March 13, 2013

Saunders: Tread carefully when talking about basketball in March

Readers weren’t happy with my thoughts about Al Jazeera or knives on airplanes. But when I dared talk about basketball, they really let me have it.

What a maroon. Boy, didn’t you know better than to go delving into something this controversial on the eve of the ACC tournament and March Madness?

Not you. Me.

In recent weeks, sharp-eyed and sharper-tongued readers have taken my name in vain and called me everything but a marmalade-filled biscuit for columns about knives on airplanes, the Taliban-ish tendencies of some Tar Heel legislators and why we should be able to see Al Jazeera on cable television here.

For instance, a reader named Larry was all over me like a duck on a June bug for saying that Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell stated on President Barack Obama’s first Election Night that he wanted to ensure that Obama wasn’t re-elected.

Larry pointed out, correctly, that McConnell said that nearly two years later, in October 2010.

After that, a sweet reader named Shirley wrote this about my column saying we should all have access to Al Jazeera. “Go back to bed. I think the time change took your brains with it this weekend. ... I don’t want to pay my hard-earned money toward a cable station meant for the people who believe our nation should be destroyed and we are nothing but infidels. Are you one of them now?”


But that and similar attacks were like whispered sweet-nothings compared to when I later touched what, around these parts, is the third and most electrified rail: college basketball.

Slapping the Big 10

In writing about Time Warner Cable’s decision to make the Qatar-based Al Jazeera network unavailable here, I mentioned the six-and-a-half-years I was marooned in Indiana. I was forced by the local cable company to watch Wisconsin versus Indiana at the same time Duke was playing UNC.

A reader named Jason took exception to what he considered the disrespectful slap at Big Ten basketball and dismissed the ACC players – specifically those at UNC – as actors, not athletes.

“How many times did Tyler Hansbrough fall down the minute an opponent touched him or breathed on him hard?” he asked.

While sympathizing with his distaste for the incessant flopping that will eventually make all college basketball unwatchable, I told him he must’ve meant Duke, whose nickname would more appropriately be the Blue Floppers.

Flopping and drinking

In Los Angeles, old-timey UCLA basketball fans used to play a game in which they took a drink of booze every time the team’s excitable announcer, Dick Enberg, exclaimed “OH MY!”

I was going to suggest that we all take a swig each time a Duke player falls down during the ACC tournament with minimal or no contact. That, however, would be irresponsible, since everybody would be soused by halftime.

Jason didn’t say which Big Ten school he roots for, but a reader named Mike did. “As an Indiana Hoosier fan in North Carolina’s Triangle ... there is no greater frustration than to find that the December CBS Indiana-Kentucky ‘Game of the Week’ has been displaced locally by a UNC vs. No. 175 RPI preseason patsy game.” For the uninitiated, that’s a cupcake.

Mike, who referred to himself as an Indiana alumnus-in-residence, also blamed Wisconsin, not his beloved Hoosiers, for slow, plodding basketball.

Which conference plays the best, most exciting basketball used to be clear – the ACC. But the issue is open to debate now.

What isn’t open to debate is that this is the most wonderful time of the year for basketball fans, regardless of which conference you think is the best.

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