Saturday, April 04, 2015

DASHED EXPECTATIONS?



            Dickens gave us Great Expectations.   Attending Cal schooled us in “Dashed Expectations.” 
            So here's something to ponder as you watch today's Final Four.  I won’t regale you again with the myriad of “foot on the chalk line” losses—or bogus Pass Interference penalties which destroyed seasons, split up families and ended marriages.  I certainly won’t mention the flukey reasons we lost out on the Rose Bowl thanks to SC going in the tank in ’75 or Mac Brown in 2006.  Who’s counting?
             No one wants to be a whiner.  (However, up here in the Napa Valley it’s high status to be a winer).
            So, with all the negative things happening at Cal (bad grades, tuition hikes, home games against the #1 team in the Pac 12 being played in Levi Stadium; fall off of ESP—or whatever they’re called—sales for the stadium—poor Janet Reno have to listen to that “crap”)—the list goes one—it is fun to read about a local young man, Ivan Rabb, who is not only the #6 basketball recruit in the nation—but by all accounts a good citizen, fine student and all around, humble human being—considering Cal as his place to call home for hoops.
            We’re talking good news for a change—that’s why I’m typing—tired of all the negative stuff brought on Cal by administrators past.
            It has been rumored that young Mr. Rabb may bring along Jaylen Brown (the #2 national recruit, who incidentally attends Shariff Abdur Raheem’s Alma Mater in Georgia, Joseph Wheeler High), and Caleb Swanigan (the #8 national recruit).  If true, they plan to form a mini- Labron James--Chris Bosh--Dwayne Wade basketball trinity—here on the same court which produced a skinny little white kid, Bob Dalton who could introduce himself to Oscar Roberston in the final four with the infamous words, “Hi.  I’m Bobby Wendell.  What’s your name?”
            Is it possible that Mr. Rabb et al could channel the Cal out of John Calipari? 
            As most people know, I’m a big John Montgomery fan and not sure anyone knows how much he brought to the program and to the University.
            That being said, high marks to John Wilton (no it wasn’t what’s-her-name) for hiring Counzo Martin.  He appears to be a high integrity guy who knows the sport.  Though this was an up and down year for the team, he may not have had as much talent as other Pac 12 schools. (Joke).
  So far, however, he has certainly talked the good talk. 
            One can tell he’s a man of high character.
            Were it not for him (subjunctive mood), it’s unlikely we’d be on Rabb’s list—let alone on the short list of distant nebulae—ok, stars like Brown and Swanigan.
            Did you notice the state championships were played in Harmon—er, Haas Pavilion—in front of 10,000 fans?

            Co-incidence?  I think not.  But I digress.

            Like out of a Chip Hilton sports story, last week Ivan Rabb won the State Championship for Bishop O’Dowd with a free throw with only .8 seconds left.  He had scored 19 points and had 21 rebounds.  Cecil B. Demilles was cuing up the trumpets for the perfect moment for Rabb to put Cicero in his place—take the mic after the game, and declare his undying love for his new institution and home for four years (or at least one basketball season).
            The rafters would shake and the fans would go wild.
            But it didn’t happen.
            Well maybe (the pundits wrote,) he was waiting for the Macdonald’s All Star game, played last Wednesday night to announce the news on National TV to all the Bear faithful.
            But it didn’t happen.
            Well maybe he’s waiting for……..Godot?
            No.  It’s not going to happen.  Unless……..
            Now I don’t know this because I know young Mr. Rabb, his family or any of the people involved in the recruiting process.
            I only know this (or think I do) because a Magpie of the Mapplewood bent my ear over some Cab to teach me the facts of (basketball) life.
            Just like that other fact of life you hated your father explaining to you, the facts of basketball life vis a vis 17 year olds is just as ugly—though it looks good from afar.
            Ever since Labron, Wade and Bosch, used their AT&T family plan to text one another into forming a troika which would bring an NBA final to the Heat, young kids have paid attention.
            It started a couple of years ago when five of them conspired (ok, decided) to join Calipari at Kentucky.  After winning the NCAA’s, 6 players were drafted to the NBA, including 3 Freshman.
            Since Calipari arrived at Kentucky in 2009, the Wildcats have won one national title, made four trips to the Final Four and had 19 players selected in the NBA draft.
         Not sure they were all on academic scholarships.
         So what does Kentucky have to do with news reports that Ivan Rabb has narrowed his choice down to Cal and Arizona?
         My Magpie of the Maplewood tells me that were Rabb headed to Cal he would have announced it in front of the huge crowd at Haas.  Were Rabb, Brown and Swanigan wanting to make a national splash, they could have announced it Wednesday night after the Macdonald’s All America game.
         So why didn’t they?
         The insiders say the announcement (and it still could be Cal) won’t come until April 10th, the day kids have to put up or shut up about going pro. 
         How many kids from Kentucky and Duke (both who’re after Rabb) will leave early?  That is all that matters.  (It’s the 90’s Mr. Bahnks!).
         Today no one knows—not even Rabb and his cohorts.  But if enough kids leave either school to go for the gold—look for our troika to flock there.
         One needn’t pass judgment whether this is good or bad.  But we should understand that this is the way the world works today.
         Okay.   I hate it.  But lucky for them I don’t count.
         We should understand that these kids are angry at the system.  They have no clout—no power.  They see coaches making millions, the NCAA hundreds of millions—and little is dribbling their way.
         This is not an argument for paying kids to play ball in college.
         It is simply a minor explanation of what’s going on. Some think the only power kids have is to join together—go to the same school—win and then get drafted.  That is their goal---nothing more.

But we (lovers of Cal) still don’t get it.  Like the patrons of Harry Hopes Saloon in  O’Niell’s The Iceman Commeth, we need our illusions to get through the day.
        
         We are country bumpkins when it comes to what the Caliparis and Patinos are doing in the basketball world.
         This is no knock on Cuonzo.  He knows all about what’s being written here, and practically cleaned out the Augean stables just to get us to be a part of a conversation.  His Herculean tasks should not go unnoticed.
         We are in his debt.  He’s putting us on the map.  
         As ususal, we loyal Golden Bears are the problem. We have great expectations.  And not understanding not only the rules, but the actual game being played, is what causes them—all to often—turns our great expectations into dashed ones.
         On the other hand, that’s what makes us long suffering Bears—and gives us an excuse to drink. 

On the other hand, we wish each of these kids only the best, wherever they go.