That Fork You See Is Aiming Right at My Love (of Spectator Sports)

Well, it looks like I may have been wrong.  It may happen.

Which is really a bummer.  Not just for Wake Forest Basketball, but for my relationship with spectator sports in general.

image Let’s look back.  When I was a kid, I was a big fan of five sports.  Pro football, pro basketball, pro baseball, college football and college basketball.  I knew all about the players on my favorite teams, and kept a constant eye on records and stats (none of which had dollar signs before them).

I had posters on my wall.  It was good.

Then money, morals and the media killed almost all of it.

Without going into the bloody details, here’s where my spectator sports interest stood a week ago.

Pro Football:  I go to maybe one Texans game a year, and watch less than that on TV.  Pro football is largely about the money, the stupid player celebrations and the media.  Fantasy football briefly rekindled my interest a few years ago, but when my fantasy league died last year, so did most of my interest.

Pro Basketball: I was an huge fan back in the day.  From Lew Alcindor to Bill Walton (pre-Celtics) to Clyde Drexler.  Then somewhere between then and now, it became a caricature of its former self.  I haven’t been to a game in years, because the experience is only remotely about the basketball.  It’s bad sensory overload and gives me a headache.  I haven’t watched one minute of pro basketball on TV in years.  It’s impossible to overstate my apathy towards the NBA.

All of this from a guy who used to play and watch hoops all the time.

Pro Baseball:  As a kid, baseball was the lesser of the big three, as far as my interest went.  Free agency, the fact that I was a Braves fan as a kid (I stopped liking them when I moved to Texas in 1985 and became an Astros fan) and, mostly, the lack of a salary cap turned it from a real sport to a WWF-like faux sport, and my interest waned accordingly.  I still watch a handful of games a year, and pro baseball is my favorite to watch in person.  So it went from last to first on my pro sports list, but as you can tell, that’s not saying much.

College Football:  As a kid, college football was probably second only to pro football on my list.  I watched a ton of it.  I still watch a ton of it, for three reasons.  One, it seems to have changed less than the others.  Two, it gained a lot of the attention share I used to spend on other sports that now bore me to tears.  Third, Jim Grobe.  Nuff said.

College Basketball:  Until the last couple of years, my interest in college basketball had remained pretty constant.  It’s become a little about the money and the media (if the NCAA Tournament does expand as reported, it will kill college basketball for the true fan, but that’s a topic for another day), but it’s still fun to watch.  The Tim Duncan/Randolph Childress era was the high point for me, as a Wake Forest fan.  Frankly, I didn’t watch many games this past season, because I thought the Deacons were just no fun to watch.

And now comes the fork.  When Wake Forest fired Dino Gaudio this week, I was hopeful that a high profile new coach, with a proven post-season record, was forthcoming.  Visions of a revitalized WFU basketball program danced in my head.  I was really excited, and refused to believe that this would happen.  Now it looks like it will.

I’m willing to wait and see, but this doesn’t look good.

Jeff Bzdelik may be the best possible choice for Wake Forest, but other than his brief tenure at Air Force, which is a far cry from ACC basketball, nothing in his won/loss record makes that obvious.

Look, I am just a long time fan with a blog.  I don’t know squat about running a university athletic department.  Maybe this hire will be a stoke of sheer brilliance.  But if it is, Ron Wellman must have information that Google hasn’t found.

Because nothing about this makes sense to the untrained eye.

Wake Forest has a top 10 recruiting class signed.  While it should never be a deciding factor in a new hire, keeping that class intact should be a goal after the hire is made.  I’m not seeing anything that would excite me if I were one of those guys.  Princeton offense?  Seriously?  Isn’t that what Herb Sendek tried at NC State?  How did that work out?

I don’t know if its about friendship.  Or trying to keep the former assistants employed (that’s sweet, but shouldn’t a major factor).  Or maybe Ron was infected by that LOWF thing (the idea that Wake can’t expect to successfully aim high, so we should be happy when we avoid the bottom).

Someone will say that keeping the assistants will help keep the recruits.  To that I say so would a high profile hire that indicates that Wake aimed high and hit the mark.  Players want to win.  Good players want to win and get drafted by the NBA.  Convince them that this will happen, and you could have an Aardvark roam the sidelines and they wouldn’t care.

My working theory is that it’s a combination of three things.

One, Wellman believes other higher profile candidates are unavailable or uninterested.  There’s just no way on earth that WFU would fire Dino Gaudio based on wins and losses to hire Jeff Bzdelik.  There is just no way.  I have thought, and this is supported by the fact that Wellman is apparently on his way to Colorado to speak in person with Bzdelik for the first time about this job, that there were some informal discussions between various parties over the Final Four weekend.  Or maybe not.  Regardless, it means that either there was a plan in place that blew up;  this is the plan; or there was no plan.

None of those make me particularly happy.

Two, the LOWF spell goes deeper than I thought, and has spread beyond the “sunshine brigade” portion of the fan base.  You know, those who are fired up that we made the NCAA Tournament and actually beat the other most under-achieving team in America to make a rare trip past the first round (of course that same post-season business was the stated reason for canning Gaudio).  When it was reported that Bzdelik might be the guy, the sunshine brigade was momentarily stunned into lucidity and actually began crapping all over the idea with everyone else.  Slowly, however, they are regrouping and have embarked on a halfhearted effort  to convince us everything is fine.  It’s about 49% valiant and 51% heartbreaking to watch.

Three, for some inexplicable reason Ron’s desire to make a change was more important than the effect and results of that change.  About the only way I can explain the timing and chronology of events would be if Ron wanted to make a change, right that minute, and deemed any change better than the status quo.  I don’t agree with that- I’m afraid we are barreling a hundred miles an hour towards something much worse that the former status quo.  But again, I’m just a guy with a blog.

As I noted the other night, I mean absolutely no disrespect to Jeff Bzdelik or Ron Wellman, but college coaches and ADs are highly paid public figures, so this sort of analysis comes with the territory.

My analysis, at least as of now, is that I’m going to have some time to fill.

I hope I’m wrong.  For one reason or another.