A Hopeless Sports Romantic

Bill Bradley, former Senator and college basketball star

I am a hopeless sports romantic, so these next few weeks will be glorious for me.

Major League Baseball season starts in less than two weeks, and the World Baseball Classic just finished in San Francisco with the Dominican Republic taking the title for the first time. You missed some terrific games if you ignored this event. The atmosphere in every game was as intense as in a playoff series.

The NCAA Basketball Tournament starts this week. I know that there are no great teams this year, but so what? It will be a fantastic event and an unknown school like Belmont or Butler will make a run and might even get to the Final Four. I’ve loved the Tournament since going to cover it for The Michigan Daily in 1965 in Portland, Oregon. That year, UCLA beat the Michigan Wolverines behind Gail Goodrich’s 42 points. The left-handed Goodrich was on fire that game, but the real star of the Tournament was future U.S. Senator Bill Bradley of Princeton, who scored 56 in the runner-up game. I sat behind the Princeton bench and kept announcing Bill’s amazing point totals to the coach, Butch van Breda Kolff. Every time Bradley scored I gave him a tally and would tell him how close he was to the record. I kept telling him, “Give the ball to Bill.” The coach would then shout, “Give the ball to Bill!” Ah, the power of suggestion. I’ve always felt my name was worthy of a footnote in the NCAA record book.

And then April 11, the Masters golf tournament in Augusta begins. I love the Masters because of the silly tradition of the Green Jacket and the history of the tournament going back to Bobby Jones.

Jim Nantz of CBS is an amazing professional broadcaster and he adores the Masters like no other. He will go from Atlanta, where he will do the NCAA Championship Game on Monday, April 8, on to Augusta for the Masters, which starts on April 11. Nantz did the Super Bowl in February. This will be his 23rd Final Four and 24th Masters. With makeup I can’t even see his wrinkles or gray hair. He looks like he’s 35 on TV (though he’s really 53). Nantz’s true greatness is that he never makes himself the story. Unlike a Harry Carey, who dominated the game with his personality, Nantz is the inspired observer, helping us to enjoy the game without injecting his personality very much. That’s one reason CBS pays him $7 million a year. There is a place for both styles. Marv Albert, who has probably done 50,000 basketball games, combines personality and professionalism, somewhat like the remarkable Vin Scully of the Dodgers, who is still doing baseball games at 85.

I would have made a great sports commentator on TV or radio. Maybe I’m ready for a career change.

Question: Do you prefer NBA or College Basketball?

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6 thoughts on “A Hopeless Sports Romantic

  1. Greg Knox

    I have tickets to see the Yankees open at home against our nemesis, the Bosux…
    I am then off to Detroit to attend the home opener of the Tigers vs. the Yankees, and I am working on completing this trifecta by acquiring tickets to see the Indians home opener against, you got it, the Yanks…
    Detroit, The Tribe and the Bosux…”the good, the bad and the ugly”???
    I LOVE the Spring!!!

     
  2. Bob

    Politics and big money has crept way too far into professional sports all together. I can’t fathom $20 million seasons for anyone! My days as a Heat and Dolphin season ticket holder are over. I have attended two professional sporting events in the past 10 years only due to birthday requests. I truly enjoy college any day of the week, especially during March Madness…keep your eye on the Miami Hurricanes… Go Canes!!

     
  3. Nick Bloom

    You’re right about the silly green jacket. And Jim Nance and CBS take the Masters “history” way too seriously. If I hadn’t heard a thousand commercials promoting the tourney playing that annoying melancholy music, I would have thought someone had died and Jim Nance was about to deliver the eulogy. And Augusta, itself… the last bastion of chauvinism that finally deigned to let a couple of women into their exclusive midst. If it wasn’t for the actual golf play, Jim Nance, CBS, and “Hootie” should all be arrested. Oh… but the question was college or pro basketball. Meh… no opinion. Little typo. “And then August 11, the Masters begins.” You meant April 11.

     
  4. John "Jack" Frost

    Lloyd, if you mean amateur versus professional (NBA vs NCAA), the dividing line is blurred. James and many other stars entered the pros right after highschool, and well they did because I am assured being intellectually challenged would have been a trauma as many are experiencing as they navigate, not matriculate college level education. I am from a generation that revered amateurism and achievement. Success in both areas led to great developments in our standard of life. Today, I am bored with the unprofessionalism of our sports activities. Often the play and competence and discipline is lacking providing a panorama of sloppy millionaires engaged in a charade purporting to be an athletic competition. Since sport in general has become as unwatchable as TV entertainment my TV set should last for a couple centuries. On the other hand, have you watched 10 and 12 year old kids playing for the credit of the local team, you might experience that lost excitement that truly was sport. Jack Frost

     

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