Saturday, February 19, 2011

Tough Weekend Technically Speaking

It’s been a tough weekend in the Big East – technically speaking.

At least four different coaches and a player picked up technical fouls on Saturday. Jamie Dixon and Steve Lavin both got them in St. Johns’ upset of Pittsburgh. St. John’s guard D. J. Kennedy threw one in for good measure.

Not to be outdone, West Virginia Coach Bob Huggins and Notre Dame Coach Mike Brey both picked up technicals in the Mountaineers upset of the Irish. And Louisville’s Preston Knowles and Connecticut’s Kemba Walker both got technical fouls on Friday night during the Cardinals victory over the Huskies. Just what in the name of Bob Knight is going on here?

If you ask me, this recent rash of technical fouls actually started on Feb. 9 when Louisville’s Kyle Kuric was called for “taunting” after glaring at a Notre Dame defender following a monster slam dunk. This drew outrage because it was so out of character for Kuric -- perhaps Louisville’s softest spoken player. If Kuric were guilty, then what about all his jersey popping, muscle flexing, finger-waving Big East brethren?

Rather than show restraint -- or admit a mistake -- Big East officials naturally overreacted. They have been handing out technical fouls like tattoos in the NBA ever since.

The crackdown leaves one confused about exactly what results in a technical foul and what doesn’t. To the casual viewer, it’s not always clear. On Friday, the officials were kind of enough to say into a national TV microphone that Knowles got his foul for encouraging a “bull sh@t” chant. Other times it remains a mystery.

But don’t worry. I’ve got your answers right here. Based on what I’ve seen, the following will definitely result in a technical: glaring (Kuric), enjoying a profane chant (Knowles), raising three fingers after a three-pointer (Marquette’s Darius Johnson-Odom) and generally throwing a hissy fit from the bench, unless, of course, your name happens to be Jim Boeheim (Dixon, Lavin, Huggins and Brey).

So how’s a boy to celebrate or to protest? Once again, based on my unscientific viewing, there are plenty of things a player can still do with impunity, including popping his jersey, flexing his muscles, blowing kisses, screaming at no one in particular and pounding his chest. I even saw a guy get away with slapping the ball after a timeout.

But no glaring … definitely no glaring.

* * *

Friday’s Louisville game also showed why players are so often tempted to abandon the fundamental play in favor of the spectacular one. U of L guard Peyton Siva stole the ball from his UConn counterpart and sped down the court for a sure, easy layup. Instead, Siva climbed the ladder and threw down a nasty 360-degree dunk. What was his reward for taking this unnecessary risk? Only every SportsCenter highlight for the next 24 hours.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Job Change Opens New Doors

For four years, I walked past the 21c Hotel in downtown Louisville, Ky., twice a day on my way to and from work. And almost every day, I exchanged some sort of mild pleasantry with the hotel’s doormen … a nod, a wave or a “hey.”

Our relationship wasn’t always this comfortable. In the beginning, it was downright awkward. A 21c doorman once mistook me for a hotel guest and tried to open the door for me. The suit and tie must’ve thrown him. I felt so badly that I nearly went into the hotel just to accommodate him. Instead, I passed clumsily by.

From then on, I employed several tactics to make sure this didn’t happen again. I walked faster past the hotel. I walked farther from the hotel. I even averted eye contact for awhile. After all, 21c is a pretty fancy hotel and the doormen could spend their time much better with actual tipping guests instead of some guy just passing through.

However, as the trips added up, the doormen eventually accepted me as a civilian in no need of entrance assistance. I walked closer to the hotel and slowed my pace. We exchanged twice daily greetings. The door remained hinged.

I changed jobs and hadn’t thought of this routine again until Friday night when my wife and I decided to stay the night at 21c. As I headed toward the hotel, I saw one of the regulars manning the door. Even though I hadn’t walked past the hotel in more than six months, I could see a faint glimmer of recognition in his eyes. To complicate matters, he knew me as nothing more than a passerby. Yet here I was clearly seeking entry. Time froze. The doorman gathered himself. He smiled and opened the door.

I was finally an actual paying guest in need of his services. It was a moment that was four years – and twice daily – in the making.