Naismith? Peach basket? Shouldn’t that have helped?

Dr. James Naismith invented basketball in December of 1891.

The first game was played one month later at the YMCA in Springfield, Mass.

This is basketball, before the concept, "Above the rim."

This was basketball, before the concept, "Above the rim."

The sport developed over time and in January of 1896, the first college game using five players per team was played, when the University of Chicago defeated the University of Iowa, 15-12. It  was believed to be such an exciting game that Nike swooped in the following week and began paying off AAU coaches, corrupted collegiate athletics, influenced recruiting and formed the basis of what we today call the, “NCAA.”

Or something like that.

Over 100 years later, the NCAA tournament begins this week in most of these United States. Georgia is not participating, I’m guessing because we’re still a little behind the curve. I did several minutes of research (it happens) and discovered that Atlanta was hit by a winter storm in 1896 that dropped six inches of snow on the city, and you know we just don’t react well to that sort of thing. Must’ve thrown our timing off. Embrace your office pool, because that’s as close as we’re getting to the NCAA men’s tournament in Georgia. We have something in common with Maine. Who knew? The Countdown . . .

10: Welcome to our state of depression

I loves me some Alaska basketball.

I loves me some Alaska basketball.

Dr. Naismith nailed up a peach basket. You would think that would have given us some sort of advantage. I broke down the 65-team tournament field by states while only half-watching “24,” Monday night, because I had a feeling Jack was going to live until the next episode (again!). The schools are from 33 states, which leaves only 17 on the outside. That’s assuming we count Alaska and Hawaii, which I really don’t because they are less states than they are travel brochures. And are we even sure there’s even a hoop in Juneau?

9. Even North Dakota has a team?

Georgia Tech has missed the tournament three of the last four seasons. Georgia has played in one of the last seven. Georgia State last made it in 2001. Georgia Southern in 1992. No wonder spring football seems to get bigger every year — there’s nothing else to talk about. Among the other states Georgia has something in common with this tournament: Montana, Wyoming and South Dakota. Some how North Dakota State got in. There has been some talk of all four states being annexed by Manitoba. Wonder if that would improve our recruiting?

8: It’s lonely at the bottom

Wyoming, like Georgia, is a hotbed of activity during the NCAA tournament. (I hear there's a hoop out back.)

For what it’s worth, Ohio has the most tournament teams with five (Ohio State, Xavier, Akron, Cleveland State and Dayton). Massachusetts, where the game was invented, has only one (Boston College). Fascinate your friends with this bit of trivia. The 16 states that don’t have a team (other than us): Alaska, Hawaii, Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Delaware, New Jersey, Arkansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, Nevada, Colorado. So the next time you hear a coach, athletic director, school president, governor or congressman push for the tournament field to be expanded to 128, pay attention they’re from. The heavy money is on Bangor.

7. WBC(rock) update

We’re moving into the late stages of the WBC. Catch the fever yet? It’s probably a virus. Or a staph infection. So where are all of you WBC defenders now? Chipper Jones is out with a strained oblique muscle. The Braves can’t be certain he’ll be ready for Opening Day — and even if he is, he’ll be ready for Opening Day after coming off an injury (not good foreshadowing). Boston second baseman Dustin Pedroia also has checked out of the WBC with an abdominal strain. Florida closer Matt Lindstrom is sidelined indefinitely with a shoulder injury. Milwaukee outfielder Ryan Braun has some strain in his side. So far, nobody has lost a major organ. Just interest. The good news is that fans in Venezuela think this is really cool and T-shirt sales are going well in the Netherlands. Of all of baseball’s dumb creations, this one ranks second only to Bud Selig, but slightly ahead of the designated hitter.

Only one survivor in this bunch.

WBC injury report: Only one survivor in this bunch.

