Generation Gap

Some of you may have seen the story in the April issue of “Basketball Times” about the ACC media – but probably not many of you.

The Times isn’t available online and is proud of that fact.  In the “From the Publisher” column at the front of the issue, they proclaim:

“You may have noticed that we’re old school.  We have no digital version of the magazine, though we had one once and might have one again if we can figure out how a better way [SIC] of going about it this time.  But our core audience remains the crowd that still like the feel of a magazine or a newspaper in their hands, and we are committed to delivering the printed page to all who prefer it.”

“We’re not slick, either, in any context that the word implies.  This isn’t a glossy magazine, like Sports Illustrated, nor is it driven by designer, like ESPN the Magazine.”

They aren’t kidding about “old school” either:  The issue has an article about the 1963 Loyola team and 1983’s Phi Slamma Jamma.

But this isn’t meant to be an attack on the Times.  I actually look forward to getting my issue each month.  They have an all-star team of columnists, including Bob Ryan, Dick Vitale, Dick Weiss and Al Featherston.  This issue has a ranking of the top 115 coaches in college hoops and the top 90 assistants.  It was written prior to the NCAA tournament, and Gregg Marshall and Andy Enfield both score highly.

And the ACC media article is actually not a bad read.  With the recent retirements of ACC legends Bill Cole, Lenox Rawlings, and Caulton Tudor, it seems an appropriate time to look back at what the media corps is losing.  Each of them are unique and talented, and they can’t be replaced.

There’s a difference, however, between celebrating their contributions to the conference and the statement made in the article’s header:

“The Atlantic Coast Conference tournament drew a generation of journalists to their profession, but a cultural change within the league and the profession seems likely to leave the region without a similar group to replace them.”

As I said on Twitter when I first read that, “Thanks, jerks.”

As some of my more experienced colleagues pointed out, that might not be the most eloquent response, but hey, each of us is allowed to fly off the handle and lose their heads once in awhile, right?

I consider most of the people quoted in the piece friends, and I remember reading them when I was in school, wishing that I’d be able to do that someday.  Whenever I see Barry Jacobs in the media room, I still fight the urge to tell him, “I always wanted to BE you,” and get him to sign all my old ACC Handbooks (which I still have).  When Al and Jim Sumner get to telling stories, I always try to eavesdrop (even when they’re about Yankees baseball instead of the ACC).  I never worked up the nerve to introduce myself to Caulton.  I shook Dan Collins’ hand this season, and I sat across from David Teel in the media room at the NCAA games in Philly.

All of them have been very accommodating and supportive of the current generation of beat writers and columnists.  Bill Cole makes a point of saying “hello” to me every game we cover, which is something I can’t say I do for all of my colleagues.

I like and respect them all, and I feel confident that the vast majority of them would disagree whole-heartedly with the article’s header.

Granted, ACC expansion has changed the culture of the league, as has the change in the way news is delivered to the public.  But are those changes any more significant than television, cable television, ESPN, or the introduction of African-American players to the ACC?  The “old days” weren’t a picture of stability and tranquility either.

And, if anything, the article seems to offer the conclusion that the more things change, the more they stay the same.  Some of the best anecdotes are about Coach K giving Bill Brill a hard time in his post-game press conference, and media members staying up late drinking in hotel rooms on tournament weekend.

I shouldn’t even begin listing names, because I’ll leave out someone very talented, but Keeley, Streezy, Schramm, Smith, Gutmann, Wiseman, and Brownlow are just the ones I remember from one day of work in Indy.

The current crew of media members works—and plays—just as hard.  I think all of us have a hearty respect for the history of the league it’s our privilege to cover and for the pioneers who paved the way for us in the industry.

I think most of us would be able to tell you who jumped center against Wilt Chamberlain in the 1957 title game, what years Billy Packer played, when South Carolina left the league and when Georgia Tech joined it.

We may pound Franzia instead of whiskey.  Some of us follow Game Trackers instead of writing down plays on a legal pad.  We might retweet a player or Facebook message him instead of dropping by his hotel room.

Our job isn’t easier or harder, just different.  I don’t know if Basketball Times will be around to talk about us when we’re done, but I’m sure the concern that we’re leaving behind a talent-devoid wasteland to cover the games will be just as untrue.

(5’11” Tommy Kearns, 1959 to 62, 1971, 1979)

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