Monday, March 9, 2009

They've Been Playing Great Games; Thanks For Finally Noticing

It's been nearly a month since we've done anything on our favorite sportswriter. And by favorite, I mean "shitty like a yak with diarrhea."

Of course you know who I'm talking about: Bob Kravitz!

Girls take center stage with great players, games

In the 34 years they've been holding an Indiana girls high school basketball championship, there's never been a year like this one. Shoot, there's never been a year like this one in Indiana boys high school basketball, either.

Technically, unless every score of every game is the same and every game contains the exact same teams as a previous year's tournament, every year is unique. So by definition, you could say "there's never been a year like this one" about ANY year.

And when it was done, an undefeated Ben Davis staked its claim for the unofficial national championship of high school girls' basketball.

Kravitz does say "unofficial," but let's be clear about this: there is no national championship in high school basketball! Yes, I know some publications do national rankings, but they are completely meaningless. How can you possibly equate teams and schools from 50 states? Do you really have enough knowledge and data to say that the #1 team in Texas is better or worse than the #1 team in Indiana?

Publications and websites do national polls for two reasons: to sell more papers/get more hits and to make more money. There is no credible way of forming a Top 25 national high school poll.

As for this article, we'll see later how Kravitz adds more hype (inaccurately, of course) to the national championship hype machine.

Early in the afternoon, there was Heritage Christian, ranked anywhere from eighth to 14th in national polls, winning its fourth consecutive 2A state title by edging Oak Hill 60-58 in overtime.

Claire Freeman, their guard, had her own Bobby Plump moment, hitting a tough, contested shot off the backboard for the game winner with three seconds remaining.

Maybe she'll open a restaurant someday, call it "Freeman's Last Shot.''

Or maybe not.

If it were possible for the sound of crickets to be imbedded in a newspaper, you'd have heard it here. The online version of this story should have had them added for effect.

Then, in the tournament's much-anticipated marquee game, there were the state's and the nation's Nos. 1 and 2 teams -- some rankings had it Ben Davis-South Bend Washington and others had it South Bend Washington-Ben Davis -- and a game that exceeded all expectations.

Actually, as you can see here in an article from Kravitz's own paper, only one national poll had Ben Davis #1 and South Bend Washington #2. The rest had both ranked high, but in no other poll were the two schools #1-#2. Nothing like over-hyping an already over-hyped fictional national championship idea!

This, too, ended with another Plump moment, this one involving Ben Davis sophomore guard Bria Goss. Her twisting, falling, leaning, praying shot in the lane slammed the glass, pounded the front rim and then fell softly through the net with 1.4 seconds remaining.

Does every last second shot have to be described by invoking the name Bobby Plump? I know that Milan's small-school 1954 state championship is the stuff of legend and of Gene Hackman movies, but isn't there something more recent that can be referenced? Isn't throwing Plump's name into every story concerning a late-game shot a bit cliche now? Never mind that it's often inaccurate--does everyone hold the ball for more than a minute, without moving, before taking the final shot?

The 4A title wasn't just a state title game; it was an unofficial national title game.

You've said this already, despite it still being a stupid notion. More to come on that.


Who needs boys?

(That's what I tell my daughters, anyway).

Bad joke aside, why does Kravitz feel the need to compare the boys and girls tournaments? Why is it assumed that the boys games would automatically be more interesting? I would say that NONE of the girls tournaments have needed boys to make them interesting (besides the fact that if the boys were there, it wouldn't have been girls basketball).

But wait; it will get worse.

Clearly, this is a historical anomaly. It's rare enough to have one top high school team named among the nation's top 10 or 15. But three teams in the national rankings, including the top two?

That said, the epic rise of Indiana girls basketball is not some accident of history.

When I first read this, I took a bit of an exception to the idea that girls basketball wasn't great 10 years ago. If you watched Stephanie White play when she was in high school, you know what I mean. But I have to agree with Kravitz here--for as ridiculous as the national polls are for high school sports, I don't believe Indiana has ever had the accolades for girls basketball that it enjoys now.

