Ernest Hemingway Blogs About the Top Teams in College Basketball.
[Originally published March 20, 2008.]
North Carolina Tar Heels
Roy Williams is soft. His hands look manicured. They have never pulled tobacco from the dirt. He has never gutted a fish fresh from the sea. Soldiers shoot soft men in the back rather than follow them into battle. Williams should look out. He should watch his back. But junior forward Tyler Hansbrough is a 2-ton bull in baby-blue shorts. When he broke his nose last year, he saw red. He charged. His horns went down and gored opposing players. I would fight with this man. I would die for him. If a bullet met him, I would cradle his head till he left this earth. After the platoon’s soldiers shoot Roy Williams in the back, they’ll follow Sergeant Hansbrough into combat. Hansbrough and UNC charge to the Elite Eight.
Southern Californians leave me divided. Men like John Wayne epitomize everything that is right with masculinity. Men like Pauly Shore epitomize men castrated like dogs. I don’t know how I feel about the UCLA Bruins. They have many unknowns, such as freshman center Kevin Love. He averages a bull-like double-double. But he could not consistently emasculate fellow freshman O.J. Mayo in two games against USC. One UCLA lost. One they won. What game truly reflected Love’s manhood? I remain cautiously optimistic. Maybe the Bruins can struggle to the Elite Eight.
John Calipari is a smooth man. His hair is a product of his slickness. It is well coifed. He wants to sell something to everyone. He has sold basketball in a city of music. Heroes who dunk have replaced heroes who jam. But men remain men. And men push back against what challenges them. The Memphis players have pushed back against Conference USA. All the other teams in Conference USA have fallen before the macho force of the Memphis men. The guards are fast. They race up the court like angry, hung-over tigers. The front court is powerful. Each player can crack open a coconut between his thighs. I like them to fight to the Final Four.
The Volunteers run and gun like true men on the front line. They wage basketball war. They can tear through any defense, even mustard gas. But their coach wears suits from a burlesque show. Bruce Pearl is unfit to coach men like these Volunteers. They were lucky to beat Memphis, but he strutted like a circus barker. He should manage a cabaret dressing room. He destroys his team’s masculine power like perfume in the trenches. They will fall in the Sweet 16.
I do not trust men from the plains. They have no beasts to hunt. They have no stormy seas to tame. They have no mountains to climb. There is nothing in their lives that tests their constitutions. Men without tests are not men. Coach Bill Self has shown this. In two of the last three years, he has been pistol-whipped by teams in the first round. That does not happen to real men. I have no strong opinion of junior guard Brandon Rush, but I doubt he could juke a marlin with his dribble. This team is left without honor in the first round.
Duke Blue Devils
Coach K is a platoon captain. He can lead men to war. Men would gladly die for him. They would run over barbed wire. They would charge into a battery of machine guns. They would limp toward a field of death on his word. In this game, they shoot for him. They press for him. They pick and roll for him. But he is a man torn. He coaches Duke. He coaches the U.S. team. A man can only love one woman. A man can only love one team. Which team does Coach K love? It doesn’t matter. As long as he sleeps in two beds, he cannot commit like a man. The Dukies only march to the Sweet 16.
I have always liked Georgetown. Georgetown is the school of big men. Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning, and Dikembe Mutombo went to Georgetown. They were matadors, forcing the other teams’ horns to miss. That tradition continues at Georgetown. Senior center Roy Hibbert is a mountain in the paint. He dares opposing players to mount him and score. I believe in big men. I also believe in the power of blood. Junior forward Patrick Ewing Jr. is his father reincarnated. John Thompson III harnesses the manly terror that his father used on the sidelines. These men are gifted. These men are winners. These men will be the champions.
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