As you settle into that comfy chair this weekend to unravel the suspense of South Carolina, Gonzaga, North Carolina and Oregon, you might think back to one of the most iconic NCAA Men’s championship games in history. Magic Johnson and Michigan State vs. Larry Bird and Indiana State.
The year is 1979. 25-6 Michigan State vs. 31-0 Indiana State. Johnson vs. Bird for the first of hundreds of confrontations over the ensuing years. Little did the basketball world know what icons the two would become, especially in the professional basketball world. Still, it was the most anticipated championship game in years. The “Hick from French Lick” Bird vs. “Magic” Johnson, a 6-9 point guard!
Of course we all know that Michigan State won that game, 75-64. The Spartans jumped out to a 37-28 halftime lead and held on the rest of the way. Johnson had 24 points and 7 rebounds and got most of the accolades. However, Bird had 19 points and 13 rebounds, though his usually perfect jump shot was off that night. What is forgotten is what truly cost the Sycamores a shot at victory. Poor free throw shooting-and doesn’t that happen in so many games? The art, the skill, of shooting an unguarded shot from the free throw line, has won more games, and lost more games than any other single event in the game of basketball.
Indiana State shot a miserable 45% from the charity stripe that night, 10 of 22, many misses were on the front end of one and one. Other than Bird’s 5 of 8, no other Sycamore approached even 50% that night.
So, as you pick up your remote, your basket of snacks and refreshments and wonder who is going to win this much-coveted championship, just focus on the free throw line. Your winner will most likely be the team that shoots that unguarded shot the best, who blanks out the crowd noise and the cameras and the hoopla, and does the best job of playing “horse” from that free throw line. It’s just 15 feet away from that basket but it can seem like a million miles when the game’s on the line.
Arkansas is not taking its loss to North Carolina in the NCAA tournament well. Arkansas Democrat Sen. Keith Ingram filed a resolution last week titled, “Encouraging better education of NCAA basketball officials. To protect any school and fan from such highway robbery in the future from a pinhead dressed in stripes.”
Right on Congressman! What’s sauce for the Goose is sauce for the Gander! If the NCAA can meddle in a state’s politics-we’re talking bathroom laws here-then state’s can meddle in the NCAA’s business as well!
Harry Hershfield on politics: “Politics-where they pat you on the back so they’ll know where to stick the knife.” Ditto for the NCAA and their creeping socialism!
Perhaps we could sum up both politics and the ever-expanding socialism of the NCAA with the words of George Jean Nathan : “The diversion of trivial men who, when they succeed at it, become important in the eyes of more trivial men.”
Meanwhile there’s basketball to be played. Go Frank Martin!