome.  Another run from Butler would be thrilling.  And, don’t forget, Kemba Walker might just grab the whole bracket by the throat and not let go.

I don’t know about you, but I’m psyched.

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