Was it Ernie Banks who said, “It’s a beautiful day for a murder! Let’s waste two!”?
Brandon Miller — the star 6-foot-9 freshman forward for Alabama — scored 41 points in an overtime win at South Carolina on Wednesday night. He was worth the price of submission.
Did it matter that police in Tuscaloosa, Ala., had described Miller as entangled in a shooting murder near the university campus, claiming in testimony at a hearing that he delivered to a ’Bama teammate the gun that was used to shoot a 23-year-old mother, Jamea Harris, to death?
Obviously not. At 24-4 and with the NCAA Tournament coming, the Crimson Tide had no time to worry about trivial “distractions” such as murder. After all, it wasn’t, thank goodness, a high ankle sprain.
You’re now likely familiar with the “broken windows theory,” often used by urbanologists to describe how neighborhoods descend from small crimes to larger ones, until they irreparably rot from terminal blight.
However, the general theory — that small problems beget larger problems — can be applied to describe anything — from pizza joints, to hospitals, to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
And to Division I college basketball.
Here comes the NCAA Tournament, and with it an all-day, all-night flow of excited, pandering, TV-delivered niceties and accolades — some pure fantasy — wedded to a college-fronted business installed behind so many broken windows that they can no longer hide the blood that escapes on the ooze.
Ya wanna be real or do your Punch-Your-Ticket Big Dance brackets pools?
Winning college basketball games at all costs — filling the gyms, maximizing TV value, recruiting the next cadre of players who otherwise have no legit business being enrolled in any college — is no longer contingent just upon the usual fraud.
Academic and financial fraud won’t, by themselves, do what they used to. Neither will crooked coaches, sneaker company payola and wink-and-nod college presidents who are rewarded by the win-and-play stupid.
Almost with a rush, though you could see it gathering offshore, colleges have chosen to ignore the warning signs by recruiting players who potentially pose a clear, present and escalating danger to genuine students, those with legit reasons to be on campus. No disqualifiers for young guys with guns.
Increasingly, the one thing a full-scholarship-plus-cash-perks recruit must pack for school is his illegally bought, carried or otherwise transported gun. Or just a gun. Or fully loaded assault rifle, serial numbers scratched out. Doesn’t have to be his one-in-the-chamber gun, it can belong to his friend from home.
What has gone on of late at the University of Alabama, until recently better known as a school that recruited felony-inclined football players, was the residue of what seeped through the broken windows down the hall, where the basketball department resides.
All the elements were in place, but none so apparent to prevent offering full rides plus cash to whomever and from wherever — as long as they could help win basketball games, no other qualification wanted, explored, needed or requested.
So ’Bama’s star 6-foot-9 freshman, Miller, a projected NBA lottery pick now averaging more that 20 points per game, played Wednesday for the Crimson Tide. His former teammate, Darius Miles (who claims his “friend” from hometown Washington did the actual near-campus shooting after, according to investigators, Miller delivered the gun to Miles) was charged as an accessory to murder, and thus was quickly dumped by Alabama. He was a scrub, anyway, dig?
As for freshman star Miller, coach Nate Oats — just weeks ago the toast of the state with a new multi-year, multi-million-dollar per deal to remain at ’Bama — has, since the murder, been tripping over his tongue.
Of his star freshman’s alleged role in the murder:
“We knew about that. Can’t control everything everybody does outside of practice. Nobody knew that was going to happen. College kids are out, Brandon hasn’t been in any type of trouble nor is he in any type of trouble in this case. Wrong spot at the wrong time.”
But the “spot,” in this case, was a murder scene at which at least two of Oats’ recruits are alleged to have delivered the murder weapon. Just bad luck, Coach?
Additionally, Alabama chose not to discipline Jaden Bradley, another Tide basketball player investigators claim was at the scene of the shooting. Unlike Miles, Bradley averages 22 minutes.
But this — not that you knew from watching college basketball games on TV or will soon be told during the tournaments, SEC or NCAA — has been a season marked by guns and death.
Coban Porter, a Denver University guard, has been charged with a DUI death of a 42-year-old woman. What in hell happened during and after New Mexico State forward Michael Peake was “lured” into a situation that ended in a shootout and the death of a University of New Mexico student? NMSU’s program has since been suspended for a separate hazing incident, because a deadly player-involved shooting wasn’t enough.
Recruits to Pitt, Canisius and Eastern Michigan, among others, have been charged with illegal concealment of guns.
There is no recruiting standard or danger that colleges will obey to deprive them of a basketball win that, in the short and long run, is worth nothing of intrinsic, useful academic value. Yet don’t expect Jim Nantz, Ernie Johnson or Clark Kellogg to even bring that up. Expect them to be more along the lines of Crimson Tide fans, who gave Miller an ovation to start ’Bama’s game Saturday.
But as Alabama’s Oats might now say: “Being in the wrong spot at the wrong time can cost you a gun-toting recruit, or two, now involved in a murder.”
Radio making listening difficult
My fondest wish for local baseball fans this season is for Yankees’ and Mets’ radio producers and sales force to somehow sell more sufferable, creative and effective per-innings commercial packages.
What has occurred the past several seasons, especially to Yankees radio, has become an in-game assortment of scores of hit-and-run, distracting ads that are heard read by voices from Suzyn Waldman to Howie Rose as a systematized annoyance to them and us.
Baseball on radio, once a cherished art form, has been, like so much of The Game, scarified or abandoned for nickels and dimes. Any improvements — any —would be a big one.
Hey Jim, refunds for MSG viewers?
The fact that MSG Network has determined its Rangers announcing crews will no longer make West Coast trips in order to cut costs is great news!
Jimmy Dolan has the machinery to know, by face if not name, every one of MSG’s subscribers and every nickel of savings on those Rangers road games, thus all will be returned as yet another show of good faith!
Given that the entirety of the Yankees’ TV and radio crews have long been in the need of a makeover as the last of George Steinbrenner’s lick-my-boots legacy, nothing we’ve heard of or from Justin Shackil would prevent a welcomed change.
Well, Aaron Rodgers has just about attained Kanye West status: Diminished returns on those who even care a little bit.
Again, so who won Terry Bradshaw’s $1 million?