The Real March Madness

Totally off-topic blog today. I promised on my homepage not to do this often, but this is one of those days. If you aren’t sure what March Madness is — and you don’t give a hoot about college basketball — feel free to skip this part and check below the jump for book updates.

I spent much of my young life in North Carolina, home of “Tobacco Road,” the Interstate 40 corridor that connected the campuses of NC State, Carolina, Duke and Wake Forest. North Carolinians love college basketball, and loyalties are seeded very early. Just as kids are raised Catholic, Baptist, Methodist or Presbyterian, they also are raised Wolfpack, Tarheel, Blue Devil or Demon Deacon.

Picture by Nancy Doty

Picture by Nancy Doty

I am Carolina Blue. I spent 3 years on the brick sidewalks of UNC-Chapel Hill, and during my time on campus, the Tarheels won the NCAA basketball championship (1993). According to a detailed report just released, that was also the first year of an elaborate 20-year scheme of academic fraud instituted in the shadows to keep athletes eligible to play at UNC.

Because of that, I’m finding it hard to get behind my team this year, though these guys are probably squeaky clean since they’re under a microscope. I’m holding out for a reckoning … even if it includes vacating wins and firing popular coaches. There is no pride in winning if you cheat to get there, and there is no accountability without appropriate punishment.

To be honest, I’m finding it increasingly difficult to follow college hoops at all. Gone are the days when the coach sits down in the living room with a player’s parents and promises a solid education in return for a commitment to the team. At the upper echelons, the institution has become little more than a showcase for the NBA. Players don’t choose a team out of any sense of loyalty to their university; they’re looking for the best stage from which to leap to the pros. One and done. It’s no wonder they’re cheating to keep their eligibility — they were never students to begin with. One side effect of that is fans don’t get to know the players at all, so it’s hard to hold a following year after year.

I have two remedies for that: 1) the NBA could drop its bogus age requirement that keeps kids from jumping straight from high school to the pros; and 2) give out scholarships in 4-year blocks so if a player jumps to the pros after one year, his scholarship can’t be reused for the next 3 years.

And then there’s the issue of money … the billion in revenue generated by big-time college basketball, but only for the guys in the corporate suites who smoke the cigars. John Oliver has a brilliant takedown of that, so I won’t elaborate.

I’ll end my rant with a segue into book news. By not gluing my eyeballs to the TV throughout the 3-week tournament, I have more time to write. And to watch the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament, a far better example of how collegiate athletics should be run.

**********

In book news:

Anyone But You is shortlisted for the Ann Bannon Popular Choice Award, along with seven others. That’s just very, very cool. If you’re a member of GCLS, you should head over to their Members page and vote for your favorites. Lots of great choices. Occasionally I find myself in discussions with folks over the merits of literary versus popular fiction. I write the latter, and it’s always such a pleasure to point out that popular fiction is popular because people read it.

I’m chugging along on my fall release, The Touch of a Woman. Currently at 36,000 words. I’m happy to report they’ve touched.

I’ll soon be offering a chance to get an advance copy, autographed of course, of T-Minus Two, which is now appearing as one of my featured books.

5 Responses to “The Real March Madness”

  1. I love the women’s game. It’s been a HUGE change to watch the University of Colorado Buffaloes move to the PAC 12…different speed of game! The women’s bracket will be exciting, even more challenging since I don’t have a TV and sports bars..well, seriously now, reruns of the men’s games? Anyhow… a question for you, on May 19th, will Bella have autographed copies or do we order from you directly or is that to be revealed in a later blog?

    • The women’s game is so much fun to watch. You have 4 years to get to know the players.

      On the other subject: No, Bella won’t have autographed copies. I’ll make them available through Lambda Literary for a donation.

  2. KG, I’m watching with interest the movement in the NCAA to bar freshmen from competing in NCAA sports. It’s gaining surprising momentum because the one-and-done group are a very small number of college athletes, and almost all are basketball players. The supporters say it would give the young students a year to acclimate to college life before adding in rigorous athletic demands. Seems like it also would discourage some of the academic cheating, too.

    • DJackson, since I’m not a donor to a NCAA school, I doubt I’ll be listened to in the discussion, but I think those sound like very interesting possibilities.

    • Yes, I’ve read about that. It means the players would have to maintain academic eligibility for 3 semesters, instead of just 1.

      The NBA players union is pushing to eliminate the age requirement that took effect the season after Lebron James entered the league at 18. NBA owners don’t want to spend big money on contracts for players they haven’t studied, so they want the chance to watch them in college. (for free) That might end with the new CBA if the players have their way. What other profession (that doesn’t require a degree) prohibits people from using their talent until they reach a certain age?

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