Mondays Are On Me: “Charity” games, NAIA tomfoolery, TV show spoilers

Charity exhibitions have been all the rage as of late. With several hurricanes ravaging parts of the country, college basketball programs have used this opportunity to pay it forward.

Only kind of and without a full sense of altruism at their backs. Whatever … I’m jaded.

It could be due to the fact that I’m a cynic in most areas of life, but these exhibition games for charity do seem like a series of programs taking advantage of unfortunate events.

College basketball coaches have long wanted more “things” to do during this portion of the preseason. While they were previously unable to get in extra practice time or other exhibitions, using charity as a loophole to get players more time on the hardwood feels unseemly, but it is not lost on me how the usage of tragedy to get more time on the floor for the kids is good for everyone involved.

Thing is, it would be nice if we just acknowledged it as such. When the first few charity games were announced, people went on the mean streets of Twitter to celebrate those universities’ acts of good will. Then, because other schools noticed this newly found loophole, it felt like every decent-to-fine basketball program was now going to “do a game for charity.”

Let’s be Camp Crystal Lake clear: Schools, even if the foundation of it isn’t altruism, participating in these events is a net-positive. I’m not going to sit here and pretend it is anything other than an overall good thing.

Yet, here I am, remaining skeptical that the majority of those programs are doing this only for charity. They are not. The charity is the front. The mom-and-pop shoe storefront that is secretly hiding a speak-easy underneath.

Oddities

With the FBI looming in the shadows, as reports begin to surface that some coaches might roll, what an oddly named event to be promoted.

It is legitimately funny that there’s a tournament named the FBI Classic during this era of basketball. It would be like a baseball tournament being held during the height of Sammy Sosa mania, with it being called The Juice Classic — or something. Likely something, but you need not worry about those semantics.

If you’re wondering what teams are in the FBI Classic, it is worth noting that it is a high school showcase tournament held in South Carolina. Some of the nation’s better high school players will be participating in the tournament.

Anyway, the Farm Bureau Insurance Classic is a weird thing regardless of outside context. Who knew there was a bureau arm of the farm insurance industry? I certainly did not.

NAIA & A College Going Bonkers Over Protests

The NAIA will relocate the Division II Men’s Basketball Championships out of Branson, Missouri after differing opinions on national anthem protests divided members of the organization.

“Differing opinions” is a polite, LOL-worthy situation in regards to this topic.

To make a long-ish story short, the organization and the College of the Ozarks (a real university, I swear it) mutually agreed to move the championships out of Branson. The championships have been held there the last 18 years. However, after the College of the Ozarks’ “No Pledge, No Play” policy became an issue, everyone involved decided it best to end their relationship.

For a little more context:

“We want to make it clear that we are not going to participate in a game where we think disrespect for the national anthem or the flag is being displayed,” College of the Ozarks’ President Jerry Davis told the Kansas City Star. “I don’t think it’s a partisan issue. It’s an American issue, how we feel about our country.”

Basically, Jerry Davis prefers you to act patriotic rather than practice the freedoms that come with being a patriot of this country.

To be more blunt about it: Jerry Davis prefers you don’t make old white men feel uncomfortable.

The disconnect between what the players — at all levels — are protesting and what others against them believe is rather amazing. People kneeling during the national anthem aren’t protesting a song or the flag. Media members, owners, people in power, etc. who claim it as such are purposely moving the talking point to something far simpler for blue-collar (white people) Americans to get behind.

They have hijacked the purpose of the entire movement to repackage it as a narrative ofAmerican vs Not American Enough.

Think about it logically. Instead of addressing the issues the protesters want addressed, authority figures have changed what the discussion is all about. They have moved it from social injustice to “love America.”

For what it is worth, while these people claim players are protesting whatever great American pride they say they are, that’s exactly NOT what is happening. People who go on a hunger strike aren’t anti-food. They are just using that as their platform for their voice and issues to be heard.

Advanced Stats Are A Dangerous Game

Hot-take: Advanced stats are better than counting stats, but we are reaching a dangerous level with the usage of them in college basketball.

Whenever the KenPom preseason rankings come out, social media lights up over the differences between his rankings and those of the traditional AP and Coaches’ polls. There’s usually a pretty stark disconnect between what KenPom’s numbers say to what human beings believe.

Let me preface the actual hot-take with an acknowledgement that all data happens to be good. Ignoring data is bad. The more data the better. Bluh, bluh, bluh. Data, data data.

