Birthday perceptions are just icing on cake

December 14, 2004|by BOB PARASILITI

I took another step to becoming a full-fledged adult the other day.

Birthdays are scary that way. As the number increases, there are different labels - child, teen-ager, grownup, middle-aged, senior and then, Oh my God.

I'm now in there somewhere. Let's just say I took a small step for my demographic classification, one giant leap for my AARP card.

The funny thing about birthdays, though, is they are a time to add to perspective. For some reason, you get a lot of free time on your hands ... and when that happens, the mind tends to wander.


In that moment of the obligatory "What have I accomplished in my life" sequence, I found I still had 45 seconds left to think about some sporting issues that were kind of rolling around in my gray-matter attic.

Hey, it was my party and I'll pry if I want to ...

· Is it just me or has SportsCenter become a complete waste of time?

I sit there with my prune juice and bran muffin (age indicator) and tune in for my sports current events update. Their idea of Top 10 Plays of the Day is tougher to swallow than my muffin.

Instead of amazing feats of athleticism, it has become a collection of run-of-the-mill dunks and 3-point baskets. Instead of showing the extraordinary, it cheers any guy who can jump or make a 3-point shot.

Then again, not many basketball players can make jump shots anymore.

· Basketball is becoming more ridiculous every day. Simple athletic integrity (i.e. Ron Artest and Latrell Spreewell) is gone and the game itself couldn't be more boring to watch.

In the NBA, a defensive stance isn't the crouched side-stepping stance that makes players look like Larry the Lobster. Instead, the stance resembles Carl Lewis getting in the starting blocks for the 100-meter dash. The ball goes up and the sprint to the other end is on.

Here's a quick birthday notion that will continue to have Dr. Naismith rolling in his grave. Let's change the rules again.

How about awarding just one point for dunks, two for shots behind the arc and three for any shot inside the arc (which no one seems to make anymore).

It might make the 12-foot jump shot an important weapon again.

Please humor the old guy.

· The University of Maryland football season was a disappointment to everyone.

After the Terps had done so much to rejuvenate the program, they hit a bump in the road. So much for "WE MUST PROTECT THIS HOUSE."

I'm as big a fan of Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen as anyone, but he may have got a little caught up in his own success.

Friedgen may have got lost in the ego that is a part of all successful coaches. Prosperity made him believe that he could make a player fit his system as opposed to making the system fit his player.

Friedgen is an offensive whiz who has used his style to help get the San Diego Chargers to a Super Bowl and make Georgia Tech a dangerous college team. He showed what he could do in his first three years at Maryland with Shaun Hill and Scott McBrien with the same system.

But this season, Joel Statham didn't respond to the offensive style. A change would have been difficult to swallow. With so much time invested in Statham and the offense, it was difficult to walk away from it all. Everything worked out in time in the past, but in this case patience was far from a virtue.

It was a tough season to swallow for Maryland fans, but no tougher than it was for Friedgen.

· The letter to the sports editor written by Robert "Bo" Myers in Sunday's Herald-Mail had a lot of merit.

Myers, North Hagerstown High School's principal, put a call out for responsible people to step forward to coach in Washington County's high school athletic programs.

Like Myers, I agree athletics are major contributors to the development of school kids. It's unfortunate how my generation has forgotten about the benefits these athletics provide.

It has become a vicious cycle. There seems to be fewer dedicated athletes, playing before fewer fans and smaller student-body support with, in some cases, coaches with marginal interest or qualifications.

In the old days, coaches were teachers at the school. Those individuals have gone the way of Barney.

There is a lack of compensation for teacher/coaches, who are not getting back what they put in. There is no pay, disrespectful players and even more disrespectful fans and parents. It's too steep of an investment for the minimal return.

That leaves the system with volunteer coaches, who are well meaning but not always trained to handle the level of competition in some cases. Not all minor leaguers make the major leagues.

One disadvantage of volunteer coaches is they only see the players at practice and games. Teaching coaches have contact with the athletes as students during the day, which only adds to the discipline and organization of the team.

Volunteer coaches allow high school athletics to survive. But you have to wonder if everyone prospers from the experience in the same way as athletes did in days gone by.

Maybe it's time to find a way to bring back in-house coaches to the athletic system. High school sports shouldn't just survive, they should flourish.

Well, that's about it ... it's about afternoon nap time ... zzzzzz.

Bob Parasiliti is a staff writer for The Herald-Mail. His column appears every other Tuesday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2310, or by e-mail at

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