I have a confession to make.
I never used to watch hockey until the Blackhawks changed their image and began to stir up some excitement in the last two years.
But I never miss the Stanley Cup playoffs. No matter who is playing--Avs, Blues, Canadiens, Maple Leafs, Flyers, Rangers, Red Wings, Sharks, Penguins--I prefer the Stanley Cup to the NBA playoff, the Final Four, the World Series or the Super Bowl.
It is non-stop, end-to-end action, no television timeouts, no fighting, no seventh-inning stretch, just serious hockey and great skating. No time to go to the refrigerator for a late snack.
I guess that's what disappoints me about basketball. In my view, the game isn't as good as it used to be. It's all about athleticism and aggressiveness, not fundamentals and finesse. If you can't take my word for it, ask John Wooden.
Athleticism means trying to dunk on every possession or driving to the hoop and bull-dozing over your opponent along the way. It's all about creating a highlight film and getting prime time on ESPN's SportsCenter.
It is a byproduct of summer or AAU basketball where kids run up and down the floor with reckless abandon and with little or no supervision. Shooting skills, from the free throw line and mid-range, are a lost art. Defense is evaluated by blocked shots and steals, not positioning and footwork.
Coaches confess they can't do anything about it, that kids want to run and that's the way the game is played today. They don't want to be harnessed. They don't want to be instructed to play a half-court game. Fans don't, either. They prefer the NBA style, whatever that is. I prefer a good book or "Frasier" re-runs.
I guess I'm spoiled. I've covered and observed high school basketball since the 1950s and I prefer watching two outstanding high school teams--or even one great one such as Thornridge 1972 or Quincy 1981 or Collinsville 1961 or Simeon 2007 or Marshall 1958 or Peoria Manual 1997--that demonstrate fundamentals and teamwork and utilize their quickness and discipline, even their athleticism.
This year's Warren/Waukegan game was a classic. The Class 4A final between Whitney Young and Waukegan was a tape worth saving, too. Today, however, those type of quality games seem to be too few and too far between.
It was so much more exciting in the old days...Phillips vs. Du Sable in the 1970s, King vs. Robeson in the 1980s, Westinghouse vs. Marshall in the 1980s, Thornridge vs. Bloom and Thornton in the 1970s, East Aurora vs. West Aurora, St. Joseph vs. St. Patrick, Proviso East vs. Lyons, New Trier vs. Evanston.
And the players? They argue that these things are cyclical, that there are good times and bad times and if you are patient and wait long enough, the good times will return. But, with the notable exception of Derrick Rose, have you noticed that it has been a long time since the Chicago area produced as many college All-Americans and NBA stars as it did in the 1970s and 1980s?