6. And finally (I mean it this time)

I’ve got no problem with globalization in sports. Leagues need new revenue steams. I get that. But this isn’t the way to go about it — not in the spring and not in the U.S. Major League Baseball ultimately is supported by Americans, so that has to be priority one. Players are paid by teams and supported by fans for a season that is three weeks away. Players are getting hurt for something meaningless. The games are not being embraced here. The U.S.-Netherlands crowd in South Florida: 11,059. Selig is talking about how great attendance is in Tokyo. Great! That should help the Red Sox this year. Here’s an idea: Play exhibitions overseas with teams and stars NOT participating in the playoffs after the season. Or schedule exhibitions in the winter. But this isn’t the way to go about it.

5.  OK. What just happened?

The Thrashers have won a franchise record six straight games, including the last two without Ilya Kovalchuk, and Kari Lehtonen stopped 49 of 50 shots against Washington Monday night — all of which might mean something if the team didn’t still rank 26th in the overall standings and hopelessly out of the playoffs with 12 games left.

Don Waddell's creation has won six straight games. But his team is still No. 26 and the Hockey News ranks the GM No. 30.

Despite a six-game winning streak, the Thrashers rank 26th and GM Don Waddell ranks 30th, according to the Hockey News.

And I’m sure I know what fans are thinking: “Oh great. This means they’re not going to fire Don Waddell.” Hey, I stopped guessing. But you might be interested in this: The Hockey News is coming out with its rankings of NHL general managers in its next issue — and Waddell ranks 30th. Ken Campbell, who wrote the piece, said, “They’ve played well lately. But overall the results really speak for themselves. For whatever reason, he hasn’t been able to do a very good job. His draft record hasn’t been very good despite a lot of high picks. Player development hasn’t turned out a lot. He hasn’t found anyone to play consistently with Ilya Kovalchuk. One playoff appearance and no wins. It’s all kind if self-explanatory.”

4. Arena League is rescued! Hello? Hello?

The Arena Football League is taking one year off, which shouldn’t be confused with previous years, when they played and nobody noticed. The league has reached agreement with the players on a new CBA. It took a while but I believe the union finally agreed to the league’s wording: “We will pay you. Probably.” There are still 16 teams in the league, at least officially. One of them, the Georgia Force, is owned by Arthur Blank, who has more pressing concerns these days: 1) The Falcons’ payroll; 2) Falcons’ season ticket sales, suites leases and sponsorships; 3) building a new stadium; 4) Home Depot stock; 5) Home Depot stock. (I thought that was worth mentioning twice.) I’m purely guessing here but I don’t think he’s looking for another potential tax writeoff. Blank referred questions to team president Dick Sullivan, who said in an email: “We still have a number of issues to resolve, none insurmountable, but we need to work through the process over the weeks/months ahead to understand the complete financial model for the Georgia Force, as well as for the League.” I feel confident in adding this is the longest mention the AFL will ever get in the Countdown.

3. Did St. Patrick get drunk?

According to legend, and also a website, St. Patrick did not really chase the snakes out of Ireland, but, “It is no surprise that the story of Patrick’s life became exaggerated. Spinning exciting tales to remember history has always been a part of the Irish way of life.” Sure. Know why? Because they wrote history after four beers, seven shots and the mental exhaustion of trying to think of a hot Irish athlete for the Countdown.

Natalie is so relieved of news that Ireland has no snakes.

Natalie is relieved to hear that Ireland has no snakes.

Lucky set the Irish Olympic high jump record in Beijing, despite several shots.

Got one! Natalie Coughlin actually was born in Vallejo, Calif., but she is of Irish descent, somewhere back there. She’s also the most decorated Olympic athlete in the last two Games (11 medals) who is not named Michael Phelps, and has the added bonus of never once having been seen in Columbia, S.C., ordering 19 pizzas at 2 a.m. following several bong hits. As always, for equal time, also pictured is an Ireland Olympic high jumper, who prefers to be known only as, “Lucky.”

