The Bellarmine men’s basketball team is doing well this year. They have not yet been defeated. More people want to attend the games; tomorrow night’s game is sold out. Last year one could just walk into a half open gym. I don’t mind this. Louisville has a strange obsession with college sports, so Bellarmine’s victories have led to increased newspaper coverage. That’s free advertising. Also, more sold tickets means more money for Bellarmine. Sure, they don’t cost much, but an extra 1,000 tickets at $6 each is $6,000 per game. There was a new sidewalk constructed this week on campus, conveniently on my route from home to office. I think it’s the basketball bucks.
The first week of the spring semester is over, and I’m taking Friday night to handle personal things. Saturday and Sunday will have work. One of those personal things is cleaning, so I’m going to make some short book reviews so I can file away the books from 2008. They’re so last year.
One of those books is Can I Keep My Jersey? by Paul Shirley, a book about basketball. Mr. Shirley is a Kansas farmboy with a lot of smarts. Actually, National Merit smarts. He might have become a good engineer. Instead, because he is over 2 meters tall, he wanted to play basketball. He walked on at Iowa State, paying for college from his academic scholarship. In college, he developed into a good basketball player. Good is an understatement, really; Mr. Shirley is very good. He is likely one of the best 1,000 basketball players in the world. The book relates stories from his life.
I purchased this book as light reading because Mr. Shirley’s columns on espn had been humorous and enlightening. Parts of the longer text continue that trend. The problem, though, is too much cynicism. There’s a point where self deprecating humor just becomes sad, and this book speeds right through it. I don’t get it. He turns down places to play, with decent salaries – way more than Bellarmine’s ticket revenue. He never seems happy. Maybe it’s a fictional act, melodrama for the book. Maybe it’s a sign of physiological depression. In any event I don’t like it. I find it hard to imagine that he would keep taking these jobs, only to complain. It ruins the fun of the book, and leads me to give it only a below average score, 1 out of 5. In the past, I would have looked more sympathetically at the cynicism, rating it more highly. For my life (though not for Mr. Shirley, who took yet another basketball job in Spain this season), it’s good that I’m less jaundiced. That makes me feel better than getting a basketball-funded sidewalk.