The next couple of paragraphs Kravitz points out that the rise of year-round play over the past 10 years in girls basketball has made the overall level of talent greater. It is a completely valid point, and I agree completely.

However, Kravitz quotes Garry Donna, the long-time publisher of Hoosier Basketball. At first it seems harmless, as Donna agrees with Kravitz that year-around AAU play has helped girls basketball. But then:

"...Second, the coaching has gotten a lot better in the girls game. There's been a trend over the years and it's gotten to the point where around 80 percent of girls coaches are men. That's not a gender thing, but a lot of girls coaches are former boys coaches and they have more experience..."

Fuck the heck? If that's "not a gender thing," then what exactly is it?

Not only is Donna's statement blatantly sexist, it also exhibits faulty logic. Perhaps Donna is correct that "80% of girls coaches are men" (I've been unable to find numbers for Indiana), but is this a new trend, even if it is true?

As for male coaches who started out in boys basketball before becoming basketball coaches for girls teams, how would that give them more experience? The girls state basketball tournament has been around for 34 years. Isn't that enough time for female coaches who have only coached girls basketball to have enough experience? Is Donna actually suggesting that coaching the same number of boys basketball games imparts more experience than coaching girls games?

No one has ever mistaken Garry Donna for a classy guy. Several people who have covered high school sports have commented independently that Donna's interest in girls basketball over the years was driven more by a leering motivation than by genuine interest in girls basketball (it was widely noted by some that Donna had an unhealthy obsession with Indiana Miss Basketball Stephanie White while she was still in high school). Even if he has a newfound respect for girls basketball, to say that it's only better because there are more male coaches with "more experience" is idiotic.

Of course, Kravitz does nothing to disagree with Donna--in fact, Kravitz gives him nearly a quarter of the article in quotations.

This is a classic case of Kravitz declaring that girls basketball is now worth watching, because he's just discovered it and declared it so. I'm glad that Kravitz has finally come around to giving the girls' game a chance, and that it's as "worthy" of watching as the boys' game. Perhaps he should have done it sooner, so he wouldn't have missed the last 10 years of great girls basketball.

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Blogger Zinglebert Bembledack said...

Ahhh, yes. Another classic Kravitz article. There is nothing like that nice bouquet of shitty drivel in the air. How is it he can get the correct conclusion (this was one of the best "class" girl's basketball finals) but the way he gets there is all wrong!

Out of the four finals this year, two went into overtime, one was decided by only three points and the last decided on the last shot. You are not going to get many finals like that.

The Milan Miracle was a defining moment in Indiana basketball history and not many would argue that. However, I am really, really tired of every last shot winning shot getting compared to Bobby Plump's. I can think of many others that are far more relevant and recent.

I did do some research and the current percentage of male coaches in Indiana girl's basketball is 74.7% (298 out of 399). For Class 4A, the percentage drops to 72% (72 of 100 schools).

So, yes, there are more male coaches, but I don't think that necessarily makes the game better. It is due to the fact there is year-round conditioning, more AAU play and a general increase in the overall abilities of the players. I also think the coaching has gotten better, not just because they are male coaches and may have more experience.

Another interesting fact I found was for active coaches with 50+ wins, the percentage of male coaches is 80.6% (146 of 181). It makes me question whether school districts give male coaches more of a chance than female coaches.

I guess Bob was feeling left out of the FotM, huh?

March 10, 2009 at 11:28 AM  
Blogger Slut Bunwalla said...

Thanks for finding the statistics. I guess Donna wasn't that far off on the percentage, even if he was a little high.

Even so, I wonder if the predominance of male coaches in girls basketball is a new trend, or has it always been that way? If 20 years ago 75% of high school girls basketball coaches were men, wouldn't that invalidate Donna's claim that the reason girls basketball is so good now is because more men are coaching?

March 10, 2009 at 1:21 PM  

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