Arguably the two preeminent programs in the country, nobody will argue that Duke and Arizona have created respective basketball frenzies. Duke has its Cameron Crazies, and Arizona…well, McKale still sells out, and it's still considered the toughest arena for opponents to land a win in the conference.
But the real reason for this basketball parallel rests with two men: Lute Olson and Mike Krzyzewski. Two men who have accomplished remarkable things with their respective programs. Two men near the twilight of their careers.
At some point, realism has to set in. While in good health, Olson is nearing 70, and Wildcat fans fear the day when he finally hands the reins to another. Krzyzewski begins his 23rd season on the Blue Devil sidelines, and while younger, some have questioned his overall health (likely a lingering concern after the back injury that sidelined him for a season some years ago). Regardless, a near-quarter century is a long time, and he's done about all he can in Durham.
Krzyzewski and Olson have created special environments, and while both schools hope to maintain a level of national prominence, when they retire, there's nowhere to go but down. And that inevitable (both schools hope short-term) spiral could lead to lost revenue for the athletic departments.
If Duke isn't at the top of its game, those Cameron Crazies could be more like the Cameron Comatose. Known for their impressive ability to choreograph their actions, without a consistent winner, the only choreography might be sitting on their butts, if they decide to show in the first place.
At Arizona, the once-hottest ticket in town could become an excuse for the high-dollar Wildcat fans to more consistently achieve their early bedtimes. Those late West Coast starts can be a bear.
That's precisely the reason Arizona and Duke have big decisions ahead of them. They will need football revenue to remain successful financially. Duke is the sports bookend. Great basketball program, equally terrible football team. Duke has only sniffed some semblance of success during the brief Steve Spurrier years.
Arizona has been better. It consistently drew more than 50,000 fans in the 70s and had solid attendance numbers and some high-water gridiron times into the late 90s. However, those figures have tumbled dramatically over the course of the last five seasons. During the Homecoming upset of Washington, the UA officially announced an attendance of 48,000. While it always falls back on the "tickets sold" line, it's amazing that figure could be uttered with a straight face.
Arizona and Duke may never be great football powers. For the UA it may be easier than Duke. The Pac-10 has been a revolving door league for well over a decade, although it appears USC is making a move at separating itself from the rest of the conference. The ACC is about to get even more loaded with the influx of Big East talent. But neither place can afford to rest on the monetary laurels of men's basketball for much longer. It's time for the gridiron gladiators to hold up their end of the bargain, and that road to success will start with the decision that needs to be made at the head coaching position. To their credit, both schools appear to recognize what's at stake, and they appear willing to dole out seven figures for the next man responsible for turning the fortunes.
These are critical times for the athletic departments at both schools, for in the modern era, the financial future of university sports cannot survive on basketball alone…
…It's been awhile since I decided to vent about visual entertainment. So long that Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill has come and gone, and to think, I didn't use that flick's release as an opportunity to call Tarantino the film version of Kurt Cobain. Perhaps I'll save that explanation for the pompous February release of Part Two.
In regards to movies with parts, the second Matrix, released in May, made its overrated prequel come off as a Sci-Fi work for the ages. By comparison, the third and thankfully final installment of the ill-conceived Matrix trilogy makes part two look like the Citizen Kane of Sci-Fi. This movie is terrible on so many levels that I'd need to borrow one of those fancy computers designed to calculate pi, and after 20 years of relentless analysis, we might finally have it covered.
For two decades the geek in me has bitched to anyone who will listen about the brutal ending of Return of the Jedi, and how it managed to almost single-handedly undercut an otherwise memorable trilogy (then came the two prequels, which made Jedi come off like the Maltese Falcon by comparison—I couldn't very well use a Citizen Kane reference twice). Star Wars hasn't delivered the goods for three movies now, but even those rancid endeavors in celluloid are vastly superior to the abomination that was Matrix: Revolutions.
On TV, I watched the 50th episode of 24. You math majors know that's two episodes into season three. And it was far and away the worst of the 50 to date. In my seemingly often-bitter opinion, 24 is the best television drama since Columbo, if one can call Columbo a drama. Better stated, it's in the Schu Pantheon of television, along with the likes of the original Fugitive, The Prisoner, Columbo, Hawaii Five-O, The Simpsons and Cheers. However, season three has struggled to get out of the gate, and one of the reasons is the apparent youth movement. Forget that on this day, Jack Bauer, the heroin addict, is out to try to stop a virus from spreading throughout LA, comely daughter Kim, who has cut a paycheck playing the hottie with an amazing string of bad luck, decides this is a good time to talk about her clandestine relationship with Jack's young Ricky Schroeder-looking partner. So far I have yet to fear the threat, although there's a lot of season still to go, so I hold out hope that once the real chase is on, they'll dump the frustrating subplots altogether.
Anyway, there's still the third installment of Lord of the Rings and Wildcat basketball, so winter viewing won't be a total loss.
[John Schuster is an editor for Cat Tracks Magazine and contributor to cattracks.net. He also watches a lot of movies and TV, although he spends more time ranting about movies and tv than he does watching it.]