ABC-TV did this market right today.
Shortly after high noon, ABC gave us an Arena Football League opener ("it's the Ayyy-Efff-ELLL on Ayyyy-Bee-CEEE!") between the Dallas Desperados and the Georgia Force and -- on the other local ABC affiliate in this market -- we were served an NCAA lacrosse tussle between the UMBC Retrievers and the Drexel Bulldogs (nobody said it was a great tussle, but, at least it wasn't college 3-ball shenanigans ...).
This open-minded programming allowed us to blow off that UNC-BC basketbore game in which Tyrese Rice had 34 points in the first half; two buckets in the first minute after intermission; and eight points in the final 18-plus minutes (including a three-point play during garbage time in the final minute).
Then, following ABC's first-day-of-March episode of "The Waste Management Postgame Report," the programming braintrust made an important statement by offering America the movie "Old School."
Maybe somebody somewhere somehow was trying to remind America of the Frank Ricard in us all -- y'know, as depicted in the scene wherein Frank (Will Ferrell) was dressed in the Cougar mascot costume for his Harrison College/school spirit exam when he literally flopped (after successfully executing the backflips) when he was required to jump through the ring of fire in the gym.
Frank, of course, knocked over the flaming ring, landed on the burning apparatus and then caught on fire.
It's important to note that, as an icon of American laughter, Will Ferrell is highly overrated as a comedian who specializes in stunt humor ("Anchorman" remains one of the unfunniest movies in the history of the universe ... of all time ... ever) -- which is why the Harrison College Cougar knocking over the flaming ring and catching on fire is quite amusing (because it was Ferrell's stunt double inside the costume).
Still ... was it really necessary to kill Craig Kilborn's character (Mark) and Jeremy Piven's (Dean Pritchard) in the same scene at movie's end?
We ask these questions because these are the topics which "The Waste Management Postgame Report" refuses to address (notice how Waste Management seems more dignified when it is associated with a "report" rather than existing as merely a "show" ... a real classy touch ...).
Although this Planet spends a lot of time (justifiably mocking) the Disneyland TV Empire known as "ABC/ESPN," we're not above giving credit where credit is due.
Nevertheless, nowhere in this neighborhood today were we able to locate the Wuss Virginia/UConvict game in order to catch up with this Planet's newest b-ball heartthrob.
And, that's you, 7-foot senior JAMIE SMALLIGAN.
Nobody around here is sure if this newfound appreciation is symptomatic of a need to get a "New Pittsnogle" into our lives -- or if it's merely our nomination for the dork most likely to knock over the flaming ring and catch on fire.
Today, though, Jamie Smalligan had the unenviable task of tangling with UConn's 7-foot-3 Tanzanian Terror, Hasheem Thabeet.
Although the matchup probably ranks a notch below a vintage 7-footer-vs.-7-footer matchup -- a la Patrick Ewing vs. Akeem Olajuwon (or Ralph Sampson) -- this confrontation was special in a different way.
Smalligan -- 12 minutes, 0 of 5 from the floor (0 of 4 on 3-balls), 4 fouls, 1 assist, zero rebounds, zero points ...
Thabeet -- 18 minutes, zero shots attempted, 3 blocked shots, 2-2 free throws, 2 rebounds, 3 fouls, 2 points ...
Vintage b-ball '08.
If it ever makes it to YouTube, the Smalligan/Thabeet, lowpost tango could set a record for hits in a day.
The funny thing is, Hasheem Thabeet receives a lot of recognition (wink wink, ESPN) for his shot-blocking prowess (which, Waste Management agrees, seems like a waste of time) -- and today's showcase came on the heels of Tuesday night's 0-of-7, 2-point effort vs. Rutgers.
Jamie Smalligan, our new hero, doesn't need to defend his actions to anyone.
In fact, his '07-'08 accomplishments are (semi-)legendary:
-- In blowout wins over Arkansas-Monticello and Prairie View A&M to open the season, Jamie Smalligan sank 4 of 11 3-balls ...
-- In a 74-72 loss to Tenn., Jamie Smalligan played 20 minutes, took 2 shots (both 3-balls) and missed 'em both ...
