ESPN's Announcer Switcheroo and You
It's become an annual event, and a good time to gauge which version of basketball is more appealing. The kind Dick Vitale hypes or the kind Jeff Van Gundy analyzes?
Is there really a difference?
There are some, sure. But in the big picture, both games are as meaningless as a Tiger Woods wedding vow. That makes college basketball the loser, since there never was much reason to take the NBA's regular season seriously.
It wasn't always that way with college, but the sport has devolved into nothing more than TV programming. That doesn't mean it's not amusing or worth your time. It's just that it's no more consequential than your average reality TV show.
Make that your average fictional TV show. Actors can get killed one week then reappear the next.
Did it really matter that No. 1 Texas was beaten Monday night? The Longhorns will live to see another day, as will the next No. 1 to lose. Kentucky, Kansas, Syracuse, Duke, they'll all end up in virtually the same place when the regular season ends.
That doesn't mean you should stop watching college basketball any more than you should stop watching CSI. It's just that both are mere entertainment.
That's why I like pro basketball. It has the best performance artists.
Sure, if you looked under the sofa cushions in any NBA locker room you'd find a dozen joints and three unregistered pistols. It doesn't bother me that the average NBA arena sounds like a morgue unless they are playing Gary Glitter for the four-billionth time.
What appeals to me is the game itself, and the chance of seeing LeBron James or Kobe Bryant do something mind-blowing on any given trip down the court.
That said, I have no problem with college fans who prefer coaches make all the money. It's fine by me if you like atmosphere over execution, and you think the NBA season is too long and completely pointless.
All I say is look at your own sport. Somewhere, probably around the invention of Dickie V., college basketball became a product.
This season began on Nov. 17 with 12 straight games on ESPN. Between ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPN360, CBS, ABC, HDNet, Versus, Fox Sports Net and Al Jazeera, you could watch every dribble in every college gym in America.
There were contrived mega-showdowns throughout December, not to mention more holiday tournaments than BCS bowls. From the volume out of Vitale, you'd swear every game was Armageddon.
But what was really at stake? Months down the road in a hotel suite the sequestered NCAA selection committee might slot Duke as the No. 2 seed in the East as opposed to the South?
Nothing matters until March, when you are handed a bracket in the office pool and suddenly become an expert on Coastal Carolina. Seriously, can you name more than five current college players?
I'm sure some of you can. Just as some people can name all the Gilmore Girls. My problem is that I can still remember Artis Gilmore.
Way back then, 25 teams made the NCAA tournament, great players stuck around more than a year and losing a game in January could really hurt. The evolution was inevitable, but where has it left us?
Pondering an ESPN switcheroo.
Wake Forest vs. North Carolina or San Antonio vs. Utah?
I'll watch the NBA. The sound will be turned off, of course, in case Vitale starts treating the game like it's something special.
I know a meaningless game when I see one. So should Vitale, since he sees one almost every night.