WHAT I’M THINKING ABOUT TODAY: Close, but no cigar

1. It’s Tuesday, April 7, 2015. The Mets are in first place!

2. OK, Wisconsin didn’t do it. But the Badgers did make the Big Ten proud, and played a classic national championship game against a Duke that deserved its win. Don’t worry, Big Ten fans — next year, the Northwestern Wildcats will bring the title to the conference.

3. Is it fair to say that Duke is a “rent-a-player” team? That has been the accusation in social media and the real world on the day after its dramatic triumph.

It’s widely expected that Duke’s star freshman, Kahlil Okafor, will leave the school now that he’s won an NCAA championship and become a highly paid NBA pro. Other freshmen on the team might do the same.

Old-time basketball fans love the idea of a player spending four years at a college, peaking in his senior year and possibly winning a championship. That’s one reason Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky was everyone’s favorite player in the tournament — he’s a senior, it’s his turn.

But that’s not how it works. Okafor has a talent. Duke was the best place to showcase that talent so that he can do what he probably thinks is the most important thing to do: provide for himself and his family.

And if he’s about to get a big payday — he will have earned it. You don’t just show up and score 20 points for a powerhouse basketball team. He put in the work. He’ll get what’s due.

There’s been grumbling about the Duke players. Some from Wisconsin fans — perhaps a little understandable disappointment the day after. But even U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri chimed in this morning, saying “Congrats to Duke,but I was rooting for team who had stars that are actually going to college & not just doing semester tryout for NBA.” 

The fact is that Duke earned its national title. Mike Krzyzewski, Duke’s coach, has a long-standing reputation for integrity in bringing in players and making them abide by the rules. Barring any indication to the contrary, he deserves the kudos coming his way today.

Unless somebody wants to change the way college basketball is run, and reduce the jackpots that the NCAA, the schools and the TV networks win each March, give the Blue Devils their due and wait ’til next year. Even Sen. McCaskill understands that, posting: “To be clear folks, this isn’t about the kids,this is about the system.This is about the NCAA/NBA.I don’t blame the very talented athletes.”

4.   Rand Paul went to Duke. He announced today he’s running for President. I suspect his good fortune ran out last night.

5.   Stan Freberg died today. Most Americans my age and younger don’t remember him. But if you’ve ever seen a really funny commercial of the past, he might be behind it.

I really recommend this commercial for Geno’s Pizza Rolls. The commercial is, in part, a spoof of a Lark cigarette ad of the era, which had the Lone Ranger music (aka, Rossini’s “William Tell Overture”) playing as a truck rolled through a city asking people to show their Lark packs. One night, after the Geno’s ad, Johnny Carson told his audience that he had ever heard clap for a commercial.

Freberg was also a prominent satirist on radio in the ‘50s and did some television. He was part of that group that made wildly popular comedy records in the ‘60s, along with Bob Newhart, Bill Cosby, Allan Sherman, and Nichols and May.

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