Why? Why? Why? Why must the most pure of things change for absolutely no reason? Why does the MLB see the reason to take the opening game of the Baseball season and play it in Japan? I understand Ichiro is from Japan. I understand the effort to globalize the game, I get it. However, by taking the simplest of things as the first pitch to be thrown of the 2012 season and moving it to another country is a travesty! What would the old school players say? Well Babe Ruth probably would have digested a few too many sushi rolls and Sake to say much other than “I can’t play” but still I digress. Baseball is America’s past time! Baseball is and always should be played in the afternoon to start the season.
There are many things I dislike about ESPN. However, when Opening Day comes around and they have wall-to-wall coverage of games throughout the country in Cincinnati, Chicago, Kansas City, Los Angeles, etc., I think it is the best coverage they have. I vividly remember a story from my childhood where I left Ms. Taylor’s second grade classroom, complaining of being “sick.” I went to the office, called my mom and she came to school to pick me up. I went home, acted “sick,” kicked by feet up on the table and watched baseball all afternoon, including my beloved Chicago Cubs. I remember it because it was one of the last opening days Harry Caray called. It was a Monday, April 1 and the team was littered with players I still remember, Sammy Sosa, Brian McRae, Ryne Sandberg, Mark Grace, Rey Sanchez, Turk Wendell, Jamie Navarro and Frank Castillo. Some I remember for good reasons, some for bad reasons, usually being they were so terrible that it frustrated me to no end. Point being? I remember all this because not only was it the first Summer I started religiously following baseball but it was so easy to watch the opening games. It was so easy because 1) it was during the day 2) it was easy to watch on TV and 3) it was in America which I thought Opening day always would be.
Baseball is such a simple game that it shouldn’t be messed with regardless of the money that is available to any person. Sports, as a whole, are driven way, way, way too much by money these days but for the longest time, you could argue that baseball wasn’t doing that. MLB wasn’t going to England to play key regular season games like the NFL. It wasn’t selling teams to Russian billionaires who had said he wanted to have a team in Russia eventually. No, the MLB was above that. They had played games in Japan in the past but it was never this far ahead of the normal Opening Day and on many occasions, it was just a Spring Training game in Asia. I have always followed the K.I.S.S. model and kept it simple stupid. Major League Baseball sometimes needs to take a look in the mirror and remember what has kept it so successful for decades and that’s keeping it simple stupid.
You never know what it is going to be laid in front of you in life. It could be a speed bump, it could be a straight stretch or it could be a lot of curves to persevere through. Regardless, the last three and a half months for me, taking this ride with the Mountain State Basketball team has been incredible. All the coaches and players have welcomed me with open arms and I cannot thank them enough for doing so. The pageantry that can exist in college basketball or in any sport when a team begins to make a run can be downright stunning. When I graduated from Marshall University, I wondered if I would ever get the chance to call college basketball at such a high level again. From the first broadcast I was a part of for MSU December 30th versus WV Tech, I knew that my wonders were no more. The way Coach Bolen has this team play night in and night out, with tremendous defensive intensity, a fast pace offense and incredible conditioning is indeed something that leaves me shaking my head.
I have watched a ton of basketball in my life, not as much as others but I like to think I can tell when a team is playing at a high level. MSU is doing that right now. The big shots are falling, the defensive pressure is turned up a notch when it needs to be and when the team needs a big shot, someone is knocking it down. And I don’t signal out one player who knocks down the big shot because there’s a multitude of players who have done so thus far in this NAIA Tournament. When the Cougars needed a big basket in the first round against Mid America Nazarene, Cam Miller hit it. When they were trailing by 6 with the seconds dwindling in the first half of the second round game against Martin Methodist, Chris Price buried a triple to take momentum into halftime. When the rest of the offense was struggling early in the Elite 8, Devon Peterson started knocking down jumpers. When the shot clock was winding down late in the game against Georgetown, Mark Williams leaned in and hit a tough 3. When All-American Maurice Pearson was inserted into the game for Georgetown, Isaiah Hill showed no fear and went right at him scoring buckets for MSU. Don’t tell this team it can’t be done because that only seems to motivate them and cause them to turn up their play to a new level.
Some people will discredit this whole experience for this team and for its supporters, saying “oh its only NAIA,” but what these people do not realize is that this team could compete night in and night out in some of the best D-I conferences in my opinion. This IS NOT a low level of basketball. I would go as far as to say that this team could play WVU and Marshall 10 times each and at least split with both teams. This MSU team is that good. Bob Bolen’s coaching and motivation skills for his team are that good. The assistants, Dave Barksdale, Artis Maddox, Ryan Arrowood and Grad Assistant Zane Gilliard all play their own part in making this team as successful as it has been. Every single person in this program knows their role and has allowed this team to be built into the closest thing to a dynasty in NAIA. MSU is now in its second straight Fab Four and third in the last 5 years. Sometimes I just have to shake my head in disbelief….