The Kinder Garden: Bah Humbug

It's probably too close to Christmas to have negative feelings, but there's a few that I'd like to get off my chest so they don't fester over the holidays.

The first is the recent trend displayed by several members of the media of downplaying West Virginia's basketball accomplishments. I've noticed a lot of whining about how WVU isn't blowing anyone out or dominating supposed inferior foes, and more comments about "winning ugly".

First, the lack of knowledge of the current national hoops scene surprises me, especially coming from people who do this for a living. Just because a team doesn't have "UConn" or "Kentucky" on its jerseys doesn't mean that those teams can't play. Recent WVU foes like IUPUI and Northeastern (before they lost their point guard for the year) are very good teams that will compete for NCAA tournament spots. I guess its easier to just make fun of a team, or rip another one, that it is to actually find something out about them.

And before I get a blizzard of emails pointing out that many of these items were contained in columns, where author's opinion reigns, or that they are simply written to get people riled up, well, yes, I understand that. That still doesn't make it right. There should be at least a modicum of fact behind any opinion column. At least I think so. And the fact behind my opinion is that there are a lot more good basketball teams in Division 1 now than there were ten or twenty years ago.

While pondering why that is, my friend Bill Noel came up with one possible reason. With the explosion of the number of Division I teams, and more games on the the tube, very good players that used to play for D-II or NAIA schools are now heading for the "mid-majors", and as a result the quality of play has increased overall in Division I, but decreased on the lower levels.

That sounds reasonable to me. I remember going to West Virginia Conference tournaments 20 years ago and watching players like Lerman Battle, Skinny Loggins, Archie Talley and Kevin Beaford light it up. Not to mention NBA players like Sedale Threatt and Ron Moore. Those guys could have definitely played D1. And now, players of that caliber are going to lesser known programs in Division I, and lifting supposedly inferior teams like Gonzaga, Dayton, IUPUI, and the College of Charleston (just to name a few) into the national spotlight.

As for "winning ugly" I admit that I've fallen into that trap at times, too. But in the larger scheme of things, there's no such thing. Winning is lovely. And I promise to remember that.

I know it's not the job of the media to pump up WVU and say that everything is rosy all the time. And we try not to do it here, either. This year's Mountaineer basketball team is still having trouble defensively and on the defensive backboards, and are struggling to get anything to work correctly on their inbounds plays. The Mountaineer coaching staff is still trying to find a good rotation to address those problems, and as of now have ten players in the mix, when they would prefer eight. But things aren't bad at WVU just because we had to go to the last second and toss in a half-court shot to beat a determined and talented IUPUI team.

My other big "Bah Humbug" goes out to some Mountaineer fans that routinely get on our players when they are not doing well. From my spot on the baseline during games, it's easy to hear many of the comments that come out of the stands. And some of them are just not very well thought out.

For example, a WVU player missed an relatively easy shot against IUPUI on Wednesday, and I heard one person exclaim, "What are you shooting for? Get out of the game!"

I didn't get a chance to answer then, so I will now. That player was shooting because he's an excellent shooter, and because he was open. He's in the game because he's a good player.

I know fans "have the right" to say whatever they want, but that doesn't make it smart. Why people want to rip the team they are cheering for, and make ugly comments that certainly won't help, is beyond me. Sure, we all talk about the shortcomings of our team, discuss who needs to improve what, and grump around when the Mountaineers don't play well. But during a game? When support means everything? I just don't get it.

I feel better now. Bring on Christmas, and Gators, and Turtles. I'm ready!

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