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In the 1970s a myriad of “joneses” or addictions to everything from shopping to eating were suddenly “discovered.” If you did anything more than twice a week, you were instantly in need of “therapeutic” help. However for those from the inner city who could not afford lobster tail or designer clothing or psycho analysis, the next addiction available at almost no cost was the sport of basketball: well at least according to the lyrics of the Cheech and Chong classic cult hit “Basketball Jones.”

“I got a Basketball Jones, got a Basketball Jones, oh baby, oo-oo-ooo. Yes, I am the victim of a Basketball Jones. Ever since I was a little baby, I always be dribblin’. In fact I was de baddest dribbler in the whole neighborhood. Then one day, my mama bought me a basketball, and I loved that basketball. I took that basketball with me everywhere I went. That basketball was like a basketball to me.”

Now in the midst of the NBA Eastern and Western Finals I am trapped on a bus, trapped in traffic on a so called “major artery.” If this is a major artery then a major heart attack is about to happen on this roadway. There is a very spirited debate concerning professional basketball and the collegiate version of the sport. One of my captive “gurus’ offers up his analysis of the NBA postseason.

“I really get into the playoffs in the NBA because the teams that make it through are the best teams,” he says. However, his colleague has a slightly different take. “The NBA players are spoiled and get far too much money,” he argues. “The college players play for the love of the game. That’s why I love March madness, you can feel the excitement in the air.”

He’s got a basketball Jones, got a basketball Jones, he’s got a basketball Jones, ooo, ooo, oo, maybe.

The NBA “advocate” says: “But the college guys don’t get paid. Who is going to play harder, the ones playing for free or the ones getting a paycheck?”

Good question. Cheech and Chong went on to say that: “I even put that basketball underneath my pillow. Maybe that’s why I can’t sleep at night. I need help, ladies and gentlemens, I need someone to stand beside me. I need, I need someone to set a pick for me. At the free-throw line of life, someone I can pass to. Someone to hit the open man on the give-and-go, and not end up in the popcorn machine”

Many unpaid college “basketball athletes” end up at the popcorn machines and the McDonalds in life with no one to stand beside them when they are stranded at the free throw lines of life, with nowhere to go. No one to pass off to regarding the many trials and tribulations that they encounter in life. The “open man” to these colleges are the ones that can be recruited to play for free and help these institutions’ capitalize and make billions of dollars.

These athletes epitomize the “give-and-go” strategy of the NCAA and their cohorts. The athletes give and are forced to go, destination, wherever? As my grandmother used to say; “you ain’t gotta go home, but you gotta get the h–l outta here.” I sorta, kinda like the NBA theme song a tad better. “I got a paycheck Jones, I got a paycheck Jones, got a paycheck Jones, ooo-ooo-ooo.”

Aubrey Bruce is the Senior Sports Columnist for the New Pittsburgh Courier. He can be reached at: abruce@newpittsburghcourier.com or 412.583.6741 Follow him on Twitter@ultrascribe

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