defined to not look like another word?
Today is not a bad day to be a sports fan.
The game of the day is the best rivalry in sports right now: El Clásico. This time Barcelona hosts Real Madrid at Camp Nou in the return leg of their Copa del Rey quarterfinal. Barça has the 2-1 lead and really the only question will be what retaliation the home side takes out on Pepe.
Slightly before that, and more important to me, Liverpool hosts Manchester City in the second leg of their Carling Cup semifinal. The Reds need just a draw to book a spot at Wembley next month against Cardiff City. City won’t have Vincent Kompany and shouldn’t have Mario “Why always asshole?” Balotelli. Plus Liverpool’s coach isn’t going to jail, unlike another top six side, so we’ve got that going for us.
Finishing up the soccer scene, Team Klinsmann heads to Panama for a rare road CONCACAF friendly. My prediction: Rico Clark won’t score a winner in the 97th minute. Nice to see a couple more Terps – A.J. DeLaGarza and Graham Zusi – earning caps too.
And speaking of Terps, that’s what brought me out of a five-month blogging hibernation.
Not so much tonight’s game itself, as if I were a betting man I’d take Duke and the 11 points. Even if Alex Len is able to play, he’s not nearly physical enough as seen in the past two games against FSU and briefly against Temple to allow our interior to be remotely successful against the 6’10” Plumlees. Add in a lack of a secondary scoring option behind Terrell Stoglin and an inability to guard the three left over from the old coach and it’s not a good recipe for the first game under Mark Turgeon in this rivalry.
However, there is a bigger event than the game itself. And might be as controversial as moving picks being called at Cameron.
As of tomorrow night, Gary Williams’s signature will adorn the court at Comcast Center. It’s a great honor for the program’s all time winningest coach and the only guy to win a national title for the Maryland men’s basketball team.
The controversy surrounds all that time in Maryland basketball prior to his arrival in 1989. Namely, why not honor Lefty Driesell, coach of 17 years and inventor of Midnight Madness (when it actually was at midnight)?
I understand Driesell’s complaints. But there are two major holes in his argument.
First, I don’t see the school ever giving that high of an honor to the coach of Len Bias. Is that fair? No. But every time ESPN’s cameras showed a guard dribbling up past the Old Lefthander’s autograph, Bias’s name might as well be written right under Driesell’s. And I doubt that’s the kind of publicity the University wants.
Second, the Terps don’t play at Cole Field House anymore. Lefty never coached in the building that is, more or less, the “House That Gary Built.” Comcast opened the season after the national title, which was preceded by a Final Four appearance. Maryland isn’t going so far as UNC rightly did with Dean Smith; this is his name on the court.
In addition to his success with the team, Gary deserves recognition by the University for what that national title did for enrollment. The academic standards have grown immensely since ’02 to the point that most of the people I know wouldn’t have been accepted these days.
Having said all that, for a financially strapped athletic department, the University is making two mistakes.
The game against Duke will always sell out. Instead of an announced crowd – stressing announced there – of 9,979 against Radford two nights before Christmas, they could have doubled that (and at least tripled the number of tickets sold) by naming the court that night. Obviously Gary vs. Duke is special. However, when 8,000+ tickets could have been sold for about $250,000 before you count concessions, that’s a pricy decision.
Also, thanks to Debbie Yow’s amazing negotiating tactics, after next season Comcast’s name will adorn the façade of the building – along with every cable box in the dorm rooms – for the next 15 years with no money exchanging hands. Yow, in her attempt to balance the budget, took all $25 million in the first ten years of the deal. With Gary’s name attached to the court, that’s at least 15 years of no “free” money for the athletic department.
Instead, I like former Driesell and Williams assistant Joe Harrington’s idea: name the floor for Gary for one year to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the national championship, aka Juan Shining Moment. Then you could name the floor next year for Brenda Frese for their 7th anniversary. After that, sell the damn thing.
If Kevin Anderson really wanted to honor Gary, he should have looked to London for inspiration. At Craven Cottage, Fulham named their pub after American Brian McBride who captained them during the Great Escape of 2007-08. Aside from renaming Bentley’s, what better honor could Gary ask for? Of course, post-Bias it’s a dry campus, so there couldn’t be a full-fledged pub, but surely they could have created one for the suite level.
Or, if you want to make the Cameron Crazies happy, just name the sauna after “The Great Sweater.”