-- In Wuss Virginia's next 8 games (all wins), Jamie Smalligan was 1 of 13 on 3-balls, 2 of 4 on 2-balls and gobbled up 8 rebounds ...
-- In back-to-back losses to traditional football powers Oklahoma and Notre Dame, Jamie Smalligan was 0 of 5 on 3-balls ...
-- In his next 6 games, Jamie Smalligan played a total of 57 minutes and was 0 of 5 on 3-balls ...
-- In a 58-57 loss to Georgeclown one month ago, Jamie Smalligan knocked down both of his 3-balls, but did not have a rebound in 19 minutes of action ...
-- In the 5 games which followed the Georgeclown loss, Jamie Smalligan was 3 of 8 on 3-balls ...
-- In the previous 3 games leading up to today ('Nova, Providence, DePaul), Jamie Smalligan played a total of 27 minutes and did not score (3 shots, 0 of 2 on 3-balls, 3 rebounds) ...
Sometimes, ya get the feeling that Jamie Smalligan is saving it up for the postseason -- just like last year when he sank 7 of 13 threes in the Meltdowneers' run to the NIT championship (during those amazing games which most of America will never forget, Frank Young was 24 of 35 on 3-balls while the scattershot Alex Ruoff was 6 of 27 from "distance").
For the record, 7-foot Jamie Smalligan is averaging almost 3 PPG, 2 RPG and has drilled 10 of his 54 threes.
It's in the stats which don't show up in the boxscore where 7-foot Jamie Smalligan's "hidden value" shines through for the Meltdowneers.
For example, 7-foot Jamie Smalligan wears #43, probably as a tribute to the two greatest Meltdowneers in WVU history -- Jerry West #44 and the aforementioned Pittsnogle (#34).
(Note: Nobody remembers what jersey number Bob Huggins wore for the Meltdowneers. 'Cuz nobody cares ... The number we DO care about is that 12.7 graduation rate of his players at Cinshitnati ... )
Adding to the lore is the fact that Jamie Smalligan is probably the best #43 in college basketball since the days when Geert Hammink averaged 15 PPG and 10 RPG in for LSU in '93 (the season after Shaq left) before the powerful Dutch superstar went on to co-star as an Indiana Hoosier in the motion picture "Blue Chips."
Don't think that all of these intangibles are lost on Coach Huggy, the former Meltdowneer star who was chosen to succeed John Beilein in order to bring another NIT championship trophy back to Meltdowntown, WV.
(Sidebar: More than likely, Huggy won't bother to clutter the WVU trophy case which houses that 2007 NIT Championship hardware with the "NCAA Certificate of Participation" paperwork which reads: "Wuss Virginia: 2008 Regional Quarterfinalists")
(2nd Sidebar: The distinction of "NCAA Regional Quarterfinalists" means that a team has won its first-round game against Stetson or Belmont or Quinnipiac or Florida A&M and then lost its second-round game to the Drake Bulldogs or the Butler Bulldogs or to an SEC also-ran such as the Mississippi State Bulldogs)
None of this matters to 7-foot Jamie Smalligan, the mighty Titan in the paint for WVU who has blocked ONE shot all season (that was against that junior high junior varsity squad from Prairie View A&M when somebody, obviously, lost his balance and, while falling down, pushed his scoop shot into Jamie Smalligan's underdeveloped chest or his non-muscular arms).
That's what's truly inspiring about Jamie Smalligan -- he makes America want to be a better America.
In fact, Jamie Smalligan makes us think about the Jamie Smalligan inside us all -- not to be confused with the Frank Picard inside us all.
He makes us want to hop in our car during our lunch break, pull up to an elementary-school playground, walk out to where the 3rd graders are playing some b-ball and then flyswat the next shot put up by a 3-foot-tall kid who would dare do so with us standing right there.
Upon rejecting that tyke's shot, we could bark, "That's what I'm talkin' 'bout!" ('cuz that's what everyone under the age of 32 says), pound our chest as we walk away, hop back into our car and then hustle over to the computer and type an e-mail to Jamie Smalligan which reads simply, "Now, we're tied, bitch."
Simply put, 7-foot sensation Jamie Smalligan has a lot of game.
Or, put another way: What's NOT to like about 7-foot Jamie Smalligan of the Wuss Virginia Meltdowneers?