Coach's Corner

Do you anticipate getting depressed? I do. Days of despair are fast approaching. The weeks following the NBA and NHL playoffs always send me plummeting. For two months, whistles, cross-checks, flagrant fouls, and evenings with Bill Walton and Marv Albert have substituted quite nicely for a life. Now, facing multiple four-game sweeps, I know I'll all too soon be confronted with the fact that daylight-savings time changed sometime during the Orlando/Detroit series. How to fill all those extra hours of daylight? In therapy, we learned to "live in the present." To demonstrate those thousands of dollars were not wasted, I'll get depressed next week. For now, I ponder, what became of the great NBA finale we were promised?

As Chicago and Seattle, the two best teams in their respective conferences, staggered about, it was hard not to notice I was responding with more urgency to the buzzer on the clothes dryer than the game buzzer. The first few tiffs were nasty affairs. After two games -- 113 personal fouls, two flagrant, six technical, and seven illegal defenses resulting in 138 scintillating free throws -- a right-minded sports fan might ask the same.

You can't question the talent on the court. Still, Gary Payton, the best point guard in the game, has what, eight assists through two games? The two best offensive teams in the league couldn't score a basket for what seemed like the entire fourth quarter of Game Two, as both missed countless, uncontested jump shots, any one of which would have turned the game in favor of whichever team could hit it. The "greatest team" missed six straight very vital free throws in the final minutes. Scottie Pippen's travails at the line were particularly painful. He clanked one off the back rim so hard it almost hit Chicago mascot Benny the Bull, who was playing with children in the third row, on the snout. The second, an embarrassing, choke-laden push, hit the bottom of the rim. In a moment not lacking in irony, it was left to the league's second worst free-throw shooter, Dennis Rodman, to swish the shot, which at last iced the game for Chicago, succeeding where Pippen and Jordan had failed. Even the impeccable Jordan was clumsy, tossing up air balls, careening shots off the side of the back-board, getting so frustrated at one point he all but spit on an official. What gives?

The officiating is too cautious. The refs, overly concerned with things "getting out of hand," are calling fouls, anywhere and everywhere on the court. Whistles, as always, destroy the rhythm of the game, negating the formidable athletic talents on the floor. In all of sports, there's nothing duller than basketball players walking from one end of the gym to the other. Let 'em play!

The Rust Factor. Chicago had a long layoff. They do look rusty. However, playoff games are always slower, more conservative, and defensive-minded. It's one thing for the Sonics to run up 120 points against Golden State. It's another still to do it against a tough-minded team determined and able to take away your strengths. Which leads to...

Cowboy-type Expectations. In the vast province of professional sports, only in Dallas are wins not enough. Only Cowboy fans groan about not beating teams by enough points. Yet this arrogant, obnoxious Cowboy point-of-view is propagated to the world by TV commentators, offended the Bulls didn't live up to the hype these same purveyors of pabulum created. "If the Bulls are so great," they whine, "how come they only win by nine or four?" Asked to refute this silly proposition, Chicago guard Ron Harper said, "I don't care about that shit. The score is them zero, us two. That's it, baby!" Change that to three, Ron.

Cincinnati Reds owner Marge Schott is an idiot. A lonely woman without a shred of common sense in her bigoted little head. She's also an American citizen and entitled to her stupid opinions, just as I am. If she thinks Hitler was a tad misunderstood, just a trifle extreme, so be it. If she laments her bad luck over an umpire having the impudence to die at home plate, thus spoiling her home opener, well, I can relate. It does seem to rain only when I'm playing tennis. If she speaks -- with affection I'm sure -- about her "niggers" on the field, if the lady has an affinity for panties with a swastika emblazoned on the crotch, well, it's her team and perhaps there are items at the bottom of my drawer I'd rather not tell you about. The woman's done nothing but display poor taste in undergarments and flags and express tiresome notions. Holding tiresome opinions is not against the law. She can say and wear whatever she wants. I believe the First Amendment covers the subject pretty well. I can't help but think it's a bunch of guys ganging up on an easy target, a solitary woman. Where are all the rad-fem, "You go, girl!" types who lurk behind every desk, bar stool, and keyboard these days, when a lady... well, a woman, anyway... needs them? n Write me: [email protected]

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