"I have a fantasy," I say. "I live in Three-Pointland. I live
out Beyond the Arc. I Launch from Three-Pointland. From
Downtown, Way Downtown. From Another Area Code. From Another Zip
Code. Nothing but Net."
"Uh-oh," she says.
"I Shoot the Trey," I say. "I Handle the Rock. Protect It with
My Life, of course. I Dish. I think of myself mostly as a Number
1, but I could play the Two in a pinch. The big thing is the
Trey. The Trifecta. I Lock and Load, Square to the Basket. I Get
a Good Look. I Launch!"
"College basketball, right?" she says. "I should have known. The
leaves are gone. The days are getting colder. You're going into
that hibernation thing again. You and the television. College
"It's not that I'm afraid to Take the Rock to the Rack," I say.
"I'll do that. I'll go Into the Paint, Down the Lane, Set Up on
the Blocks, Clean the Glass, Rattle the Tin, Grab the Orange,
but my strength really isn't Putbacks and Slams. I'm a
Three-Pointland sort of guy."
"I can never get it straight," she says. "Are those all separate
games you watch from now until the end of March, or is it just
one long, four-month production?"
"On defense, I'm In My Man's Face, In His Shirt," I say. "I Take
the Charge. I Give the Foul. I Trap. I Jump Switch. I Help Out."
"I think it is just one long game," she says. "The uniforms
change, and sometimes the lighting is different from different
arenas and gyms, but the horn is always sounding--honk--and the
same referees are blowing their whistles, and, for sure, the
same two annoying voices are describing the action in their
hyped-up, cliche-filled way. Is it a rule that college
basketball broadcasters can never read a book about anything
except college basketball, that they can have no knowledge
except about college basketball? Or am I being a little harsh?"
"I know there will be potholes and strange twists and turns on
the Road to the Final Four, but I am ready for that," I say.
"I'm not afraid to Take Control. I'll throw up the Tough Shot,
the Buzzer-Beater and it'll be Good If It Goes. Do you know what
I mean? I will Work the Clock and hope to Get the Call. If need
be, I'll Launch a Prayer."
"The thing that bothers me most about this college basketball is
the overemphasis," she says. "Do any of these kids ever go to
school? One night they're playing in Hawaii, and the next night
they're in Alaska. Doesn't that make it a little hard to go to
the library? Some of these teams are on television more than
Oprah and Ricki Lake and Alex Trebek combined. I think
Georgetown played Villanova a hundred times last year. At least
it seemed that way. Bobby Knight and that red sweater could be
part of the wallpaper. Is that the only sweater he owns?"
"I'm not afraid to Go to the Floor," I say. "I'm not afraid to
Set a Pick. Give and Go. Double-Down. Shake and Bake. Work
Without the Ball. Run the Break. Jump-start the Offense. I'll
get free with my Drop Step down low, my Crossover Dribble up
high. I'll always be aware of the Principle of Verticality and
will never put my hand In the Cylinder except when I'm Slamming
the Rock Home to Deliver a Message."
"Is there one kid in all of college basketball who is premed?"
she asks. "Is there one electrical engineer in the making? One
English professor? I suppose there must be a couple, somewhere.
The whole thing seems perverted to me. Kids from the West Coast
go all the way to the East Coast to go to college. State
universities fall all over each other to get tall kids from
Nigeria and Serbia and Finland to go to their schools. Where's
the sense in all this?"
"I'll work the Pick and Roll," I say. "I'll Lay It in with a
Kiss! I'll Box Out. I'll Put a Body on People! I won't Give Up
the Baseline, but I'll Hit the Front End of the One-and-One, and
I'll Look for the Cutters and the Mismatches. I'll Feed the Hot
Hand, and I'll Ice the Shooter. I'll Take Off from the Foul
Line. I'll Alley and I'll Oop."
"It just seems a little silly to me," she says. "The recruiting,
the scandals, the money. All of this commotion...."
"Three-Pointland!" I say.
"It seems like so much..."
"Beyond the Arc!"
(Pause for a program note: ESPN will televise 194 college
basketball games this season. ESPN2 will televise 87.
SportsChannel will televise 58. CBS will televise 50. ABC will
televise 31. NBC will televise six. ESPN and ESPN2 will televise
22 women's games. These numbers do not count the telecasts of
either the men's or the women's NCAA tournaments.)
"All I know is that it's a new season," I say, "and I'm Taking
My Game to the Next Level."
"Just make sure you close the door behind you," she says.
COLOR ILLUSTRATION: EVANGELOS VIGLIS [Drawing of basketball players in game in room with fans watching television]