Archive for the ‘NCAA Basketball’ Category

gambling headerAt the end of February, I wrote about sports gambling. I wrote a lot of words about sports gambling. It’s an appealing topic to me, not because I particularly enjoy wagering on sporting events, but because the divide between the perception and the reality of the subject seems so vast.

Furthering my interest is the role that Major League Baseball, National Basketball Association, National Football League and National Hockey League (as well as the National Collegiate Athletic Association) have played in manipulating the public perception of sports betting away from the reality. North American professional sports leagues have collectively fought the legalization of sports gambling in the name of the integrity of their respective sports, willfully ignorant to the benefits that a regulated system would provide the sanctity they strategically want to be seen protecting. The reality is that the leagues are far more interested in protecting control over the data that their product creates.

It’s hypocrisy at its most blatant: Powerful organizations privately protecting their own interests by publicly decrying progress that would limit the very things over for they feign concern. Unfortunately, it’s taken the self-serving initiatives of another powerful authority to highlight the discrepancy between what’s said and done.

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gambling header14-years-old is an awful age to go on a family vacation. No one understands your oh-so-unique struggle to grow up. Your body’s chemistry is changing more than Barry Bonds on a regimen of Victor Conte-prescribed elixirs. And you hate everything.

You hate school. You hate your teachers. You hate your friends. You hate the person on whom you have a crush. You even hate the band that like totally gets you. You hate the world. But above all else you hate your family and you hate restrictions. Traveling and living in close quarters with your mom, dad, brother and sister or whatever combination of that set best describes your specific situation growing up is nothing short of detestable.

We’re pretty disgusting creatures when we’re 14 – old enough to be cynical, but too inexperienced to properly apply our criticisms to anything constructive.

It was at this age, on a family vacation to Florida, that my first experience with gambling occurred. On a day in which the rest of my family was going on a helicopter tour, motivated by the $100 in savings found in not having me along, I was allowed a day to myself. Of course, I spent the afternoon at a greyhound racetrack, where the adage that misery loves company is tested by the collective self-loathing making those in attendance incapable of loving anything.

It took a dozen races for me to work up enough courage to attempt to place a bet. I was underage, and if my pimply baby-face didn’t give that fact away, my complete and utter lack of confidence would have. I stood in line for less than 30 seconds before an older gentleman – a gentleman only relative to the others in attendance – pulled me aside to inform me that a greyhound had a better chance of placing a bet on himself than I did. He offered to wager for me.

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In Philippe Petit’s 2002 book, To Reach The Clouds, the author writes of tightrope walkers feigning difficulty during their act in order to make what’s ordinary to them seem more dramatic to spectators. After the hours and hours and more hours of practice and training that go unseen by audiences, their actual performance is somewhat mundane. Without a speck of mid-air theatre, the marvel of their daring act would lessen.

I was reminded of this on Sunday afternoon in Hamilton, Ontario, where 17-year-old Andrew Wiggins, the most highly rated NCAA basketball recruit of the year, played in an exhibition game with his Huntington Prep school from West Virginia against a selection of regional all-stars. It was all too easy for the 6-foot-8 phenomenon from Vaughan, Ontario, whose physical gifts have combined with preparation to form an unmatched talent.

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Surprisingly, it wasn’t Grantland to which Jorge Luis Borges was referring when he wrote:

Writing long [form] is a laborious and impoverishing act of foolishness: expanding in five hundred pages an idea that could be perfectly explained in a few minutes. A better procedure is to … offer a summary, a commentary.

I enjoy a good read. I even enjoy a good, long read. More often than not though, I enjoy that good, long read in theory more than in practice. I’ve grown accustomed to a certain amount of efficiency in the content I consume. There are times when reading a 2,500 word piece comparing a certain sports event to a corresponding piece of popular culture simply isn’t practical, no matter how appealing the byline might read. It’s these stories that end up in internet purgatory, a tab in my browser that doesn’t get read.

And so, for the sake of all those like me, I thought I’d spend some time each week and read through the pieces that would normally be the wallflower equivalents of internet narrative journalism. Below you’ll find summaries of the best long-form pieces that made the rounds this week.

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