Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Hoop It Up

TigerBlog took a few labor history classes while in college.

While he's hardly a trade unionist, TB at least could feel empathy for what some of those workers went through on their jobs and how the conditions that they were forced to work under were not only designed to keep them in poverty for their entire lives but also dangerous, in many cases life-threateningly so.

TB studied railroad labor, including the Pullman strike of the 1890s, and attempts for coal miners to unionize. He remembers some big dates and events from the movement, like the Haymarket riots in Chicago, even if many of the details long ago faded.

Still, even if he can't remember everything about American labor relations in the 19th century, he's pretty sure that the current NBA labor situation doesn't exactly have the same issues.

In fact, it's pretty much insane that an entire NBA season is on the verge of being scrapped, not with all the money that these two sides have, not with what the average non-NBA-playing American is going through these days.

And yet there they are, talking about how the collective bargaining process has broken down and how, according to the NBA commissioner, they're facing the "nuclear winter" for the league.

There are two things that the basketball players - not the owners as much - aren't taking into account:

1) they are not the NFL
2) very few people miss their product

It's the second one that is most important.

During the NFL lockout, TB did not for one second think that a single minute of regular-season NFL football this year would be lost to the labor situation.

During the NBA lockout, there hasn't been one second where TB thought they'd actually play.

And he could care less. So he can't watch the Knicks? Oh well.

Fan loyalty in the NFL is about a million times what it is in the NBA. Besides, major college football isn't a substitute for the NFL, but college basketball definitely is for the NBA.

If you're looking for a team to rally around on a basketball court while the NBA players try to figure out how to save face (that's what this is really about, not appearing to be weak), then try the Princeton women's basketball team.

Princeton is 2-0 in women's basketball this season - and 52-8 going back to the start of the 2009-10 season.

Princeton has defeated St. Joe's - a very good Atlantic 10 team - by 17 points and Lafayette by 40 points after last night's 87-47 Tiger win.

The Princeton-Lafayette series stood at 18-17 Princeton after the Leopards won by two in the 2008-09 season. In the three games since, Princeton is 3-0, with a combined margin of victory of 105 points.

What Courtney Banghart and her staff have done with the women's basketball team is extraordinary.

Princeton had shared Ivy titles in 1985, 1999 and 2006 and had never played in the NCAA tournament prior to Banghart's arrival in 2007-08.

Her first team went 7-23; her first recruiting class is going to consist of two 1,000-point scorers. One of those, Lauren Edwards, reached the 1,000-mark last night, while Devona Allgood is closing in on the mark. Niveen Rasheed, a junior, will get there by the end of this year - and would have been really close or there already had she not lost 17 games last year to a torn ACL.

The talent level that Princeton has is remarkable, to the point that the Tigers pushed a 24-point lead to 40 last night against the Leopards while having five non-starters on the court.

In addition, the team is entertaining to watch, as they push the ball, cause turnovers, shoot threes, score in bunches. Rasheed is the complete package, as her 22-point, seven-rebound, four-steal, three-assist performance - in just 23 minutes - last night shows.

TB knows that women's basketball is a tough sell and that a large percentage of the male audience is never going to want to watch the "girls" play.

That, though, is a mistake, especially in this case.

The women's team here is a special group, one that's in Year 3 of a tremendous run. Coming up in the next week are two great home games, Saturday at 3 (as the second part of a doubleheader that starts with the men's game against Buffalo at 12:30) against a strong Villanova team and the Monday at 7 against Marist, which reached the Sweet 16 recently and which has become a perennial Top 25-35 team.

Tell you what. Come see those games, and then make up your own mind about this team.

It's better than staying home and watching the Sixers-Raptors.

What's that? Oh yeah, you couldn't if you wanted to.

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