Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Cut the Cord

Judge Jane Spencer Craney has ruled in favor of Indiana University in its desire to keep the records of the events that led to the firing of former basketball Coach Bob Knight sealed. This story hit the wires on 29 August 2006, roughly six years after Knight was fired for violating a zero-tolerance policy put into effect after he was captured on video grabbing IU player Neil Reid by the throat.

The decision itself seems to be semantic (I think…I’m not that good at lawyerin’) deciding whether or not the records in question were legal “work product,” to quote the article quoting the ruling. What really sticks out though is the fact that Bob Knight still has a strangle hold on the state of Indiana, its ethos, and its oldest love, basketball. The headline broke into the website for the Indianapolis Star along with a local police chief resigning and news about the Taylor University student who was misidentified as her friend after a van accident only to show up “alive” after the mix-up came to light. This story will no doubt make every local newscast at 10:00, 11:00, the 24 local news channel, and round out with a comprehensive tour of the morning shows with all the goofy weathermen.

For twenty-eight seasons Bob Knight led the Hurryin’ Hoosiers, gathering three national championships along the way including the undefeated 1976 team. Knight was praised for signing Indiana players (a fact that some erroneously read as “white” players), speaking his mind, and having unflinching expectations for his team. Honestly, Knight was praised for being a winner first and foremost, and if Stalin could get you twenty victories a year and a Final Four here and there he would have been beloved in the Crossroads of America.

You see, Indiana loves basketball with unmatched fervor. Some will say that North Carolina is the cradle of roundball, but Sean May and Josh McRoberts had to come from somewhere. Kentucky may try to claim to be the Eden of hardwood, but they’ve got other image issues to shake before they can make such assertions. John Wooden is 95 years old yet still makes the trek to Indianapolis for the annual showcase that bears his name, and he’ll be the first to remind you that “In 49 states it’s just basketball. But this is Indiana.”

It’s this insatiable love – a love that festers and churns with each passing year of high school multi-class basketball, Kelvin Sampson sanction, rebroadcast of Hoosiers, and longing for the rebirth of those beloved Boilermakers – that allows Bob Knight to creep onto the front page a few times a year. We just can’t shake this guy. Don’t believe me? Look in my brother-in-law’s garage where a BOB KNIGHT BLVD sign still hangs. Still not convinced? Tell that to the guy in the Texas Tech t-shirt I saw at Target this weekend...in Indianapolis. Before 2000, most locals couldn’t have told you where Texas Tech’s campus was located. Ask those same apologists now and the answer’s a bit easier, “We've got a timeshare in Lubbock.”

I once discovered the magnetism of Bob Knight locked in an unexpected story. My uncle, ever the music devourer and never a sports fan, was once telling me about the fallout of John Lennon’s assertion that the Beatles were “more popular than Jesus.” He knew it was absolutely true, noting that had you asked the average American teen in the mid-sixties if they’d rather go to church or watch the Fab Four, most would have wanted to hold your hand. He then noted that it was just like that with Bob Knight, saying that if my grandfather, my uncle’s father, were to be on his couch holding a conversation with Jesus Christ and Bob Knight walked into the room that my grandfather might have said something like, “I see, love thy…oh, just a sec, Lord. I’ll be right back.”

Knight’s future retirement will no doubt bring a bevy of “what-if” history articles and whet the whistle of so many parched Hoosier fans. My only dream is that somewhere out there, maybe in Tippecanoe County, there’s a six-year-old cager perfecting his post free throw gooseneck who will one day grow up to utter, “Who the hell is Bob Knight?”


I'm a Jayhawk said...

You forgot to mention Kansas when discussing the passion and delirium surrounding unbridled college basketball enthusiasm. Some would argue that KU is the cradle of BB and not Indiana, UNC, or UK. :)

I was at the KU-UI OT game at Allen in 93. I know that we won but it still may have been the greatest game I've ever seen in person. I believe that Damon Bailey had 36 in that game. He was unstoppable that night.

Great story about your uncle and you gentlemen have a great site.

Ross McLochness said...

A solid McLochness nod to Kansas (read KU), but just because you name your court after James Naismith can't solely allow you to rise above.

In all seriousness, Kansas is often overlooked in the basketball holy lands, yet it still shares its agrarian roots (who am I kidding, agrarian present) with the likes of Indiana, Kentucky, and North Carolina. Naismith invented the game because of that post-harvest lull in activity between football and baseball.

Yet to bring Naismith into any argument nullifies things immediately. He was Canadian.

Thanks for the post, and as a point of order, its IU for Indiana, UI around here is some D-3 school called the Grey hounds.

I'm a Jayhawk said...

Oops. I knew Indiana was IU and still managed to screw up my comment.