2: Mustang Mary

Mary McElroy, who surprisingly was fired as Georgia State athletic director and later reached a financial settlement with the school, didn’t take long to find another job. She has been hired by SMU as senior associate athletic director for compliance. Steve Orsini, SMU’s athletic director, worked with McElroy at both Georgia Tech (where he was associated A.D.) and Navy. McElroy? She’s not saying much. “I’d just rather not comment,” she said by phone. “I’m trying to move on to with my life. Have a good day.” Click. It was one of the nicer no comments I’ve ever heard.

1. Take it to the bank (in South America)

OK, here are the winners. (Actually haven’t done my bracket yet, but I put at least 30 seconds of thought into this). Final Four: Louisville, Memphis, North Carolina, Florida State (I’ve got man love for Toney Douglas). Final Two: Louisville, North Carolina. Final One: North Carolina.

42 comments Add your comment

dawgfan

March 17th, 2009
2:49 pm

Hire Bobby Knight, and at least bring back some excitement. Even if only for a short while. It’s a no brainer, if the man still wants the job.

BA

March 17th, 2009
2:52 pm

Nice Braves site, lots of minor league stuff:

http://minorsandmajors.com

mdr

March 17th, 2009
3:02 pm

Bobby Knight should be fifth choice at best. If we can’t get Capel, Miller, Anderson, or Dixon, then we move on to Knight, Grant at VCU should be #6. Knight will not stay more than a few years, we need to at least try to hire a guy for the long term.

uga fan

March 17th, 2009
3:19 pm

Whether you like Bobby Knight or not, no one can dispute what he would bring to the program. It would give the program instant credibility, and stop losing good Georgia basketball talent to the ACC. So what if he only gives you 3-5 yrs. At least he would stop the bleeding. And that’s exactly what UGA basketball needs.

Mr. Evans

March 17th, 2009
3:21 pm

I hope you are reading this.

PMC

March 17th, 2009
3:38 pm

Wait… she got hired by SMU? Ha. Ha. Did Jackie Sherrill agree to take an assistant coaching position alongside June Jones?

You really can’t make this stuff up.

Next up for SMU…. Jim Harrick hired on as basketball coach… and guess what… he’ll win there too.

gdawginkalamazoo

March 17th, 2009
3:55 pm

Lucky diving board there.

Mitch

March 17th, 2009
4:09 pm

Jeff,
You might want to ask Carlos Boozer if there are any hoops in Juneau because Juneau is his home town.

Chamblee Dawg

March 17th, 2009
4:09 pm

Am I the only one not drinking the FSU kool-aid? they would potentially have to beat Pitt, Villanova or Duke (which they just lost to). Seems to be the flavor of the month.

Michael Scharff

March 17th, 2009
4:13 pm

The UGA Basketball program is now officially in a state of melt-down, with no response evident by the Athletic Department. China Syndrome, anyone?

DUMB, DUMB, DUMB

March 17th, 2009
4:14 pm

Is that really the bracket you came up with Jeff? Maryland over Memphis? Siena over Ohio State in Dayton. I know you are a busy man but come on! You got to do a little more research buddy.

PTC DAWG

March 17th, 2009
4:14 pm

At least my school had the common sense to fire their Corch and move on. Google Corine Brown and the Florida Speech for the meaning of Corch. LOL.

mcspotts

March 17th, 2009
4:36 pm

There’s going to be strains and pulls in baseball whether you’re playing in the WBC or you’re playing in spring training. If Chipper pulled an oblique while swinging, it’s safe to assume that he would’ve done the same thing swinging in Dark Star.

Now….if Chipper broke an arm getting caught in a Venezuelan riot, then people would have an argument. I understand the timing of the WBC isn’t great, but I love the nationalism aspect and having all-star rosters (kind of) of different countries.

Ted Striker

March 17th, 2009
4:46 pm

Jeff: You delivered big in the clutch yet again — Natalie Coughlin, baby!!!

thom

March 17th, 2009
4:51 pm

What time is the G-Day kickoff?

wxwax

March 17th, 2009
4:55 pm

Don’t they play baseball in spring training? How is the WBC responsible for those injuries? Silly point.

