Quiet Desperation

Big buildings, big business, big basketball blunder

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OK. Here we go. It all comes down to this. With 4.8 seconds left, Smith takes the inbounds pass and dribbles the length of the court, maneuvering around the bewildered Missouri Tigers along the way. He dribbles behind his back — it’s something to see — and enters the lane. The crowd is going crazy. Two seconds. One second. He goes to the basket for an awkward right-handed lay-up and ...”

The men’s college basketball season began last November and it will end in April at the intimate U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. The stadium has a capacity of 66,655. It’s where the Minnesota Vikings and the Minnesota Gophers play their home football games.

The stadium opened in 2016.

Despite requests for a “bird-friendly” exterior design by the Audubon Society and others, the stadium’s designers used highly reflective glass for “aesthetic reasons.”

The stadium is in the Mississippi Flyway route, and resulting bird deaths are double any other building in Minneapolis.

The women’s college basketball season will end in April as well, at the Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida.

The arena opened in 1996 (as the Ice Palace), and seats 20,500 for basketball, and it is a much more sensible choice.

Some fans at the U.S. Bank Stadium will be so far away from the action that they won’t know who won until they get home that night.

I have attended regional and Sweet Sixteen games in the past, and even a Final Four, when the Final Four games were played in basketball-dedicated facilities.

But when someone figured out how much money could be made, the finals were moved to these behemoths.

At its best, basketball is a wonderful and very simple game. It even can be played one-on-one. That’s what my best friend Mike and I did, hundreds of times in his driveway when we were in high school, in little Greenhills, Ohio, during the years when the nearby University of Cincinnati Bearcats were the men’s powerhouse.

The game has evolved, and it has been tarnished in a number of ways, by recruiting and academic scandals, and diminished (I believe) by what are called “one-and-dones,” with the University of Kentucky leading the way. The Wildcats have completely different rosters every year.

Winning is an absolute. Coaches can be — and are — fired in mid-season.

There is always some local talent in the tournament games. I think most of us remember where Chauncey Billups went to high school. If not, the answer is at the end. Billups could have gone anywhere he wanted to, and played with a more already-successful program.

Instead, he went just up the road to the University of Colorado, and made a lot of Buffalos fans happy.

Highlands Ranch High School’s girls teams have provided starters for Connecticut and Notre Dame. And then there was Abigail Nellie “Abby” Waner, who attended ThunderRidge, and wound up at Duke.

My men’s team didn’t make it into the tournament this year. And my coach was handed his hat after an unacceptable, mid-season, home loss to Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University Flames.

The search is on for a new coach, and Kentucky’s John Calipari has been rumored. Calipari is a winner, but everywhere he has gone there has been some of that tarnish I mentioned.

Quite understandably, Harry is rooting for the Wofford Terriers this year.

Billups was a George Washington High School Patriot.

Craig Marshall Smith is an artist, educator and Highlands Ranch resident. He can be reached at craigmarshallsmith@comcast.net.

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