Monday, January 23, 2012

the home court rims are supposed to be bigger

I would like to begin this week's posting efforts by pointing out that when I write game predictions, I don't take into account the possibility of the rim actively working to block our shots.  I'm sure I've never seen a game in which so many layups, free throws, and jump shots rimmed in and out of the basket.  Layups!  All Akil Mitchell had to do was drop the ball in the rim!

The too-obvious assertion was that we missed Assane Sene's defense, sitting out the first of six weeks' worth of games with a broken ankle.  I can think of a time or two when VT scorers took the ball unabated to the rack, and Sene might've had a thing or two to say about that, sure, but the fact is: 47 points!  Tech was held to about .85 points per possession, which is right in line with the season average.  We might've missed Sene's offense

Despite having too many turnovers, including one by Joe Harris that looked like something out of a certain Miami game last year, I can't be too upset with the execution.  It's just frustrating as hell to watch layups circle around the inside of the rim and circle right back out.  12 turnovers are too many, but even a below-average shooting night would've offered a comfortable win.

I'm often critical of Seth Greenberg's coaching, but you have to give Fester credit for a few things last night.  Once he figured out he could take away Mike Scott because he didn't care if Jontel Evans was shooting, that's exactly what he did.  VT normally plays a more aggressive defense on the perimeter, because they think they have better athletes than you and they want to force you into turnovers and turn them into transition buckets.  Instead it looked like playing basketball in the mirror, with the interior denied.  Shit, if you're gonna shoot 1-for-14 from three-point range, teams will be happy to watch you do it.

That was so bad I don't even wanna talk about the GT game any more.  It's like that happened in October.  That's how quickly you go from "on a roll" to "oh man, I know Boston College is terrible and we really should win, but actually we have to otherwise everyone will be legitimately questioning this team's ability to do anything right."  In other words, don't lose to Boston College.

Unfortunately, thanks to the two Christmastime transfer, this is the team we got and there's no other options.  If Sammy Zeglinski happens to be struggling with his shot, which wouldn't you know it he is, the number of people we can turn to are awfully limited.  With Sene hurt and the bottom of the net suddenly requiring a treasure map to find, we sure could use another big man and another shooter, the latter if for no other reason than to see if he's got a shot on a night when nobody else seems to.  Big man and a shooter, where can we find.... oh dammit, they left.

At any rate, no need to panic.  Vent, yes, don't panic.  I mean, how many other teams can play offense like that, shoot 1-for-14 from three and 32% overall, and lose by two?  Only if you play nice defense.  As big of a pisser as that game was, it teaches this lesson: that's why Tony Bennett emphasizes defense the way he does.  Because you can go into shooting slumps, but there's essentially no such thing as a defensive slump.  On defense, you are what you are and it's unlikely you'll see any inconsistency from game to game.  Which means you can always fall back on that while you work on that offense.  Which combined with the fact that Selection Sunday is seven weeks away, is encouraging.


I went back and forth and back and forth again on whether or not to make any mention at all of Joe Paterno's untimely passing.  I don't really dig on politicking and philosophizing here on what should be a sports-only escape.  Obviously I have decided to do so this time.  If the death of any 85-year-old can be considered untimely, that would be it.  Not even half a year ago (not even a third of a year ago) they were interviewing him weekly wondering when he'd be back on the field and not in the coaching box, as if that was the most important question that could possibly answered in all of football.  His health went downhill like that, and it's not surprising - even Paterno himself was afraid that he'd be one of those guys who immersed himself in his job and literally couldn't survive without it.  His fears came true.  Yes, he was getting treatment, but I don't think he actually fought his lung cancer one iota.

Thanks to a certain former defensive coordinator of his, we are not having the lionization ceremonies we expected we would on this occasion.  Opinions range from "Paterno was still a great man" to "Paterno enabled and permitted children to raped, fuck him."  As best I can tell, the general narrative and opinion lands about three-quarters of the way to the "great man" side; this is healthy.  There are two things that can be said about Paterno's life right now, both of which are true:

- He affected more people in a positive way than almost anybody in this country.
- He did less than he could've and (in hindsight) should've to stop a serial child rapist.

It is not right to forget either.  It is especially wrong to forget the former.  In fact, it is dangerous to do so.

If you remove the good from Paterno's life and call him evil because he allowed the perpetuation of evil, then the lesson is this: evil things are done by evil people.  But people aren't black and white like that.  And to make things more complicated, nobody (except people with warped minds) sees themselves as evil.  Good Lord, even Jerry Sandusky doesn't.  And because we think we are generally good people, we associate ourselves with others who we think are good people.

So if you remove the good from Paterno's life, because a thing that bad be can't be done or tolerated by someone good, then he's an evil person.  But if you do that, you cloud your eyes - just like Joe Paterno clouded his.  Jerry Sandusky, why, he's this good guy I've known all my life who works his tail off and does all these charitable things and is loyally devoted to his wife and family.  To forcibly ignore all the good things Paterno did - well, in a way, that's how Sandusky was let off the hook time and again.  Because in the end Paterno couldn't see, even through Coke-bottle glasses, how good and evil could exist in one person simultaneously.  Because he believed that evil things are done by evil people - not the good ones that he knows. 

Human nature doesn't want to let us believe otherwise; that's why it's considered strong and courageous to blow the whistle.  We get a nasty case of cognitive dissonance, which makes it easier to allow ourselves to let JoePa's legacy be one or the other.  But his legacy is most valuable to us as an unadulterated whole.  "It can't happen to me, because I would or wouldn't do X" is a dangerous thought; if it can happen to Joe Paterno, who can't it happen to?

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