You didn’t have to be in Ann Arbor to hear about Michigan sports over Spring Break.
No, the Michigan men’s basketball team didn’t magically become an NCAA Tournament contender, nor did the hockey team suddenly get the national attention it deserves.
But if you flipped through the channels to ESPN during your week-long hiatus from classes, odds are you probably came across something Michigan-related.
Whether it was video of women’s basketball coach Kevin Borseth’s now-infamous postgame tirade or Jim Rome’s rant on Kevin Cislo and the Michigan baseball team, the Wolverines got plenty of airtime on the Worldwide Leader.
But what the casual fan just shrugs off as a coach blowing his lid or a team taking a game too seriously means much more to me.
Now, don’t get me wrong. On the surface, outsiders had reason to believe the media drivel being spoon-fed to them.
Borseth’s Mike Gundy-esque tirade was indeed funny. And Michigan clearly cared more about its exhibition game than the Mets did.
Still, Borseth’s actions certainly didn’t warrant his firing as some ESPN analysts (Tony Kornheiser, I’m looking at you) may have suggested. Even though it makes the school look silly when Borseth hits the podium more times than his team collected offensive rebounds, his comments weren’t malicious and didn’t single anybody out. It was just a showing of passion and competitiveness that frankly doesn’t exist as much as it should in today’s sports world.
But, Kornheiser’s suggestion wasn’t even the week’s most ignorant statement that dealt with Michigan athletics.
Billy Wagner’s comment following the Mets’ 4-4 tie with Michigan in an exhibition game was even worse. When talking about an attempted bunt by Cislo, Wagner had this to say:
“If he got that bunt down, I would have drilled the next guy. Play to win against Villanova.”
Threatening to hit a college athlete in an exhibition game because he was trying to win? Classy.
If that wasn’t enough, Rome’s backing of Wagner was the cherry on top of this ridiculous sundae.
“The last thing Billy Wagner wants to do is bust it off the mound to field a bunt against a college player who happens to think it’s the ninth inning of game seven of the World Series,” Rome said on his television show. “Kevin, exactly what were you thinking?!”
Maybe he was thinking he should do his job? Maybe he wasn’t worried about contracts or endorsements and was simply playing baseball? Crazy concept, I know.
It’s too bad, because both the baseball and women’s basketball programs are on the rise. But outsiders will never have the opportunity to learn that, because the space to recognize these athletes is being occupied by ESPN trying to find the ultimate highlight or stories about professionals looking for the most money in free agency.
An outsider doesn’t get a chance to grasp just how amazing of a job Borseth has done taking over a program in absolute shambles. To turn things around so quickly is incredible, especially considering how little the team he inherited accomplished under former coach Cheryl Burnett.
An outsider wouldn’t know that the Mets bunted a couple times during that game, too. Must have slipped Rome’s mind when he was bashing a college athlete who has no medium to defend himself. What were you thinking, Romey? Are you just mailing it in? Is it not a contract year for you?
For many, these two stories were about entertainment. But really, they’re perfect displays of the difference between amateur and professional athletics.
One man complained because there wasn’t enough intensity. The other was upset that there was too much. That says it all.
I’ve always liked college sports better than professional ones. Thanks, Jim and Tony, for reminding me why.
– Bell can be reached at email@example.com.