With that caveat out of the way, let’s bring up something that concerns me with how people hold KenPom’s rankings to a higher regard than that of the traditional polls. Given the relatively massive roster turnover that happens season-over-season, with freshmen having a big impact with key programs that figure to be near the best in the country, how is his data more valuable than that of the AP or Coaches’ Poll?

Isn’t it somewhat flawed given there’s data (freshmen incoming) lacking?

Again, with as much strength in my voice as possible, I also value KenPom’s numbers. All of them. His rankings, in-season work, and everything else that rests in the middle.

At the same time, there’s so many variables in college basketball, numbers can be misleading.

Some programs with micromanaging coaches run weird offenses. The sort that purposely wait five seconds (it used to be 10 with the old shot-clock) into each offensive possession before running offensive sets in earnest. Other coaches let their players run around the court like a bunch of gazelles. Given that, a player or team’s numbers — advanced or otherwise — can’t speak to what is happening on the floor without more information (pace of play, strength of opponent, the now maligned eyeball-test).

As an example: If Blue-Blood Program-X played 10 cupcakes to start the season, the advanced stats are literally worthless. What good does highlighting any of it do when that 10-game sample isn’t indicative of what kind of (tougher) games await for that team?

It all helps, at least a little bit, obviously. But this growing movement of just hurling out advanced stats in columns or discussions, while avoiding any other context, is not ideal.

Furthermore, we all have access to college basketball reference and/or KenPom. If you’re going to write a piece using advanced stats to further a point, please do a better job repackaging those numbers to tell your side of the story. If you’re just going to insert them into a topic, without painting the full picture happening around that data, you’re doing a disservice to the topic you’re covering (and the reader).

Other Musing (Stop Spoiling Shows)

I won’t spoil any entertainment programming here, but this is the spot of this column where I whine about others doing that on social media.

Here I was this week, gearing up for the second season of Stranger Things, and people were going bonkers on Twitter over what was happening on the show. With the show being released at 3 in the morning (eastern) and me being a person unable to binge nine episodes in a single sitting the day of the premiere, it forces people of my ilk to go Internet dark.

And we’re not talking only about straight spoilers in which a person flatly says what happened on the show. We’re also talking about the tweets people think are vague. The “you will never see this sad moment” coming tweets.

Listen here, bub. By you acknowledging there being a sad moment in the show makes me realize at some point I will be sad. I don’t want to know if I’ll be sad or not. Preferably, I’d go in without any preconceived notions of what will happen during the season. My emotions not connected to anything other than what is happening on the screen, unable to emotionally prepare for the heartbreak and scares.

Alas, this is where the benefit of being able to binge a show on Netflix like Stranger Things comes with a tangible negative. Some people are able to watch the show, in its entirety, the moment it goes live. Others are unable to do that. How long is the latter group expecting the former horde to keep their mouths shut before an open discussion can be had?

With traditional, weekly broadcasted TV programs, it is easy. 24 hours is the rule. But with Netflix, I don’t know this answer. As I am here whining over spoilers, maybe I am in the wrong for complaining about it.

Mondays Are On Me

This is my first post on this here subscription-based platform. If you’re a subscriber, you are likely confused why this first post is free. If you’re not, please subscribe, and let me explain.

Given that I’m not exactly a household name, I still need to be able to reach readers who are unaware of my work. On Mondays — and only on Mondays — I will gift my work to the entire potential readership for free.

It is a simple approach to a model I hope sustains other full-time writers in my position who currently don’t have a full-time place to put their work.

There are issues I have with this model, if we are being honest. For networks (re: The Athletic) that implement it, they are forced to bring on writers who are already established. The people who have done good work for a long time. On the flip side, this prevents new voices from being discovered. If the model relies heavily upon subscribers, that model has to — nearly without exception — only hire writers people already now. That is their draw.

It might save the industry to some degree, but at what cost? If a reader can’t discover new writers, and the same old folk are all that’s left, is that actually helping the industry?

Nevertheless, for someone like me, the relatively not established brand, I can’t just hide behind a paywall because not enough people know of my word to blindly invest in it (so many negatives in one sentence!). While I plan on this being behind a paywall six days a week, this one free day is of the utmost importance to me.

From me to you, let’s go get it.

If you don’t already, follow me on Twitter @JosephNardone. Also feel free to buy some of the (still in progress) Unpaid Laborer merchandise. Both still need tinkering.

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