Today we present Artesia High School of Lakewood, Calif., and O.J. Mayo of no known address as Exhibits A and B in the continuing case of Couch Slouch v. Sports Culture Run Amok.
(Note: I realize that many readers are tired of me complaining about the specious nature of collegiate "student-athletes" and out-of-whack values in regard to high school sports. Well, guess what? I'm tired of complaining about it, too.)
Last month, Artesia's boys' basketball team embarked on a five-games-in-six-days odyssey -- during final exams week -- that included a coast-to-coast red-eye flight. Here was Artesia's journey, according to USA Today:
The Pioneers started with a game in Lakewood on Day 1 and a game 70 miles south in Carlsbad, Calif., on Day 2 before an off day. On Day 4, Artesia had a game in Lakewood, then bused to Los Angeles International Airport for a 10:40 p.m. PT flight to North Carolina.
On Day 5, Artesia arrived at Raleigh-Durham Airport at 6:30 a.m. ET and went to Cameron Indoor Stadium for practice until 10:30. Players and coaches checked into their hotel rooms by 2 p.m., napped until 4:30, left for the gym at 6:30 and played a game at 8:30.
On Day 6, Artesia boarded an 8:40 a.m. ET flight to L.A., and after arrival, bused to its home gym at 1:30 p.m. PT and played a game at 6:30.
"I don't think it's excessive, not if we can compete at that level," Artesia Coach Loren Grover told USA Today. "It's a good opportunity for these guys. Some of them have never flown in an airplane in their lives."
Let me tell you why it's excessive, Coach:
1. NBA teams don't even play five games in six days.
2. Air-travel experience is not weighed heavily by most top university admissions departments.
3. Uh, IT'S HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL, for goodness' sake.
Then again, who am I to deny Artesia the chance to play Huntington (W. Va.) in an interstate showdown of USA Today Super 25 schools?
Which, of course, brings us to Huntington's itinerant O.J. Mayo, a scholastic Harlem Globetrotter of sorts.
Mayo was born and raised in Huntington. Because of a better basketball opportunity, he went to Rose Hill Christian in Ashland, Ky., in seventh and eighth grades. Because of an even better basketball opportunity, he then went to North College Hill High in Cincinnati in ninth, 10th and 11th grades. And, now, opportunity has brought him home to Huntington for 12th grade.
Next year he'll go to Southern Cal -- for 13th grade -- where he likely will stay for one year before graduating to the NBA.
(By the way, Mayo looks NBA-ready -- I saw him the other night on TV. Who would've thunk it? I'm sitting in L.A. watching live prep hoops from 2,000 miles away. But, hey, this is the 21st century; I fully expect to turn on ESPN any evening and be able to see really, really good high school basketball.)
Anyway, Mayo was going to miss the Artesia contest because he had received two technicals and was ejected from a game the previous week, and under West Virginia rules, an ejected player is suspended for the next two games.
But Mayo won a temporary restraining order from a circuit court judge allowing him to play against Artesia pending a decision on Mayo's procedural rights to appeal the penalties. I'll cut through the legal crap to tell you this:
They were in court arguing over a technical foul.
Uh, IT'S HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL, for goodness' sake.
Mayo and his lawyers wanted somebody to reverse a referee's decision to tee him up.
(Wait until Rasheed Wallace gets wind of this.)
So Mayo has a constitutional due process right to a hearing to change a ref's call? Oh, really? Then you might as well close shop on sports, or move March Madness onto Court TV.
It's unfathomable a circuit court judge would step into this fray. Maybe he had really, really good tickets to the Artesia-Huntington game.
Ask the SlouchQ. Tiger Woods said he would skip the British Open for the birth of his child. Would you miss a poker tournament for the birth of a baby Slouch? (Gary Randolph; Warrenton)
A.My sperm count is -- how shall we say? -- somewhat under par, so, to be honest, I'm more likely to make a birdie than a baby.
Q. Can I safely assume that if the Borg were to assimilate the human race, Dick Vitale's one voice would drown out the three billion of The Collective? (Ted Thornton; Charleston, W. Va.)
A.As Dickie V might say, "Resistance ain't fu-tile, bay-bee!!!"
Q.The Pistons' Richard Hamilton wears a Plexiglas facemask in order to guard against overly aggressive defenses. Did you ever consider wearing this type of protective device during your second marriage? (Tony Kotler; Washington)
A.Pay the man, Shirley.
Q. Why doesn't ESPN have "priority score alerts" for NCAA basketball games? (Bob Strunak; Fairview Park, Ohio)
A.Ring him up, too.
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