Letter from the Editor

Monday, March 27, 2006

Basketball = life

As if there was much doubt, Iowa has officially become a college sports-crazy state.

On the cover of the Newspaper That Iowa Deodorizes Upon, or something like that, in type the size of a a billboard for the vision impaired, three-fourths of the front page is given over to an amazingly in-depth examination of the new Iowa State basketball coach. If you read it all, you may know more about this man than you do your own parents.

I stopped counting at the fifth photo of the new coach in that same issue (promises of much more on-line!) and about the eleventh sidebar, info-graphic and teaser.

You get the message here. Basketball is NEW.

And I must say the Register is not blowing anything out of proportion. Consider that the governor of the state makes barely a hundred grand, while starting wage for the coach will be $650,000 bones plus perks. Basketball MATTERS.

In comparison, the story in that same issue on the President declaring never-ending war got about one-eighth as much play lower down the front. A major vote on educational policy falls into a tiny hole at the bottom. North Korea announcing that it's ready to nuke our behinds to oblivion gets bumped to page 8. The former president of the University of Iowa passes away, but could only manage the B section. Basketball is LIFE.

You have to be happy and a little worried for Greg McDermott as he takes over poor underachieving, 'Clones. The cupboard is rather bare. An imposing figurative tumbleweed blows across Lincoln Way.

Coach basketball at one of the two big universities in this state, and you are bigger than the Beatles - and apparently, much, much more important than the President of the United States and world peace.

At UNI, he's been able to fly a little under the radar. He's gotten into the Big Dance, and yet has not had to be a household word. People at coffeeshops all over Iowa have not critiqued his daily choice of courtside wardrobe or whether he's put on a pound or two or whether he's combing a different way to cover some hair loss.

People probably haven't bugged him for autographs every time he tries to eat or fill up with gas, while taking the opportunity to question his choice of defensive sets.

He probably hasn't had to pick up that biggest paper in the state to read in bold the question on whether he can "handle" it. A guy shouldn't get that from the paper, but from his spouse.

And he probably hasn't had to worry about getting his hat handed to him if he doesn't make the NCAA Tourney some year.

He probably hasn't had to struggle to find a moment of privacy to spend with his family.

He hasn't had to endure rabid reporters badgering him nearly every day with conjecture on whether he's looking for another job. Ask Steve Alford. If I was Steve, I'd take a gig in the hair style salon at Super Wal-Mart just to finally shut them up.

Now that I've spent more time and effort reading up on Greg McDermott than I did on doing taxes, I would venture a guess that he's probably a fine choice.

Sounds like a good, personable, smart guy who knows his stuff and brings out the best in his athletes, and you can't argue with his record. He's a tried-and-true Iowa guy and that should count for something in the meet-and-greets.

As an alum and a lifelong fan of Iowa State, I wish him great success, even though I have to struggle to not see his face superimposed onto a giant shell being loaded into a big, smoking cannon...

I think the university has made a good choice.

I'm not so sure yet whether Coach McDermott has.

This is Iowa, and basketball, it seems, if LIFE.

Please, fellow fans, let's let this coach have one.

* Dana Larsen is the editor of the Storm Lake Pilot-Tribune. He can be reached at dlarsen@stormlakepilottribune.com