Sunday, March 12, 2017

Luther Vandross – "Shine" (2006)

In the midst of a fierce competition . . .
Keep showing me moves that are blazing

It’s no surprise that this year’s Big Ten men’s basketball conference tournament was fiercely contested, or many of the players had impressive moves.  What is a surprise is that this tournament – which featured teams from midwestern universities like Ohio State, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, et al. – was played in Washington, DC.

Big Ten university logos
In the last 2 or 3 lines, I went off on a you-kids-get-the-hell-off-of-my-lawn-type rant about the many absurdities that have resulted form the current configuration of the major college athletic conferences. 

Holding the Big Ten basketball tournament in Washington, DC, is one such absurdity.

The Big Ten tournament comes to D.C.
The Nebraska Cornhuskers traversed 1201 miles from Lincoln to Your Nation’s Capital to play Penn State in the first round of the tournament.  (You might have thought that Nebraska was still in the Big Eight . . . oops, I mean the Big 12 . . . WHICH IS WHERE THEY BELONG!  But Nebraska said sayonara to the Big 12 and moved to the Big Ten several years ago.)

By contrast, the 1092 miles that the Minnesota Golden Gophers and their fans had to travel and the 901 miles that the Iowa Hawkeyes and their stalwarts covered seem like child’s play.

Don’t get me started on the Big Ten, which had the same ten members from 1949 until 1990, when Penn State became its eleventh member.  

To add to the absurdity of an eleven-team conference continuing to call itself the Big Ten, the conference adapted a logo with a disguised number eleven in it after Penn State succumbed to the conference’s siren song – or should I say $iren $ong:

Big Ten logo (with hidden number 11)
A few years ago, the Big Ten’s math got even funnier when it expanded to fourteen schools, adding Maryland, Nebraska, and the State University of New Jersey (better known as Rutgers).  

As the Big Ten Network’s Tom Dienhart wrote three years ago, the Big Ten’s men’s regular-season basketball schedule is a hot mess:

I long for the days when every Big Ten school played twice every season.  It was a symmetrical schedule that crowned a true champ in a neat and tidy 18-game league schedule.  The only thing missing was a bow on top.

That balance got tossed out the window when Penn State joined the league.  And Nebraska’s arrival added to the imbalance to where Big Ten schools now play just seven teams twice and four others once.  

Big Ten tournament signage
As you can imagine, that can make for some unbalanced and unfair schedules in the pursuit of a conference title.  Now, with Rutgers and Maryland coming aboard next season, things are about to get even more watered down and uneven.

According to this report, the new league schedule system will rotate in three-year cycles.  Each school will have five home-and-home foes each season, and eight single-play opponents.  As with the previous scheduling format, every Big Ten team will face the rest of the league at least once for an 18-game conference menu.

Five of the eight single-play opponents will become home-and-home opponents the next year.  The remaining three will appear twice on the schedule in the third year of the cycle.

Got all of that?

(Not really.)

Honest Abe was a roundball fan?
The Big Ten tournament schedule is an even hotter mess.  The first day of the tournament, the four bottom teams – Ohio State, Nebraska, Penn State, and Rutgers – match up in two first-round games.  The winners of those games are pitted against the #5 and #6 seeds (Michigan State and Northwestern) on the second day – which is when the #7 and #10 seeds (Iowa and Indiana) and the #8 and #9 seeds (Michigan and Illinois) also face off.  The top four seeds (Purdue, Wisconsin, Maryland, and Minnesota) don’t play until the third day of the tournament.  

In other words, a high seed can win the conference tournament by winning only three games, while a low seed would have to win five games in five days – a truly formidable task.  Does that seem fair to you?

More Big Ten tournament signage
The Big Ten tournament is being played a block away from my office building.  The subway stop I use has been plastered with signage for the tournament:

How many of the Big Ten member universities’ logos can you identify?  (Answers below.)





That signage is fine as far as it goes, but are Washington-area roundball fans going to turn out for Northwestern-Nebraska, or Michigan State-Rutgers, or other games that don’t involve the hometown favorites, the University of Maryland Terrapins?  

If they don’t, there are going to be a lot of empty seats at the Verizon Center – unless folks are willing to make the journey from Lincoln, Nebraska, and Iowa City, Iowa, and West Lafayette, Indiana, and Lansing, Michigan, are willing to drive, ride, or fly to Washington and put up with terrible traffic, an increasingly unreliable Metro system, ridiculously expensive hotels, and ridiculously expensive tickets (the list price is $200 to $400, depending on seat location).

Still more Big Ten signage
Until this year, the Big Ten tournament alternated between Chicago and Indianapolis, which made perfect sense.  Moving the tournament to Washington, DC, makes no sense.  But moving it to New York City’s Madison Square Garden – where it will take place next year – makes even less sense.

I wonder what city will host the 2019 Big Ten tournament?  (Miami?  New Orleans?  Las Vegas?)

*     *     *     *     *

Here are the logos in the numbered photos above:

#1 – Illinois and Nebraska

#2 – Iowa and Ohio State

#3 – Maryland and Penn State

#4 – Minnesota and Wisconsin

#5 – Michigan and Purdue

#6 – Indiana and Northwestern

#7 – Michigan State and Rutgers

*     *     *     *     *

“Shine,” which was released by Luther Vandross in 2006, didn’t get much love from American radio stations, but it was a big hit in the clubs.

I’m not sure I had ever heard the song until a couple of months ago, when I started accompanying my 90-year-old mother to the thrice-weekly exercise classes offered at her assisted-living place.

The fitness trainer who leads the classes usually plays R&B or disco music, and “Shine” is one of her favorites.

Here’s “Shine”:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

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