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.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.