Agreed, it’s not generating a lot of excitement. I agree with Chipper’s point that the games are too spread out and need to have fewer down days. But golly, then guys like you would complain about injuries some more. ’cause the players wouldn’t be using their bodies if they weren’t at the WBC. Or something.

I really like the idea of an international championship. It’s good for baseball and it’s exciting to see people root for their national teams. But the concept has a huge hurdle to overcome. Americans are insular and inward looking. Every four years they root for their country in sports, but that’s about it, and even that’s tepid. Unlike for the rest of the world, the concept of a national team doesn’t have any immediate appeal in the United States. Your column illustrates the point perfectly: you’d rather see exhibition games involving MLB teams, than see your natiional team take on the world.

Frankly, that’s such a big obstacle it may sink the WBC, which I think would be a shame.

Jefferoni

March 17th, 2009
5:07 pm

11,059 for a game in south Florida? You sure that wasn’t just a typical Marlins-Nationals game?

Boston Williams

March 17th, 2009
5:36 pm

In Rivals most recent ranking of top combined FB and BskB programs, only UNC (6th) and FSU (9th) from the ACC were ranked in the TOP TEN of Helmets and Hoops (combined). The SEC had none.
SEC=FB Only

Rabun Dawg

March 17th, 2009
5:42 pm

Pretty sad indeed that the State of Georgia, with Tech, UGA, Ga.State,and Ga.Southern all playing the sport of basketball and we cannot get one team in the field of 65? Like the one poster said, when does G-Day start? Is that all our Universities care about-Football? A lot of money being left on the table as well! With all the talent around the State, what a shame it cannot stay at home and play for the four above!

Bird

March 17th, 2009
6:23 pm

Jeff,
Have you EVER been to an Arena game? Obviously not. While the “purists” might think it’s not football, it is a fast paced game that the players “enjoy” playing. No prima donnas here. It’s for the love of the game. It’s a fun game, family and fan friendly and no one “get the big head” like some writers that currently work for the AJC. The Arena League has been around for 21 years, has a great following and just because you don’t care, doesn’t mean we don’t. Oh, I forgot, I don’t care about you.

/

Richard

March 17th, 2009
6:42 pm

Jefferoni,

11,059 isn’t a Marlins/Nationals game. It’s more like Marlins attendance for April through July.

Lisa

March 17th, 2009
6:59 pm

UGA fans…please stop pretending you give a crap about basketball. You will have more fans at spring football practice than in the barn to watch a basketball game. It doesn’t matter who the coach is.

Ted Striker

March 17th, 2009
7:04 pm

Lisa: Take a midol.

CharlieAlphaBravo

March 17th, 2009
7:09 pm

I just don’t understand this enigmatic aversion you have to the WBC. I happen to think it’s a wonderful event, and so do most of the players involved.

Sure, the scheduling is awful, and it has yet to catch on in America, but this type of global competition is necessary for baseball to continue to grow.

I suppose the tournament just seems a little too similar to soccer, and you feel you must hold down the party line. Next thing we know, you’ll be calling Bud Selig a communist.

Not to worry though… The best thing about old, bitter, angry sports columnists is that we won’t have to listen to their whining soon… Because they’ll be dead.

Sue

March 17th, 2009
7:17 pm

Ted, take some Viagra.

uglyhelmet

March 17th, 2009
7:37 pm

What the hell are you talking about?? You need to find a new job!!

Jeff Schultz

March 17th, 2009
8:56 pm

Dawgfan: Again with Bobby Knight? It’s not going to happen. It was never going to happen. And it so shouldn’t happen. Yes, it would create excitement – until he tries to recruit.

MDR: Actually, Bobby Knight should be the 20th choice, after the four you mentioned, plus 19 others I haven’t thought about yet.

Mitch: Oh geez, you had to play the Carlos Boozer card? Figured there’d be one. OK. Got me there. Give you $1 if you give me a second NBAer from Juneau.

