Schu Strings: Retired jerseys and Star Trek

Former Wildcat point guards Jason Gardner and Mike Bibby will have their numbers retired as part of Arizona's Centennial basketball celebration this weekend. In different ways, both players are nicely representative of key elements in the UA's on-court success.

When history reflects on Arizona basketball, certainly it will start with the success of Lute Olson. But not too far down the list will be a reference to this term.

Point Guard U.

For Wildcat fans, it speaks for itself. Steve Kerr, Matt Muehlebach, Damon Stoudamire, Bibby, Jason Terry, Gardner. Did I miss someone? A series of someones?

A lot of folks have shown some concern about Gardner's place in elite company. A jersey retirement is not an occasion for an anybody. But when analyzes the numbers, and his performance, it's clear that Gardner's career at the UA was very good. He firmly entrenched among the top-10 in every major category that a point guard should occupy, and as such provided stability over a four-year period.

And a successful four-year period it was. Gardner played in an NCAA championship game and helped Arizona advance to an Elite Eight during his college tenure. Now here's the rub. It's his lack of success, or anticipated lack of success, in the NBA. It's easy to look at Stoudamire, Terry and Bibby and talk of how better they were. Better in the NBA yes, but whether they were better in college is up for debate. And an entertaining debate that could be.

Basically, Gardner is the Arizona version of Steve Wojciechowski. Wo-Jo was never a Pro-Pro, but he was very effective running the point at Duke. There's nothing wrong with being a great college point guard who couldn't replicate that kind of success in the NBA, but at the college level, Gardner served the UA proud. Proud enough to have his jersey honored as a result.

He represents Arizona in another way. That of hard work and perseverance. Those have become trademarks for the UA over the years, and Gardner had as much tenacity and competitive fortitude as any player to pass through this program.

Gardner may not have been the most gifted of Arizona point guards, but the UA was a better team because of him.

Now Bibby…Yeah, that kid was gifted. Still is. In the two years Bibby ran the point, Arizona won a national title and advanced to the Elite Eight. Yeah, that's pretty deserving. Calculate his performances over a four-year period, and his inclusion in the Rafter Gang goes without saying.

Ultimately, the two are indicators of Arizona's overall success with the position. Gardner for his unrelenting work ethic and Bibby for his remarkable skills and stone-cold demeanor down the stretch. In their own right, they were both winners, and both representative of the position for which Arizona basketball is most often noted…

…Moving on…

…It appears there's quite a riff in the Star Trek continuum. During the first weekend in August, I needed a good excuse to attend the annual mongo-huge Star Trek Convention at the Hilton in Las Vegas. Fortunately, Cat Tracks Editor Brad Allis bailed me out by getting married. A plan beautifully conceived.

Usually, the whole Trek gathering thing is an opportunity to get together with other Trekkers who love being in the same room with some of their favorite stars. And while there was that this time around, there were also rumblings of concern.

Seems many Trek fans are quite upset with the latest series entry, Enterprise (even though Enterprise is an infinitely superior show to its generally abysmal predecessor Voyager) and the poor performance of Nemesis at the box office. In my book, Nemesis was more a marketing disaster (it opened five days before Two Towers, and to the general public, fantasy and sci-fi are very similar—which one do you think they'd want to see?), than an on-screen debacle, as some Trek fans have suggested.

So in the midst of rows of Star Trek paraphernalia sat this booth, complete with petition. A petition to pull the celestial rug from under current Trek helmers Rick Berman and Brannon Braga. It has something in the neighborhood of 19,000 signatures.

Braga, one of the lead writers and co-producer, actually spoke at the Trek Convention last year. Generally, when stars make it on stage, they are treated with reverence. Trek fans are more or less pleased just to be in the same room, and during the question and answer session, it's usually a slowpitch softball fest.

Not true for Braga. The second he opened the floor for questions, he was bombarded by concerns about universal inconsistencies. It was the Trek Convention cliché come to life, which as a spectator I rather enjoyed. At one point, Braga called it a nightmare. And for he and Berman, that's probably exactly what Trek has become.

For my two cents, a consistent problem with more recent Trek series is a sort of on-screen castration. Most of the characters become some form of watered-down milquetoast, I think largely because the modern Trek universe works hard to attempt to show just how civilized it is, and how superior, through that civilized manner, it has become when compared to evil, bumpy-forward aliens. But being totally civilized is boring. Early in its run, Enterprise had a bit of a maverick edge. That edge has long since been trimmed away. From my perspective, it will be interesting to see just how effective this year's war storyline will be. It poses an opportunity for good sci-fi.

Time will tell if Berman and Braga can deliver. And if they can't, perhaps the time has come to shelf the billion-dollar franchise.

[John Schuster is an editor for Cat Tracks Magazine and a sci-fi, aficianado.]

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