A Different Final Four
So the Final Four is set for AT&T Stadium. Here is my initial reaction to the four teams making the trip to the Metroplex…..sorry I dozed off for a minute. The Final Four has unfortunately become like many recent Super Bowls, plenty of hype and not much substance. The problem the Final Four has had for the past several years is no one, aside from die hard alumni, know much about the players on any of the teams. In the old days, back when players stuck around for 2, 3 even 4 years, we got to know Larry Bird, Ralph Sampson, or Larry Johnson.
Knowing the players always made the Final Four one of my favorite sporting events. How many of us can name more than 3-4 players in this year’s Final Four? Around here, most fans stop at Julius Randle, the 6’9″ freshman at Kentucky who played high school ball at Prestonwood Christian. As a matter of fact, two of the coaches, John Callapari of Kentucky and Florida’s Billy Donovan, are probably the best known people on any of the four teams. It’s a problem when the coaches are bigger celebrities than the players.
There are 4 pretty solid basketball programs coming to Arlington. U-Conn has been to the Final Four 5 times now, Wisconsin is making it for the first time since 2000, the Gators are in the national semi- finals for the 5th time and Kentucky has been to more Final Fours than everyone but North Carolina and UCLA. Kentucky is the best or worst of college basketball depending on your view. Callapari recruits a boat load of high school All-Americans each year and they play a season and move on to the NBA. This year’s team starts 5 freshmen who’ve hardly been at the school long enough to find the cafeteria, much less the admiration of Kentucky fans.
The other thing that makes the Final Four less desirable to me is the location –Jerry World. It’s obviously a world class venue, and you’ll get no arguments from me there….for football. The last Final Four in the area was at Reunion Arena, in 1986, and capacity was 18,000. That’s about the same number that Jerry will have in his suite for this year’s party. AT&T Stadium just isn’t a great place to watch basketball. Even the good seats are so far from the court it’s hard to tell the teams apart. As far as the the upper level……you might as well stay home and watch in your living room.
The saving grace for fans, as always, is the enormous video screen. You’ll pay $800 for the privilege to watch the Final Four on a huge TV. It’s really become an event for those who want to say they went to the Final Four, not true basketball fans. But that’s what big sports event have evolved into in America. For me, I’ll watch at home like the other basketball purists…unless someone offers me a free ticket, and then I’m so there.