Mcspotts: That is the lamest most repeated defense of the WBC I keep hearing. The point is, at least Chipper would’ve gotten hurt getting ready for the Braves’ season, not while doing this. That’s the difference. He also would’ve been more likely to work into shape slow and played only a few innings of spring games rather than go all out (or relatively all out) in these meaningless WBC games.

Ted: My Neanderthal! Where’ve you been?

Jefferoni: Point taken.

Bird: I have been to two Arena games. Saw enough.

Ted, Lisa, Lisa, Ted, Sue, Lisa, Ted – wasn’t this a movie in the 70s?

Ted Striker

March 17th, 2009
9:08 pm

Sue: Why, you coming over?

PMC

March 17th, 2009
9:37 pm

Did Trajan Langdon ever make the NBA? He was from Alaska.

PMC

March 17th, 2009
9:40 pm

I’ll just answer myself, Yeah first Alaskan ever in the NBA actually November 99 with the Cavs. Now he’s over in Europe after earning a Math and History degree from Duke and playing some basketball at a fairly high level while he was there.

matt r

March 18th, 2009
9:03 am

I have been watching the WBC and was excited about the notion before it happened back in 2006. If last night’s game had been on a channel that people actually have access to, it would have been a big help. A 2-run, 9th inning comeback in a virtual game 7.

Which brings up another thing that is good about it… nothing is more than win-or-go-home baseball. You usually only get that in October and maybe the end of the regular season… the other six months is a slow-paced marathon.

I contend that most reporters are upset about the WBC being during spring training because it ruins the fun they get to have scooting around Florida and Arizona having closer access than usual to the stars. 99% of baseball fans get woken up in April. But Chipper is right, the thing should be compressed a little bit.

Helen

March 18th, 2009
9:20 am

Ted Striker, I feel sorry for your wife/girlfriend.

Ted Striker

March 18th, 2009
10:49 am

Helen: I feel sorry for, ahem, them too.

Jeff: The female demographic of your readership — evidently a greater percentage than I expected — minces no words, takes no prisoners. Feisty grrls! Me likum that very much.

Dr. Phil

March 18th, 2009
10:49 am

Bud Selig is the Michael Adams of professional sports.

JSS

March 18th, 2009
12:22 pm

The Jeff-arse strikes again… Loser Blog… Hey Pedophile when does your blog of the Seattle P-I, out of circulation!!!

Jeff Shultz

March 18th, 2009
1:31 pm

Lisa, get your butt back in bed. I’m ready for round two.

Irish Swim Fan

March 18th, 2009
2:49 pm

Since football hasn’t started yet, how about some more Natalie Coughlin photos? Beautiful, talented and Smart enough to earn a BA in psychology at University of California, Berkeley. Where was she when I was in college. Oh, ya, not born yet.

Jeff Schultz

March 18th, 2009
4:08 pm

## Matt R: Speaking as a reporter, my criticism of the WBC has nothing to do with the accessibility of the players being more difficult. I could write spring training stories with or without the few missing Braves, and I’m sure that feeling is fairly universal.
## For the record, Jeff Shultz is not Jeff Schultz.
## Irish Swim Fan: You’re right. Cal’s a great school. For her to make it through there, she’s got to have some smarts.

Jeff Schultz

March 18th, 2009
4:12 pm

Miriam — Thanks. Appreciate the comments.

Archie

March 18th, 2009
9:16 pm

There is simply no viable argument AGAINST holding a tournament like the WBC. Without it, I wouldn’t even be watching a baseball game until mid summer. All you people who say these games are meaningless need to find a dictionary. Which game has more meaning, one game out of a possible 12 that determines the best baseball team in the world, or one game out of a possible 162 that determine which 8 teams get to continue playing? These games in April that Chipper or Pedroia might miss are insignificant, it’s a 162 game schedule and you guys are worried about them missing the first one???? Please!!!! They’ll have plenty of time to come back and make an impact for their team. As a Braves fan, I’m not the least bit concerned about McCann’s health in this tournament, and he plays one of the most grueling positions on the field. The regular season is NOT the only thing that matters, it CANNOT be the only thing that matters because that’s a failed business plan for MLB if they rely on only the regular season. Baseball TV ratings are dropping, the World Series used to attract Super Bowl-esque TV ratings but now only the fans of the two teams watch it anymore. Fans have more choices than ever for what to spend their money on. MLB cannot afford to rely exclusively on the regular season, events like this MUST be developed in order to MLB to stay at or near the sports scene.

