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The Bowl and Basketball

I did catch the Second Half. Well, at least I had the television on. The hype surrounding Super Bowl XL was lost on me. I paid no more attention to the build-up to this NFL championship game than I had the previous XXXIX. I read not the first word of the stories turned in by the ink-stained wretches of the press, who were perhaps not altogether thrilled at this Super Bowl being held in Murder City , USA , rather than some decent vacation spot. At least the BCS has the good sense to hold its extravaganzas in temperate climatic zones. I watched and heard not the first utterance of the jabbering done by ESPN’s legion of talking heads. ABC went through its interminable four-hour pre-game show, longer than the actual game, without the first second of it observed by me. I’m just not that interested.

For me, football season involves an emotional and financial commitment to the fortunes of the Virginia Tech football team. After spending a dozen or so autumn weekends traveling to Blacksburg and various ACC locales watching Tech games in person, it is hard to muster much enthusiasm for watching the professional variety of football on Sundays. I did not attend Seahawks Tech or Steelers U and cared less which of them was awarded the Lombardi Trophy.

At game time, instead of hunkering down in front of a television to watch the Big Game, I had engaged in my usual late Sunday afternoon/early Sunday evening behavior. The Teacher and I have fallen into the habit of winding down our weekend by getting together at a local watering hole. She finds the pressure of having spent a Sunday afternoon dealing with her surviving parental unit and the bleak prospect of the onset of another week of vain attempts at teaching her largely disinterested classes the King’s English is best dealt with through the consumption of tequila. It works for us and I saw no good reason to change things for the Super Bowl. If the NFL expects me to watch they will have to do a much better job of arranging the thing around my schedule.

Four margaritas and a pitcher of Sam Adams later, we settled down at my kitchen table to grade the test she had given the previous Friday and had not yet gotten around to. I started on my half of the stack just as the Rolling Stones were taking center stage. It would have been fine with me had a Stones concert been interrupted by three football plays rather than the other way around.

The Teacher and I discussed how young we had been when he had first heard Mick belt out ‘Satisfaction’ as I noticed, again, that her students probably know much more about the writings of Mick and, more likely, Eminem than those of Shakespeare. It would be virtually impossible to know any less.

We finished around the time that one of Fredo’s Hasselbecks sailed a last-gasp pass somewhere other than in the direction of its intended target, not unlike many thrown by him and his seemingly hundreds of brothers who quarterbacked Fredo when they were usually losing to Tech in those days before the Big East turned into the Li’l E. So much for the Super Bowl and the abilities of the Teacher’s students to grasp the Bard.

Football season basically ended for me when Vince Young led Texas on the drive that finally proved Mack could win the big one as long as he had a superstar quarterback. I then turned my attention to basketball, specifically ACC basketball. While the NFL’s football season has finally ended, the ACC is just past the halfway mark of the conference season. It has been a tough one for the good guys.

Virginia Tech dropped yet another close game Saturday night. It was another of several in what has been a very difficult season for the Hokies. The amount of injury, serious illness and death this team has had to deal with during the 06 season would have caused lesser men to simply pack it in. This Tech team does not, choosing instead to meet every adversity head on, fighting rather than surrendering to hardship. It is a courageous group of men that is worthy of the respect and admiration of the Hokie Nation.

It is unfortunate that so little of that football-centric Hokie Nation chooses to pay attention to the gutsy display of grit and determination shown by this team. Following this team as it taps into enormous reserves of fight and character would seem to be more uplifting than continued incessant whining over the football recruits that got away, the OOC, or the football team ‘only’ winning eleven games. The basketball team is making a statement and so are the whiners. I much prefer that made by Seth’s Hokies.

The ACC will play the first of the basketball versions of the Tech-Miami game Tuesday night when Duke plays Carolina , although I seriously doubt the ACC’s basketball bluebloods see it that way. This first of at least two battles of the blue will take place in Dean’s Dome, meaning that the blue hairs who dominate seating will be in a state of enthusiasm somewhat more elevated than their usual catatonia. It will be as rocking as it ever gets.

Carolina loons seem to have already ceded victory to the hated Devils, claiming that they have no chance against that evil Coach K and his bought and paid for officials. The claims that Coach K owns the refs are every bit as silly as they were twenty years ago when the Anybody But Carolina crowd alleged the exact same thing, that the signatures on the paychecks of the referees contained the word ‘Smith.’ The names of the resident coaching legend may change, but the song remains the same.

Duke travels down Durham/Chapel Hill Boulevard looking a lot like a team whose undefeated ACC record is living on borrowed time. The Devils continue to escape, but just barely. Trouble just might be waiting in Blue Heaven. For all of the praise heaped on Ol’ Roy’s outstanding freshmen, the Heels are receiving outstanding senior leadership from David Noel. He is also the Dudley/Thornton type of player that has been lighting up Duke’s shaky defense. The Heels should definitely have something for Duke.

NC State has emerged as the ACC’s second best team, more or less. Unlike the Super Bowl, I did watch Sunday’s Maryland-State game while waiting for the Teacher to fulfill her Good Daughter obligation. Herb can’t beat Duke or Carolina , which rankles the Pack’s large and loud fan base, but he is edging by everybody else. State is a solid team, although seemingly lacking the ‘go-to’ guy, the role performed quite well over the last few years by Julius Hodge. When the three-point shots are clanging off the rim as they did during much of State’s game against the Terps, the Pack looks very beatable, but nobody not wearing blue has managed the trick yet.

Gary Williams won a national championship a few years ago at Maryland with a team of guys who were not elite recruits, but developed quite well during their time under Gary ’s tutelage. He has not had the same kind of success since. Aside from Nik Caner-Medley, Williams does not have a particularly high level of talent and it shows.

The Florida teams operate on the fringes of the ACC’s RTP basketball nexus. Unless they are playing Duke or Carolina , you rarely see them. Both look to be pretty good, however. When the ACC returns the Tournament to its spiritual home of Greensboro next month, the Sunshine boys are quite capable of sending shock waves all along Tobacco Road.

Wake Forest and Georgia Tech have joined Virginia Tech at the bottom of the ACC standings. Unlike the Hokies, whose descent down the ACC ranks has been largely due to large misfortune, the Deacons and Jackets have earned their lowly positions honestly. Paul Hewitt’s youngsters seem to be taking a bit longer to mature than Ol’ Roy’s. Skip Prosser looks to be making sure he will not have to face Cincinnati in the NCAA Tournament.

Fallback Dave might have been the fallback position for Hoo AD Craig ‘Hey Tubby: Nyah, nyah!’ Littlepage, but he is doing his part to keep post-expansion ACC Coach of the Year awards inside the commonwealth. We can expect most any day the news that Littlepage has given Fallback Dave a lifetime contract.

Al Skinner and Fredo are discovering life in the ACC is a bit tougher than what it was last year in the You-Just-Wait-Till-Next-Year East. Clemson is good enough to make it 0-for fifty-two in Dean’s Dome.

The football season that ended at the Fiesta Bowl is now officially over. The Steelers get to replace the Patriots in all of those commercials. In the ACC, there is a period of time before Spring Practice kicks off. It is known as basketball season, still a fairly big deal in the league. There are five more weeks left of jockeying for tournament positions. It will be far more interesting to me than anything staged by the NFL.

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