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Sports Watching & Wondering

John Randolph Rogers

It would have been a real act of courtesy, if the Tar Heels had blindfolded the Spartans before the NCAA Championship Game. It was more an execution than a contest, and the Red Cross or the United Nations should have stopped it. The final score of 89-72 does not accurately reflect how one-sided it was.

North Carolina was vastly superior in every phase of the game. They had the best game plan, the best players, and in Roy Williams, they had the best coach. To their credit, the badly beaten Spartans did not go meekly into their long night. They played the game with all their hearts, but they just were not good enough. It would have been a real feel-good story in Michigan if the Spartans had won since their economy is at its lowest ebb. However, it was not to be, and Cinderella did not become the Dancing Queen. The game had about 72,000 fans, including Magic Johnson, in attendance.

It was exactly 30 years ago when I saw Johnson play for the first time. He was playing in the NCAA Championship game between the Michigan State Spartans and the Indiana State Sycamores. It was the first contest between Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. This was the most hyped basketball game ever, and it actually exceeded all of the expectations. Johnson was a different kind of a basketball star. He was the floor general who orchestrated all of the action, and he preferred to pass the ball to his teammates than shoot it himself. The talented Bird was a tireless and fearless competitor who had every skill that a basketball player can have. Their epic game is still etched into the memories of basketball fans.

It isn't likely that even with Roy Williams that the Tar Heels will be able to repeat next year. They lost all five members of their starting team so it should take them at least a year to reload and rebuild. So, next year, you're likely to see Duke, Louisville, Missouri, Villanova, or UCLA in the Final Four.

The USC Basketball Program dodged a bullet when Coach Tim Floyd rejected an offer from Arizona to remain with the Trojans. He did fly there for an interview before he turned them down. At an annual salary of about $800,000 a year, Floyd is one of the lowest paid of the big-time college coaches. He said that he was loyal to USC and that might be coach speak for saying, "I received a nice raise to stay here." Under the circumstances, Floyd has done an outstanding job for the Trojans. Historically, USC has been considered to be a football school. In that way, they are different from Stanford which has done well in both sports. It seems like the Trojans can't walk and chew gum at the same time.

The Trojans have earned a spot in each of the last four NCAA Tournaments. However, many of their games are not broadcast on television. In addition, the average attendance at their games in the beautiful new Galen Center is only about 5700 fans. So, Floyd's job will be easier if USC will use their vast resources to promote their basketball program. The reality is that most of the best young players want all of their games to be on television. If that is not the case, then they are likely to attend another school. USC has everything that it needs in order to have championship programs like the ones at UCLA, Duke and North Carolina. All they need now is the vision, and the will to get it done.

Another professional athlete has been arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol. This time it was Clipper forward Zach Randolph. His Rolls-Royce was spotted weaving on the 405 freeway at 2:25 a.m. in the morning. Luckily, for him, he was not involved in an accident. Some of these athletes just don't seem to have good judgment or even common sense. It was just a few weeks ago that the NFL's Donte Stallworth killed a pedestrian, while driving his Bentley in Miami. It was determined that he was driving while intoxicated, and he is being charged with vehicular manslaughter. If found guilty, he could be sentenced to 15 years in prison. He is 23 years old, and he had just signed a five-year contract for about $35 million. These athletes don't seem to realize, or appreciate their considerable success. They risk their freedom every time they drive under the influence. It just may be that some of them feel that their celebrity places them above the law. If that is the case, they may discover that the games will go on without them.

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