If you don’t like the event, then don’t watch it, I won’t try to talk you into watching if you won’t try to talk me out of watching. However, don’t give me this senseless argument that the games are meaningless when the ones you’re arguing in support of are 1/162nd of the final standings.

One last thought, is it any coincidence that the one country whose players DON’T play winter ball are the ones getting hurt? The Caribbean and Asian teams aren’t losing players left and right, they actually stayed in game shape instead of starting their spring workouts one week earlier. These players are buffoons if they think they can start practice a week ahead of the first game, and expect to be in fine enough game shape and have any realistic expectation to win. Don’t blame the games for Chipper or Pedroia getting hurt, blame those two for not working out all winter like their opponents.

Ken Stallings

March 19th, 2009
3:55 am

Good grief, Archie! If you’re going to talk about baseball you really should try to understand the game better. Baseball in America is a summer sport. In the Latin American countries it is a winter sport due to climate differences. You can play Winter Ball in Mexico, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Puerto Rico, etc. Have you tried to play baseball in New York in December?

Baseball players do work out all season long. That became a reality since the time Mickey Mantle retired! If there was an off-season exercise program Chipper could enter to avoid any and all muscle pulls then you can bet your bottom dollar he’d rush to do it!

Baseball is the type of sport that requires a spring training period to limber up. But it’s also a sport that wears the body down with its daily grind. You cannot play the sport year round, especially at Chipper’s age. Spring training is a purely controlled environment. Since the games don’t count the manager and pitching coach can play their stars sparingly to prevent injury.

In the WBC, the games carry prestige and the players do care. Therefore, they are busting it with greater vigor and effort at precisely the time they are supposed to be easing into the season in controlled and limited play.

The flaw with the WBC is that it is being played at the worst possible time for MLB players. It took a lot of arm-twisting from Selig to convince the owners and GM’s to go along with his marketing effort. The WBC is a great concept played at the wrong time.

Likely the best idea is to give up the first week of regular season, form the team after the end of spring training, and for the first two weeks of regular season play the entire WBC. Do it every four years like soccer’s World Cup. For those years only go from a 163 game schedule down to a 150 game schedule with the balance 13 games belonging to the WBC.

Archie

March 19th, 2009
8:42 am

Ken, you’re absolutely correct but you didn’t address one key point… why is Team USA the only team being plagued by injuries? Venezuela and Puerto Rico are made up entirely of MLB players, but they’re not dropping like flies. Japan and Korea have tons of players on MLB rosters too, they’re in game shape as well. If every team in the tournament is in game shape except for one, then it proves that there is not a systemic problem in place with the tournament, it’s really a preparation problem by that one particular team.

Team USA clearly “wants” to win judging from the pride and joy they’re displaying on the field. Off the field however, when the same players are making comments as if they would play through it if it were a midsummer, regular season game, then it proves that this apparent pride and joy they’re displaying is really only skin deep. Being that this is only the 2nd time this event takes place, each team still has to figure out how best to prepare and assemble their roster, there’s still a learning curve at play. I think it’s fair to say that Team USA is lagging far behind the opponents in their pre-tournament preparation and conditioning. There’s nothing stopping American players from playing winter ball in a Mexican or Caribbean league. There’s nothing stopping them from assembling the team in January and going on a barnstorming exhibition schedule a month prior to the tournament. I’m not saying they should do that, they’re just ideas, but we’re not seeing many ideas from Team USA. Sure, once that first pitch is thrown they want to win, but they don’t seem to be putting their time and effort into this tournament the way the others teams are.