Saturday, January 13, 2007

Basketball and Robots

Last night, EO Smith's varsity beat South Windsor High School handily by a bazillion points. I'm not writing this to gloat because it was an ugly game. The South Windsor team plays a flavor of basketball that I'll call smash mouth because that's more or less an accurate description of the kind of play fans get to watch.

I happen to love the game and I have two boys who play so I have a little skin in the discussion as well. Basketball is as physically challenging a game as any. Unlike football there is no protective equipment and unlike baseball there is a lot of contact. So basketball shares a gentleman's set of rules of engagement. Don't throw elbows, nothing below the belt, maintain temperament, play in control, and so on.

But inevitably every spectator eventually has to endure the team that brilliantly discovers the smash mouth epiphany.

The smash mouth epiphany is the realization by soccer and football coaches who work their way into the basketball world that you can bully basketball players on the other team enough to win with little more than excessive physical play on your team's part.

So last night, down by twenty or so points, I watched a South Windsor player pull the shirt down on an EO player so hard that the player fell down. No big deal because nobody got hurt and the ref signaled a foul. But basketball is not soccer. It is not.

But that incident was just another low point in a game characterized by slapping, yanking, pulling, banging, tripping, and so on. Any sport devolves into brutish, ugly play when the point of either team is to push the envelope on acceptable physical play to gain advantage or a win.

Basketball is and always was a demanding physical play in which athletes (not brutes) play hard, with plenty of contact and spirit to win. And I love to watch games like that. Congratulations to the JV and EO Smith coaches and players who did not allow themselves to be dragged into playing like brutes. That's the first step in becoming professionals in any calling.

As for brutish teams, I'm going to recommend that the robotics team borrow Asimo and suit him up for those games. Asimo has no teeth to lose, no nose to get broken, and no head injury that can't be repaired.

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