You be the judge

of this court news

(Reprinted from
March 19, 2009)

  TV court shows have become quite the viewing staple over the past several years.
  Night-shift workers, college students, retirees and people who suspect they’ll see some family member achieve 15 minutes of infamy are the individuals most likely to sit down for a daily video visit with Judge Mathis, Judge Judy, Judge Joe Brown, Judge Reinhold or whichever legal mediator happens to occupy that particular half-hour.
  These shows are popular because the folks who watch them learn a little bit about the law and also develop a fresh perspective on how good their own lives really are in comparison to the parade of human flotsam that continually bobs in front of the camera lens.
  Later this month, though, interest in the courtroom antics will probably wane a bit and be replaced by a different sort of court entertainment. When March Madness gets underway, everyone suddenly becomes a basketball junkie for a couple of weeks.

 In a shameless effort to tap into that increased level of interest, I’ve decided to dedicate this week’s column to some odd happenings related to the sport. Here are three recent Associated Press stories that caught my eye:
  OK, everyone knows about Indiana residents’ love affair with basketball. Being able to count Larry Bird and Oscar Robertson among the state’s legendary players certainly validates that high fondness level, but maybe the heavy emphasis on basketball should be rethought.
  This came to mind after reading that a school board in Anderson, Ind., was sparing a 47-year-old athletic facility while closing four schools in a cost-cutting move. The 9,000-seat “Wigwam,” the second-largest high-school basketball venue in the country, is considered historic, but that history seems to be encroaching too far into the district’s financial future.
  The Wigwam is remaining open despite the fact that it reportedly has been a drain on the district’s budget. According to the AP account, the building’s utility bill alone ranks as the district’s third-highest, but basketball trumped books as two elementary schools, one middle school and a vocational school will be sacrificed in place of the Wigwam.
  I’m not naive — I know a great many colleges, particularly those in NCAA Division I, value layups over literature and steals over social studies — but I hope I’m not the only one who finds discomfit in the Anderson situation. Sure, basketball is a more popular spectator sport than, say, chemistry — unless some kid causes a lab explosion, which he might if he’s getting shortchanged on introductory science procedures because of a grade-school closure — but can’t we at least pretend to care about young people’s academic well being?
  Perhaps we finally will when those same kids have grown up minus marketable skills. By then, though, it’ll be too late.
  One man who certainly understands the value of education is former Detroit Pistons star Dave Bing, who is running for mayor of that city.
  So important is scholastic achievement to Bing, in fact, that he gave himself credit even when Syracuse University didn’t. Bing, a basketball standout for the Orangemen in the 1960s, allegedly touted his MBA degree at different points of his campaigning.
  Seeing as how he’s a politician now and it’d be child’s play to do so, I don’t want to automatically accuse Bing of avoiding the truth as if it were a case of anthrax. Yes, a lot of governmental lifers would get 50 percent of the responses wrong on a true-false test, but maybe Bing simply meant to type “NBA” on his resume and accidentally hit the “M” button in error.
  Hey, the letters are right next to each other on a computer keyboard, so it’s possible. And as for the revelation that Bing’s undergraduate degree was earned 29 years later than he originally said — well, big deal. It could be that he’s no more proficient in mathematics than typing.
  Sounds like the perfect man to become an elected official.
  AP sports columnist Jim Litke wrote about an unusual proposal from Courtney Paris, the center on Oklahoma University’s women’s hoops squad.
  On the school’s Senior Night, Paris — whose dad, Bubba, was an offensive lineman for the San Francisco 49ers in the 1980s — proclaimed that she would repay every penny of her four-year scholarship if the Sooners failed to win the NCAA women’s title. When given a chance to rethink her position, Courtney Paris reiterated her original stance.
  “I want to do something special,” she told the Oklahoman newspaper. “I meant what I said.”
  The amount in question here is a cool $64,000, hardly chump change, at least to most of us. Will Paris be true to her word, or does this simply rank as one highly original motivational tactic?
  She can avoid answering, of course, by leading Oklahoma to the top. But if she doesn’t and she later reneges on her offer, Paris won’t necessarily suffer because of her waffling.
  In fact, Dave Bing might decide to put her on his payroll if he gets elected