“Do you play basketball?”
I am approximately 6 feet 8 inches tall. I am asked this question, and others like it, multiple times a day. I am still coming to terms with it, but any one of my friends can attest to my general discomfort with my height, and has heard me rant many times about the random passersby that feel inclined to talk to me about it.
So, when I picked up Tuesday’s edition of Pipe Dream, glanced down to the bottom left of the front page, and saw: “The Binghamton University men’s basketball team is set to hold open tryouts this week for all interested students,” I was, to say the least, intrigued. It appeared that just about everyone that saw the court last year had been dismissed from the team.
Now, the dreaded question takes a new meaning.
Sure, I would have been the tallest kid in the starting lineup last year, but I could still say, without guilt, “No, toothless stranger, I don’t play basketball.”
Do I still have that choice? Is it time to dust off a pair of gym shorts, lace up my Chuck Taylor’s, and pick up the old roundball once again?
In all seriousness, I was always decidedly for having a resume-challenged roster for our basketball team. Even if D.J. Rivera couldn’t spell “increased national attention for Binghamton University,” he could definitely generate it. I always figured it was justified to let a few kids slip through the academic cracks, if it meant that the University as a whole was made better by it.
Which a winning basketball team can definitely do.
Look at Syracuse, a school that is overpriced, poorly-ranked academically, and yet still has a high level of national awareness because the school’s basketball coach, Jim Boeheim, is allowed to sign pretty much whoever he can, regardless of whether the kid is capable of finding Canada on a map.
However, it appears that, even by my moral-relativist standards, we may have crossed the line. And heads have rolled. It will be interesting to see what kind of team the conspicuously unfired Kevin Broadus can put together with the new addition of a pending investigation into recruiting practices by the SUNY chancellor and a half dozen walk-ons, but without the generous support of now-resigned athletic director Joel Thirer.
You, of course, you can read about all of this in Pipe Dream, but also in a little-known newspaper known as The New York Times. National attention, sure, but not exactly what I had in mind.
It will be an interesting year. It could be one of those Hoosier-type seasons, when some walk-on from Upstate New York, with a chip on his shoulder and a soft touch from long range, carries the now-inspired Bearcats back to the Big Dance through all the adversity and scrutiny.
But I doubt it. In all likelihood, our hoops glory has passed as quickly as it came. All those who stood on line for tickets and rushed the court after the big game, the die-hard Bearcat faithful, will probably be sitting at home come March, watching the schools that recruited the same way we did, but were just a bit better at it.
Still though, I personally can think about all of this and smile. When the next stranger who approaches me and says, “Hey, you should play basketball; they could really use you,” I’ll get to say: “Yep, they probably could.”