It's always an interesting debate when the great schools get together to decide who ranks supreme. KU is third all-time in wins and have more alumni than any other school in the BB hall of fame including Adolph Rupp, Dean Smith, Phog Allen (Wilt never graduated). But KU has only two national titles trails UNC, IU, UCLA, UK, and now even Duke for national titles. IU has 4 titles, the last undefeated season, more successful alumni at the NBA level than KU, and one of the greatest coaches in the history of the game. I can only guess your distaste for UK but they're my personal choice for the best program: so many national titles over generations with many different coaches and number 1 all-time in wins. In the end, trying to decide between is kind of like splitting hairs; each school has something that outranks the others. I wish the schools would play each other more frequently. It's a great day for college BB when these schools meet, particularly in their on campus venues (I hate that the UK-IU games is played in a dome).

I'm rambling now. Best of luck with Kelvin Sampson. I'd love to see IU retake the Big Ten and put the Illini in their place.

Ross McLochness said...

Yet again, I must rebuff. My post was written from the vantage of a native of Indiana, not a lover of Indiana University. It's time you knew...I'm a Boilermaker.

The Bob Knight apologists will taunt 3 championships over we Purdue folk all day long, but I always enjoy reminding them that Bob Knight had a losing record against Gene Keady...by one game. That's just how I like it.

That, and Purdue is the only team in the Big Ten to have a winning record against all other schools in the conference.

I agree though, those non-neutral neutral site games are no comparison to a true home and away set. The greatest games I've ever seen were Purdue vs. IU in 1998 and Purdue vs. Michigan St. in 2000. Mackey Arena was absolutely apeshit.

Anonymous said...

In order to be a basketball powerhouse a state must produce the players and Indiana does just that. KU players come from God-knows-where.

Springfield Y said...

It is amazing how incredibly ahistorical homers are when trying to puff up their state. James Naismith invented the game of basketball while studying at Springfield College and working at the Springfield YMCA. That is Springfield (wait for it stupid homers)--MASSACHUSETTS. Yes, AFTER he invented basketball, Kansas was nice enough to give the guy a job.

Ross McLochness said...

Is anyone debating the fact that Naismith invented basketball in Massachusetts?

Take is easy on the Pepsi, Fuller.

Your Humble Correspondent said...

What nonsense. A Purdue fan posts some non-story about Knight and IU and extrapolates (look it up) into how Bob Knight still dominates Indiana.

Not so.

Only the dead-enders are still beating the drum over the old coach. Indiana will be on national TV more than Purdue, Texas Tech, and UAB, combined.

Indiana has a greater heritage in basketball because they win, and while Purdue may say that having the head-to-head edge makes them beter, they have been the fans smarting (pun intended) over their team's consistently dismal showing in the Tournament.

Ross McLochness said...

Your vitriol is so exciting.

I in no way, and in no words, said that Purdue is better than IU because they have more wins all time. That is merely a point of fact.

The article merely states that Bob Knight farts and Indiana listens. It's the truth. Also, I'm saying that the state of Indiana has a better heritage, not Indiana University. I can see how that might confuse you. You were probably too busy at dicitonary.com looking up how to spell extrapolate. I kid, of course.

Bob Knight farts aside, I'd much rather deal with Your Humble Corresponent who seems unlikely to jump ship and throw IU under the bus than these wags who hate IU just to prove how much they love it.

I still don't understand how you can say Knight doesn't dominate the collective Indiana basketball unconscious when a procedural ruling makes headlines.

D. Brann said...

Springfield Y makes an excellent point. His logic means KU loses all credit for giving James Naismith a job, but does allow them to take all credit for everything Dean Smith and Adolph Rupp accomplished at UNC and UK. They went to KU, and were native Kansans, you see. It's where you're from, not where you're at, apparently.

Back to the point of the post, I was mildly amazed when I moved to Indiana three years ago at the level of love there still is here for Bobby Knight. It's one thing to recognize his accomplishments and look back fondly on his years at IU. It's another for a significant segment of the IU fanbase to hope the team does poorly so that his replacement gets run out of town. I can understand being angry with Miles Brand and how Knight's removal was handled, but to either actively root against the team you "love", or to suddenly become Texas Tech fans just isn't right. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't see some kind of Tech paraphenalia here on the northside of Indy. Coming from Big 12 land, I know there are about a dozen Tech fans outside of Lubbock proper, so I know I didn't stumble into some hotbed of Tech alums.
I know circumstances were different, but it's not like 30% of the KU fanbase suddenly became Carolina fans when Roy went home to his daddy three years ago.

Regardless of whether Kelvin Sampson was the right hire or not, there's a part of me that hopes he does really, really well at IU, just to put the ghost of Bobby Knight to rest for good.

Finally, it's too bad Mike Davis is gone and we can't kick him around anymore. For someone who has no allegiance to IU, he was tremendous fun to watch, as he made everything about him. Then again, I don't blame the guy for being a little paranoid based on how he was treated.