Mid-major basketball maven Kyle Whelliston is shuttering The Mid-Majority tonight after ten years of operation, and deleting the site's entire content. It's been the home of some of the best college basketball writing around, and if you haven't had the chance to ever check it out, the clock is ticking. Here's ten posts we think you should read before it goes away forever.
Assistant Palestra Custodian for a Day
They say the difference between home and the road is that when you're at your own place, you clean up. That the difference between a guest and a friend is that a friend will help with the dishes. So when I slept over at the Palestra on Wednesday night, a place I consider to be the original genesis and home court of The Mid-Majority, I felt an overwhelming obligation to serve instead of simply visit.
To me, he was more than all that. I didn't want to strip the religion and the core feeling from his story. I'd never been so inspired by somebody half my age. I was not and will never be a great basketball player, but Stephen Curry was the kind of person I wanted to emulate, and it was making it difficult for me to cover him as a sportswriter. I felt like I should have recused myself somehow, and this was some kind of conflict of interest.
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The gatekeepers have become so convinced of their power that they feel they own the time and space within these walls. They can say that something that actually happened didn't really happen. But we trust our own eyes, and can't be fooled. We know that men in suits can't tell us what we have and haven't seen. In real life and real time, performances aren't measured by whether they're "Pontiac Game-Changing" or not. College basketball has nothing to do with American cars, "more bars" or Vitamin Water.
The Taylor Coppenrath Experience
Every so often, I get out to a show that features a devastatingly charismatic rising star of the indie rock world. And Wednesday night in Boston, that star was Taylor Coppenrath.
The selection exercise was the most eye-opening, incredible experiences I've had in my relatively short career as a member of the sportserati. It was a glance into the overwhelming responsibility that these 10 people have every March, with millions of dollars and the interest of an entire nation on the line. But be sure of this: there was very little basketball in that room, and even less poetry. For a game that features the pure simplicity of propelled ball up into a raised goal, followed by the placid swish, that's plenty ironic.
The heart wants to know why. The reasons for failure are right there, obvious and in black and white, revealed through the physical sciences, mechanics and physics and biology. Still, the heart wants to know why. It rejects the rational answer, and doesn't understand all those numbers. It wants to hear about fate and destiny, invisible animals in the stars, or a gentle puff of God's breath. The heart pleads, demands, insists on poetry. It won't stop asking why until it gets what it wants.
I write this to you in the literal shadow of a true icon of America's Nonsense Era. Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the 2010 Final Four, rises up next to the Indianapolis skyline like a giant Monopoly hotel. It's a place where American-style football is played eight times a year. The regular tenant pays its employees millions of dollars each, paychecks funded by VIP tickets sold to the very same advertisers and companies struggling to explain themselves in the new logic-based economy. Working fans were priced out of the building before it was even built, and they can stay home and watch the games on free television anyway.
On June 6, 2001, the Philadelphia 76ers beat the Los Angeles Lakers 107-101 in overtime. It was Game 1 of the NBA Finals, and the Allen Iverson-led Sixers catapulted to a quick series lead. It was a promising harbinger of a championship, since the game was out west, on the road. Philly had stolen home-court advantage. I don't remember anything about the game itself, nor whether or not I even watched any of it, but I vividly recall the aftermath.
In their black hooded sweatsuits, the Demons shuffled out of the locker room, up the long loading ramp and back to the three waiting vans. In dead silence, they disappeared into their iPhones and Blackberries as the vans crawled through the quiet streets of Bloomington. They were oblivious to the transaction that had just taken place, the different rules of fairness and logistics that they'd been a part of. As far as they knew, they had gone on the road to play a game and they were blown out. Simple as that.
The original spirit of ESPN is still there, but it's hidden underneath a thick and impenetrable layer of corporate concrete. It's still the same company — the same weird, lovable, vulnerable entity that dates back to the days when Tom Mees was the man.