And the Johnny Goes To...

By John Feinstein
Special to
Tuesday, February 26, 2008; 1:53 AM

Now that the Academy Awards are mercifully over -- they are over aren't they? -- it is time to hand out the awards that dozens of you have been waiting for: The Johnnies. All winners will receive exactly what they deserve. So here we go...

Best Performance by a League in Desperate Need of a Makeover: The NBA. In the wake of the Tim Donaghy scandal there were serious concerns that the NBA was about to become Major League Soccer, a cult league with little following beyond season ticket-holders and some scattered fanatics. But, the avalanche of trades in the last few weeks has rekindled interest with the new-look Suns, the new-look Lakers, the new-look Cavaliers and so many players changing uniforms that you can't tell who anyone is playing for. If David Stern could only figure out what in the world to do about the Knicks...

Best Story in College Basketball: Drake. My apologies to Bruce Pearl and Tennessee and Steve Donahue and Cornell, which is 10-0 in conference play and about to become the first school other than Princeton or Penn to win the Ivy League since 1988. Drake hasn't been in the NCAA Tournament since 1971, and Coach Keno Davis, who took over this season from his dad, the great Dr. Tom Davis, has the team at 24-3 with two one-time walk-ons, one handles the ball on every possession while the other leads the Missouri Valley Conference in rebounding, leading the way. Drake-Butler on Saturday was a much better game to watch than Memphis-Tennessee.

Team Everyone Will Try to Schedule Next Season: New Jersey Institute of Technology. The Highlanders wrapped up an 0-29 season on Saturday night and they lost 28 of 29 by double digits. The closest finish they had was a 62-53 loss to Stony Brook in December. If John Thompson was still coaching at Georgetown, NJIT would be on the schedule three times next season.

Weirdest Little Thing I Recently Noticed Award: John Thompson III, who has done such a great job rebuilding his father's once powerful program, tapes an interview with the great Rich Chvotkin that at halftime. This makes for some strange listening when Thompson is talking about how tough a team is going to be when the Hoyas are already up by 20 points.

Still the Most Underrated Sport Going Award: Hockey. Every time I flip to a game on TV I can't flip away, even in the regular season. I keep promising myself to get to some games and then life gets in the way and I find myself saying, "Next year." I swear if the Caps and or Islanders make the playoffs I will see some Stanley Cup hockey this year. There is still nothing better.

The No One Can Shamelessly Hype Themselves More Often Award: You know the answer to this one: ESPN. What corporate sponsored week is it this week, I lost track. Oh wait, I actually know this: It is something called Judgment Week brought to you by yet another corporate sponsor. What in the world is that? Hang on we have a news bulletin coming in, "ESPN's Andy Katz reports that the month of March will begin on Saturday. ESPN's John Clayton reports that the Giants have won the Super Bowl." Never has ESPN been more shameless than in the lead-up to Memphis-Tennessee. It was a big game, as February games go, but it was best summed up by Dick Vitale just before tipoff when he said, "Tuesday's night game against Vanderbilt is more important for Tennessee than this game is." This after ESPN spent the week acting as if the game was the Super Bowl, the Final Four and the World Series wrapped into one. Wonder if it would have been quite so colossal if it happened to be on CBS? Problem is no one can stop them. They own and operate most of sports, including high school sports, which they air constantly without any thought to what the over-exposure does to the kids involved.

Most Entertaining Coaching Search Ever: The Washington Redskins. The great Lefty Driesell once said of an athletic director, "The man could screw up a one car funeral." That description would certainly seem to fit little Danny Snyder and his coffee fetcher Vinny Cerrato. Wouldn't they make a wonderful sitcom? I hear people say he can do what he wants with his team, but that is not completely true. Owning a professional sports team isn't like owning your own company. There's a certain public trust involved, because it is the public that keeps you in business year after year. Snyder violated that trust long ago, not so much with his missteps, but with his extraordinary arrogance and willingness to gouge his fans every chance he gets. If Jim Zorn turns out to be a good coach, it will be nothing more than a lucky accident.

Best Line to Come Out of the Ridiculous Clemens-McNamee Hearing: Rep. Dan Burton (I-Indiana, the 'I' being for idiot) saying to Brian McNamee, "What if all your lies turn out not to be true." This is an elected official?

Best Feud of 2008 to Date: Mike Krzyzewski and Roy Williams. It's just so much when these two scrap because it's REAL. Some of it is just the Duke-North Carolina thing. They share a media market, they play each other at least twice a year, they recruit against one another and they are just so different. Krzyzewski is city; Ole Roy is country. Roy loves golf; Coach K loves tennis. Roy worked for Dean Smith, an ardent Democrat; Coach K is a hard-line Republican. They've done battle dating back to when Williams was Dean Smith's assistant. The Carolina people talk about injuries; the Duke people don't. It's not a big deal either way, but when they start sniping at one another it's like two kids wrestling in a sandbox.

Most Boring Athlete Alive: Tiger Woods. This is not a knock on Tiger. He's just too damn good. Even when he can lose he doesn't lose. Guys miss putts (Aaron Baddeley) or turn human, while he plays other-worldly golf (J.B. Holmes). He just wins and wins and wins and then he kind of shrugs and says, " I'm playing well but there are still things I need to work on." Like what, his fist-pump when he makes another miracle putt? His victory speech, which he has to give just about every week he plays? Like I said, this isn't Tiger's fault. Someone needs to find a way to compete with him. Jack Nicklaus looked pretty good playing Senior Skins on Sunday. He might be the best bet.

Best Day of the Year Award: Come on, that's easy: Selection Sunday. I can't wait to hear NCAA tournament selection committee chairman Tom O'Connor explain why the Big Ten deserved five bids.

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