I watched the much anticipated Blue Devils vs. Buckeyes basketball game last night. Who would have thought that afterwards we could say that coach K’s guys were soundly beaten? The old word “drubbed” comes to mind. No one beats Duke by 20 points. But Ohio State did.
I remember when I was in high school and college in Ohio (not at OSU) and Lucas and Havlicek (and Bobby Knight off the bench) made Ohio State the premiere basketball team in the country. Its fun to see State back on the top again and, I’m sure, a good balm for the alumni who suffered with their football team this year. (Though it surely looks like the Bucks have a future great QB in Miller which along with Coach Meyer holds great promise for the next few years if the NCAA doesn’t do something crazy. Speaking of which – where are those NCAA guys relative to Penn State and the failure of its coaches to act on truly criminal matters that make Tressel’s failure to report the sales of his players personal property for tattoos seem like little more than jaywalking?) But I digress.
Last night’s game, though, was a startlingly reminder of how much the game has changed since Lucas and this Webner were in high school and college (we went to different schools together). Of course, as Dick Vitale would say, the kids today have more “athleticism”. They are taller, stronger, jump higher and run faster. (The center on our high school team was 6’ 2”.) But it wasn’t the athleticism that was startling. The change that startled me was in the stands. The fan factor, if you will.
When we (Jerry Lucas and I) were in high school, cheerleaders made everyone be quiet when the other team was shooting foul shots. It was considered un-sportsman-like to make a noise that might break the shooter’s concentration. True. Not a peep was heard. Referees might even give a team an extra shot if the fan distraction was too great (un-sportsman like.) In college it was the same. All of the yelling and screaming was for our team and not against the opposing team. Last night, in stark contrast, the fans behind the goals screamed, yelled, were generally obnoxious AND waved pictures of Elvis, Tweety Bird, Yosemite Sam and assorted other characters to try to distract Duke at the foul line. Come on!
Now I recognize that this is just the progression of things. At some point, I’m not sure when, (the beginning of the Viet Nam war?) fans began to make noise to distract the players and then to yell and wave their arms; then to yell, wave their arms and jump up and down; then to yell, wave their arms, jump up and down and wave signs; then to yell, wave their arms, jump up and down, wave signs and wave those “noodle” things. But, at least for me, last night was a new phase when they added the waving of placards displaying cartoon characters, Elvis Presley’s picture and the like (including those – what were they – “We’re Nuts” signs?) to distract the shooter. In my view, these fan distractions only distract from the game. Does a missed foul shot at the end of a close game as a result of fan distraction prove the fan’s team is the better team?
I wonder why it is allowed to continue. For the Buckeyes, at least, it doesn’t look like they need that kind of fan assistance.