Friday, January 16, 2009

Crossroads in Tallahassee

Maryland travels to Florida State tomorrow to face a team that has a very similar statistical profile to Maryland but arrives there in a totally different manner. The Seminole's offense is pretty dreadful, even worse than the Terps, but their defense has been very strong. They limited Duke to just 19 points in the 1st half of their game last week. The trio of Chris Singleton, Solomon Alabi and Uche Echefu is a little more imposing than the Miami frontcourt Maryland shut down on Wednesday. While none of those three are impressive scorers they are all athletic and can really block shots on the inside. Singleton and Echefu also have some perimeter skills and will really test Dave Neal and Landon Milbourne (or Dino Gregory) on defense. Toney Douglas leads a limited backcourt and Maryland should have a significant advantage there. Douglas is a jack of all trades guard who does a lot of things well but isn't dominating in any facet of the game. Like the entire team Douglas gets to the foul line frequently and that is a major component of their offense. Leonard Hamilton likes to spread the offense around outside of Douglas, who has taken more than twice as many shots as any other player on the team, and so keying on anyone else isn't likely to be useful.

As with Miami the Seminoles are not a great ballhandling team and will cough the ball up. Full court pressure and perhaps even some half court trapping may yield turnovers and easy scoring opportunities. It figures to be a low scoring game with two teams that really struggle in the half court. If one squad can get out in transition they will have a big advantage. The mental status of Maryland will probably determine whether they can compete again on the road or be defeated for the third time in four games. Florida State is vulnerable but they do play tough at home. The Terrapin backcourt will need to step up big again if they are to pull out a victory.

More on the Vasquez controversy from last weekend. I couldn't let this flimsy and feeble attempt at finger waiving by Peter Schmuck of the Baltimore Sun go without comment. Besides just a rehash of the events and comments by Gary Williams and, don't laugh, Debbie Yow, the column had few insights worth noting and a number of clumsy and inept attempts to justify a benching for Maryland's star player. The suggestion that Vasquez be benched for his outburst is so dopey I'm not even going to discuss the merits of such a course of action. It is equally fatuous to suggest that Gary Williams would have a hard time correcting Vasquez's behavior due to some tired "pot and kettle" cliche about his own foul language. It was a lame, uncreative and lazy shot by Schmuck at the head coach at Maryland. If we're lowering the discourse to cliches by discussing pots and kettles then the last people who should be lecturing anyone on decorum should be the fans at Comcast Center who seem to have a vocabulary of words that only end in the last three letters of Mr. Schmuck's name.

There has not been a NBA franchise in Baltimore in many decades so I guess I'll have to assume that Schmuck hasn't watched much of the "lig" as Gary Williams calls it. If he had he wouldn't have made a doltish comment about how NBA scouts might shy away from Vasquez because he may be a "headcase", as if the NBA has a shortage of lunatics. I guess knifeplay (J.R. Giddens), multiple arrests for drug possession (Sean Williams), petty theft (Marcus Williams) and a suspension for attempting to rearrange the opponent's testicles during a game (Chris Paul) rate as less concerning than a player who curses at some imbeciles in the crowd. You could easily fill a number of NBA rosters with guys who make Vasquez look like David Robinson by comparison. If Vasquez fails to make the NBA it will be because he lacks a great shooting touch and sufficient quickness to play a wing position not because of a silly incident like this.

The most sanctimonious thing Schmuck wrote was that it was "galling a guy who goes there for telling the paying students where to find the exits." I guess this arrogant attitude from spectators got started in the professional leagues where money talks and, well, you get the idea. I dare say that Greivis Vasquez and his teammates bring in millions more dollars to the University of Maryland than Mr. Schmuck or his kids or any other students for that matter, tuition of not. The unspoken implication is also that if you are a "paying" student you're entitled to act like a jackass because your checks get deposited by the University. The converse is that Vasquez, having accepted a basketball scholarship, is somehow less free to express his opinion than the anonymous fools in the student section. Vasquez was corrected by his head coach and the athletic director after his inappropriate behavior but what are the consequences for the crass half-wits who hurled ethic insults at a fellow student? The suggestion that paying fans should not be chastised by anyone who is getting a free ride is a silly and puerile argument besides being completely irrelevant. In that case students on academic scholarship have no basis to comment on the behavior of students who have their parents pay for their school because they were not smart enough to earn a scholarship themselves. The continued life and viral nature of this infantile point of view is fostered by the University itself.

After the embarrassing episode of Duke's J.J. Redick being taunted by the Maryland student section with an original and witty seven letter suggestion that is anatomically impossible the University expressed concern over the incident and then released this pathetic news release. It is basically a list of 15 "sportsmanship initiatives" that the University had enacted in an ineffectual attempt to show their concern without having to show any leadership on the issue. The worst part is that the University's legal office claimed that such profane or vulgar speech was "protected free speech" and hence could not result in the ejection of offending fans. Besides being gutless it is completely specious reading of any free speech jurisprudence. Clearly the legal office is devoid of any constitutional scholars (or backbone) but they could have merely consulted the University of Michigan or President Dan Mote's old employer, the University of California at Berkley to see policies crafted by legal departments that understand the concept of protected speech and which clearly state that obscene or profane chants will result in ejection from their sporting events and possibly loss of ticket holding privileges. The University seems to be more concerned with trying to intimidate bloggers critical of the administration like me by sending them cease and desist letters than about making sure their "fans" conform to legitimate and legally permitted codes of conduct.


itchy said...

Very well said.

Buying a ticket does not buy one the right to be a jackass.

Just1MoreGtrPlyr said...

I am certainly not one of Vasquez's biggest fans. While I admire and am grateful by his stellar abilities, I just kind of wish he would keep his mouth shut sometimes. He flexes, poses, and makes an ass of himself way more than any other player in the league, and I find myself rolling my eyes at him several times a game.

But as far as basketball goes, he his far and away the best player on the team, and I would never think of booing him or any other Maryland player. Any harm he causes by taking ill-advised shots or making bad passes (things untrained eyes can spot), he more than makes up for with his ability to drive, split defenses, and make plays (things the critics are too stupid to notice). I am a student, and while I may grumble when Vasquez struts around the court, I would never think about booing the star player of my program.

I think the students who booed Vasquez represent a smaller proportion of the fanbase than you seem to think. I was at that game, and I must say that the first half was the worst half of Maryland basketball I've ever witnessed (both teams). Comcast was eerily silent, and the morons in the crowd took the opportunity to make themselves heard. It was a bad night for the team (despite the win-it really was ugly basketball) and a bad night for the fans, but I don't think either will happen again.

Esquire said...

I know Vasquez's antics rub a lot of folks, including Maryland fans, the wrong way. I saw that when he played for Montrose. You can search my blog and find out what I wrote way back then. There is a cultural disconnect between Vasquez and the American fans at Comcast Center. That is clearly part of the problem, perception. I think the players who pose when they dunk or bellow at a opposing player when they "posterize" them, hold up their arms when they hit a 3-pointer are doing pretty much the same thing Vasquez is doing. He just has his own style but in the US we are used to seeing the playground antics of our native players and are more willing to dismiss it when a kid like James Gist engages in histrionics after he dunks.

Besides that I think you have some fair points. Thanks for the comment.

xfreestater said...

I read Scmuck’s column as well and it was painfully embarrassing. Frankly some anonymous denizen of an internet message board could do better. The column should be used by college journalism professors as an example of how not to write a sports column.