NEW YORK CITY -- I didn't get a chance yesterday, but I wanted to thank all the folks who stopped by during the ESPN SportsNation chat component of the College Hoops Tip-Off Marathon. I ran the anchor leg and I held it down mid-major style for two hours, and I noticed a couple of things.
First, having some sort of opening day for our sport is absolutely crucial, an announcement that We're Back. It was obvious that a lot of casual fans noticed, and a lot of people came out of the woodwork and wanted to talk about hoops instead of pigskin. (Later, we'll work on making it an actual opening day and removing the time exemption of a certain preseason tourney that no longer deserves it.) The second is that being connected to the internet via a tethered mobile device creates a magma-hot core in your pocket with the capability of singing the inside of your pants. Just another friendly byproduct of The Future.
I love doing the chats, I've done over 60 of them in my three-plus years with the Worldwide Leader. I've been told that I'm one of the few who enjoys it to the point of badgering the SportsNation crew to let me do it more often than I'm scheduled. It's a great way to talk in real time about our favorite subject while downplaying my weaknesses (namely, radio and TV). There are the regulars who always stop by, the power-conference trolls, and as always, the folks who just want to hear something nice about their team.
I've been cynical about that aspect of this in the past, the genius/idiot
dichotomy that any of us pundits, real or otherwise, have to deal with. It's a loaded question, "What do you think of Team X?" The correct answer is to run down a list of Team X's strengths, which is information the questioner already knows. The incorrect response is anything else other than that, and it often ends up on a message board along with a link to The Mid-Majority's comment form, which an enterprising poster has located via a Google search. It's a thin line between propaganda tool and pariah.
But when it comes down to it, asking a question about your favorite team and expecting a positive answer from the doofus who's been put forward on an expert in the field strikes at the heart of human nature. We all want to hear what we believe to be true, and it always sounds sweeter when it comes from somebody you don't know. We all want to feel good about ourselves and the institutions we represent. "Your star guard is good at basketball" is, in a sense, just another version of "you look nice today." Everybody loves a compliment, that chance to feel special in a lonely world full of people. On second thought, or maybe it's the 24th, it's a compliment to me that you give my opinion any weight at all. So thank you... you look nice today as well.
One of the things I mentioned in Tuesday's chat was a response to a kindly woman, who wanted to know which Mid-Atlantic area mid-major coach would be best suited to give a young man not only wins over losses, but strong personal development as well. A detailed question like that leads me to believe that she's looking for a good school for her talented, basketball-playing son. Without missing a beat, I said that I'd trust my own theoretical son to Jimmy Patsos of Loyola-Maryland.
This was, of course, hours before this
happened, the "Grade A technical foul" that caused Patsos to leave the bench and watch the remainder of the game from the stands despite still being eligible. It's not something you see every day, certainly, and some found it embarrassing
or even reminiscent
of that Ricky Birdsong moment
I wasn't surprised. I've witnessed Coach Patsos yell so loudly during a game that I could hear him in the last row
of an empty arena, and I can remember his vow of in-game silence during the 2006-07 season, when he decided to be Quiet Jimmy (that lasted less than two games). I've heard Coach Patsos launch into a three-minute stream-of-consciousness monologue that wove in mentions of nearly every Grateful Dead song ever performed, and I'm convinced it wasn't rehearsed. I've also been blown off for a postgame interview so he could go check on an injured player in the hospital.
In my opinion, he's passionate, brilliant, and above all will defend and protect his players in the face of anything. Coach Patsos is unpredictable, but due to a die-hard rule of sportswriting wisdom, eccentricity is dangerous and impermissible unless championships are involved. Coach Patsos thinks on his feet, demonstrates that the conventional way isn't always right, and his care for his charges makes him more a father than a boss -- more of those, please. For these reasons, I'll underline and underscore that answer I gave that nice lady the other day.
Before we go today, we have another breaking RLU to report from the south.Mercer 78, at Auburn 74
-- More about this behind the ESPN Insider subscription wall
, but the key free takeaway from this is that Mercer is a very real Atlantic Sun aspirant, and Belmont shouldn't count on a fourth straight title just yet. James Florence
had another power-conference killing performance -- his third in 12 months! -- with 25 points, and the Bears did the previously unfathomable: despite finishing 11th in the country in boards a year ago (36.7), outrebounding two SEC schools by major margins (Alabama by 17
and Auburn by 18) is not something an A-Sun team is supposed to do. At 3-0, Mercer is now over a quarter of the way to its 2007-08 win total (11) in just under a week.