Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Wisconsin vs. Michigan State: I'm Upset Enough to Write About This One

While I’ve made no official comment about it, I think my silence generally has been a pretty good indicator that I’ve abandoned blogging about basketball this year (I’m pleased to note that I’m still seeing plenty of games, though). However, last night’s Wisconsin-Michigan State game got me fired up enough to briefly come out of retirement to jot down a few thoughts. It was an upsetting night (particularly after watching the Badger football team lose by just barely running out of time the night prior), but I think in times like these it is important to clarify who and what you’re upset with. With that in mind, here’s who I’m upset with over last night’s game, and who I’m not upset with.

Those Who I’m Not Upset With:

The Officials: Much as it hurts to say, every indication is that they got the call right. Moreover, they actually deserve some praise for the way that they handled things. First off, while I expect my referees to have a thorough understanding of the rules of basketball, I wouldn’t be offended if I saw a team of refs baffled by what to do when there are two game clocks in the arena that are out of sync. That’s not exactly the same as not knowing what a double dribble is. The fact that last night’s refs made the correct ruling on that issue was impressive. Second, that’s a tough call to make against the home team. There is a school of thought that would say that things were so close, and the video so inconclusive (if one didn’t know the correct rule on the clock issue), you just stick with the call on the floor and let the teams keep playing. And making such a call probably would have saved the referee crew from a lot of verbal abuse last night at the Kohl Center. But as we know now, it would have been the wrong call. So kudos to the refs not only for knowing their stuff, but for having the guts to stand behind the rule book in a tough situation.

Bo Ryan: Bo Ryan went on an expletive-laden tirade after the referees waved off the final basket last night. I’m certain to read tons of internet comments today from people complaining about Ryan’s lack of class, and the poor sportsmanship that he displayed. I couldn’t disagree with those people more. As a fan, I’d be disturbed if my team had a coach that didn’t completely lose it after a moment like that. I pretty much lost it in my living room after they waved the basket off, and I don’t have a full-time job that’s impacted by the outcome of the game. Show me a division one coach that wouldn’t have at least a mini-meltdown over something like that and I’ll show you a terribly uninspiring coach. And sure, Bo Ryan swore a bit during his meltdown. I’m not a particularly big fan of swearing, but your filter kind of disintegrates when you’re in a blind rage, so I can forgive some coarse language. Furthermore, Bo Ryan is far from standing alone in letting some filthy words come out of his mouth on a basketball court.

What also goes unnoticed by those that would criticize Ryan is that once the moment was done, he pulled himself together. He shook hands with the Michigan State team. And if you took the time to watch SportsCenter and see his remarks during the post-game press conference, you wouldn’t have seen a guy ranting about how his team got screwed. To the contrary, Ryan indicated that he’d have to watch the tape later and noted that one of his teams had won a big game in a similar manner at Michigan State a few years back, so this is the sort of thing that can go both ways. He even jokingly ended his comments by stating “What are you going to do? Violence is out of the question.” That’s pretty much exactly what I want from my coach. A guy that won’t hold back in the heat of passion, but can find some perspective once the situation has cooled down. So, major kudos to Bo Ryan for his handling of the controversy last night.

Those Who Angered Me Beyond Belief:

Kohl Center Facilities Management: It’s remarkably embarrassing when your home arena’s game clocks aren’t synced up. Now, I’ll grant you that two-tenths of a second isn’t a difference that would be noticed all that frequently, even if you were specifically checking it. But I’ll make this observation to fellow Badger fans–if this game had been played at the Breslin Center, and Michigan State had won in exactly the same manner, wouldn’t we all be screaming about the incompetence of Michigan State due to their inability to maintain accurate clocks? And wouldn’t we be irrationally speculating about them trying to gain an unfair advantage? I know I would be, so I feel like I should be holding my home facility to the same standard. It was embarrassing enough a few years back before the Kohl Center floor was replaced and television broadcasts kept pointing out that the old floor no longer fit together properly, leading to slightly jagged free-throw lines. But not having all of the clocks set to exactly the same time is pathetic. Let’s hope the Kohl Center pulls it together and gets this (and any other issues that haven’t yet been exposed) fixed by the end of the year.

Fans Who Left the Game Early: I commented to my friend Jesse just before the end of the game that I wanted to see a comeback not so much because I wanted to see a Badger win, but because I wanted all of the fans that started streaming out of the Kohl Center with 50 seconds to go to miss one of the greatest endings of all time. Despite Wisconsin losing, it was a remarkably exciting ending and I feel like that wish came true. I’m very pleased that the Badgers stuck it to some of their worst fans.

Don’t misread my anger here–I’m not one of those uptight people that feels you’re a bad fan if you leave any game early. Wisconsin’s up or down 25 points and you’ve got a big meeting the next morning? Sure, take off with 4 minutes to go–I’ve done it plenty of times myself. I have a life, and don’t always want to waste another 15 minutes on a lost cause. But when fans started bolting to the exits in a two possession game with 50 seconds to go, I was embarrassed. Sure, the outlook at that point is bleak, but a comeback wasn’t inconceivable by any means. You’re saving what–five minutes if you beat the crowd out of the arena and to your car? If you’re going to leave early from a game that’s not totally out of reach because you need to get home at 8:37pm instead of 8:42pm, then perhaps you shouldn’t have gone to the game to begin with. Anyone who left that game at the 50 second mark and didn’t have a medical emergency got what they deserved when they found themselves listening to the game in the car.

So at the end of the night, it was a soul-crushing loss. I’m not exactly excited for the Badgers upcoming road games at Michigan and Purdue, but I’ll keep my fingers crossed for the best. After all, stranger things have happened than Wisconsin coming back from losing their first two home games of the Big Ten season.

See you when I’m feeling moved enough to write again...

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