Sometimes, hoops just isn’t fair

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 30, 2006

Life, as they say, just isn’t fair.

You wait in line for half an hour at the movie theater, only for the person in front of you to buy the last ticket to the film you wanted to see. The dog that never goes on the carpet and curls up at your feet while you read becomes roadkill at an early age, while the one that barks nonstop every night between 2 and 5 a.m. because the heater came on lives to be 27. You get yourself psyched up for your favorite football team’s bowl game against the Wisconsin Badgers, and they play like their mothers woke them up thirty minutes before kickoff yelling “Hurry, get up! You’re going to be late for the team bus!” (Yes, I’m bitter.)

And in a lot of ways, high school basketball isn’t fair, either. Here’s a quick list of things that don’t seem to be the way they should, but that there’s no real point in complaining about, either:

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1. R.C. Hatch’s road to Birmingham. The boys will first have to get through Keith at the area tournament, who they have beaten twice already this year but was ranked 10th by the ASWA just last week. At the sub-regional they will either face top-ranked Altamont or, more likely, seventh-ranked defending state champion Calera. At the regional level, then they will almost certainly run into the Altamont team that knocked them out of last year’s playoffs. If you’re keeping track, that’s three games against ranked teams before they even get to Birmingham.

But things aren’t all bad for the second-ranked Bobcats. If you accept the rankings and believe that Altamont and Hatch are the two top teams in the state, it’s better for the Bobcats to meet them in Mobile–a site much, much closer to Uniontown than Birmingham–than in Altamont’s home city.

2. No shot clock. My esteemed predecessor in the Times’ Sports Editor’s chair wrote a column about this time last season arguing that Alabama prep hoops needed a shot clock. It was met with a favorable response, which is understandable. Any fan who’s ever watched their team chase and chase and chase as their opponent plays keep-away in the final minutes of a close game has said the exact same thing.

But it’s just not practical. First off, neither shot clocks nor the substantial amount of money it would take to put one in every gym in the state grow on trees. Even if they did, I’ve seen more than one clock operator this season overwhelmed by the job’s current requirements, to say nothing of what would happen if he or she was worrying about who had possession when and whether balls had touched rim or not. So let’s say we just let one of he referees keep the time. It’s a passable idea, but a) how would the players ever know when the clock would run out and b) like the refs don’t have enough on their minds? Shot clocks would be nice, but they’re not on their way anytime soon, either.

3. Greene County’s, Livingston’s, and Demopolis’ boys each in the same area. One of these teams isn’t going to advance to sub-regionals. More specifically, either Demopolis or Livingston isn’t, since they will face off in the 2-seed-vs.3-seed game and one will see its season end. It’s a shame: either team would easily qualify as at least a runner-up in nearly any other area in the region. Take Area 6: Greensboro is having a solid season and has won the area over second-place Bibb Co., but Demopolis defeated the Raiders three times out of three and crushed Bibb early in the season. (And Livingston, of course, walloped the Tigers in their recent meeting).

But, of course, there’s not anything the AHSAA could do or could have done about it. Travel costs and natural rivalry, combined with the rapidly fluctuating quality of teams from year to year, mean that the strength of teams in a given area can’t be a concern when putting together their area organization.

4. That Greensboro’s and Demopolis’s girls might not meet in the playoffs. After three games’ worth of regulation time in what has become the area’s most exciting rivalry this season, these two teams are dead even in total points scored. (Greensboro won their second meeting in overtime, and each team has won a game in regulation by two). They’ll lock horns again Feb. 3 in Greensboro, and if we’re all lucky, they could meet one last time in Mobile for the regional crown. But that’s still a long ways off: given their struggles against much-improved area foes Thomasville and Greene Co., Demopolis isn’t a lock to make sub-regionals. And neither team would face easy competition either at the sub-regional level or in a potential regional semifinal in Mobile.

Four times isn’t enough, I’m telling you. If life was fair, the AHSAA would step down from on high and demand that the two teams duke it out one last time with everything on the line.

But ask the guy who watches a state trooper write him a ticket as a Corvette roars by doing 100, or the bride who sees a three-week drought end the day of her outdoor wedding, or a sports editor who watches the batteries in his camera die just as he gets everyone to smile and look his way … it just ain’t fair.