As we transition from the college gridiron to college hardwood, the question which gets asked most-often is:
"Who will be this winter's J-Mac?"
Sure, the new season of "American Idol" begins next week, but, more important for America is the re-connecting with the way we all felt a mere 11 months ago when we all allowed the tears to flow freely down our cheeks when ESPN firestormed us with that videotape of the Greece Athena High b-ball coach pimping his autistic team manager, Jason McElwain.
You remember: J-Mac missed his first shot -- but then his shooting touch warmed up ... and he warmed our hearts by sinking six 3-pointers in those final minutes against Spencerport.
But, then ... J-Mac wasn't allowed to play ever again.
Greece Athena's best shooter ... the team's most-prolific scorer (20 points in four minutes) ... had to sit out the playoffs.
J-Mac met the President.
J-Mac signed over his life story to Magic Johnson.
J-Mac -- although physically able and definitely more "capable" than most of his teammates -- was in street clothes for the playoffs
J-Mac became a "DNP - coach's decision."
Apparently, J-Mac's coach felt that because of J-Mac's mental retardation or spasticism (or whatever he has), the J-Mac's story was cute for one game.
If he was to play another game, though, J-Mac might've gotten "in the way."
After all, J-Mac had taken away valuable playing time away from another, yet undiagnosed, retard/spastic on the Greece Athena bench.
"Go back to handing out towels, jumpin' 'round like a spastic, ya freak show. We got us a state championship to win!"
Some of us thought we'd found a prime candidate for "J-Mac '07" when we were inside the Comcast Center in the final days of '06 and a nobody (the 13th player on Coach Gary Williams' Maryland Terrapins bench) named Jason McAlpin did his best Jason McElwain and buried two 3-pointers in the final minute of a 101-50 victory over Missouri-Kansas City.
The visiting UMKC Kangaroos seemed especially pleased that McAlpin chucked in that final 3 at the buzzer, mostly because a 101-50 loss looks neater and more tidy than a 98-50 massacre.
Seriously, though ... the only way McAlpin pulling a McElwain and nailing a 3 at the buzzer would've been more satisfying is if that shot had been made by a student in a wheelchair.
Or by a 62-year-old booster who had hip replacement surgery two months ago.
When did America lose touch with its hip-replacement populace?
So ... where are you, J-MAC '07?
Are you out there?
Who will be J-MAC '07? Who will dare put his (or her) b-ball program on the map, as t J-Mac did when he showed us the never-say-die spirit of suburban Rochesterians?
Who will take "Autism Awareness Week" and condense it into a 5-minute, feel-good video package, so that we can get back to conquering real diseases, such as shop-a-holicism?
ESPN's penchant for star-making -- vis-a-vis Jason McElwain's transition from weird dude with a weird affliction to "Jumpin' Jack J-Mac" -- was a triumph for everyone involved.
Mostly for the retards and the spastics (or whatever they are).
As a public service, ESPN created "an awareness" -- and America responded. You can't hardly go to a playground for a pickup game and NOT hear health-related afflictions intermingled as part of the lexicon of blacktop trash-talk.
"You know I got me some bad Downs Syndrome ... 'cuz when you're guarding me, I shoot -- and it's down!"
"I'm gonna go all spinal meningitis on yo' ass, dawg!"
"If you're thinkin' 'bout takin' this one to the rack, I'm gonna be on you like cystic on fibrosis, play-yuh!"
We're not so sure that the second one makes any sense.
But, that's not the point.
The name of the game is saving lives by creating awareness.
There's a lot of kids out there who aren't "functioning" autistics ... and those losers do things such as not speaking and maybe pounding their foreheads against a wall for an hour.
In other words, they aren't winners who can score 20 points in four minutes like Jumpin' Jack J-Mac.
They are children of a lesser god,
Unfortunately, J-Mac '06 isn't playin' college b-ball anywhere, so we'll need a fresh face as J-Mac '07.
That new talent definitely will not be coming from the George Mason vs. UNC-Wilmington game from a few nights ago.
UNCW was unable to score 20 points in four minutes (like J-Mac) -- but the Seahawks did manage to score TWO baskets in the game's first 20 minutes ... in a 55-34 Colonial Athletic Association loss to Mason, the Cindy Relish Story of last season's NCAA tourney.
The Seahawks, bless their hearts, went 2 of 23 from the floor in the first half and 8 of 26 in the second half -- a pretty lame showing for a team which actually beat Mason late last season.
It's not easy to forget how UNCW won our hearts in the NCAA tourney five years ago -- when the Seahawks gor some national recognition for body-slamming a quote-unquote "supposedly more-talented" team from the University of Southern California.
The only thing better than remembering how it looked on TV when Stewart Hare knifed between three 'SC players and threw down that nasty two-handed dunk is to look at the photo of that moment ... which just so happens to be right here.
Sam Clancy sure got bitched on that one.
USC basketball, though ... it just ain't happ'nin'.
On the other hand, George Mason '07 won't be a factor -- unless the term "Geroge Mason" is used in the following manner:
"Who is THIS year's George Mason?"
"Was Boise State's football victory in the Fiesta Bowl a CinderFella Story comparable to George Mason's run last season?"
Yeah ... probably.
And, "no" ... let's not rule out Jason McAlpin as J-MAC '07 to Jason McElwain's J-MAC '06. Just last week, McAlpin made a contribution during garbage time during the Terps' 88-57 romp over 0-12 Iona.
True to form, McAlpin chucked up a 3 during the final minute, although he missed with 32 seconds to play and the Terps ahead by 31.
Check yer math: J-Mac '07 is 2 for 2 on 3-balls when the Terps are winning by 40 points, but 0 for 1 on treys when the Terps are up by 30.
Make a mental note of that.
Speaking of funky math, just a few nights ago against Miami, the Terps went 6 of 23 on 3-balls and 7 of 35 on two-pointers.
Combined, that's 22 percent from the floor -- and that's where it gets queer because, despite shooting 22 percent and despite getting killed on the boards (50-39), the Terps lost by only 5 points.
It'll be a kooky b-ball season as we await the arrival of J-Mac '07.
It's not an easy sport to understand. For example, in the Jan. 8 edition of The Sporting News, b-ball writer Mike DeCourcy opened his feature on K-State's Bill Walker with (no lie) the following lead paragraph:
"Bill Walker is ... een uiterst begaafde basketbalspeler maar succes in het universiteitsspel komt niet zonder moeite. Hij begint slechts nu met het proces groot te worden."
If your Dutch is rusty, then you should try German.
"Wunschen Sie einen gestreifen oder einen karierten Schlafanzug? Auf dem Balkon ist es sehr windig. Die Gewerkschaft hat ihre Ziele erreicht. Die Anderung des Gesetzes stieB bei vielen Burgern auf Widerstand. Bringen Sie mir bitte Wurtschen mit Kartoffelsalat und Senf. Wenn Ihnen die Grundlage der deutschen Grammatik fehlt, sollten Sie einen Anfangerkurs besuchen."
(Translation: Would you like striped or checked pajamas? It's very windy on the balcony. The union achieved its objectives. The change in the law met with opposition from many people. I'd like sausages with potato salad and mustard. If you haven't mastered the fundamentals of German grammar, you should attend a course for beginners.)
Such disturbing messages means that it's probably time to conduct open tryouts to see if there's any dyslexic diabetics who can give us 25 points in five minutes.
Any amputees feeling up to the task of executing a reverse jam?