Most refreshing about the NCAA championship basketball game on Monday evening was that it showcased two teams, Duke and Butler, on which academic success and good character are priorities.
By all accounts, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski and Butler’s Brad Stevens stress to their players the importance of getting a degree and staying true to old school principles.
In past years, some of the players in March Madness were obviously “one and done” athletes biding their year in college until they signed lucrative professional basketball contracts and became instant millionaires.
Think Southern California’s O.J. Mayo who played one year for the Trojans then jumped to the Minnesota Timberwolves as the third overall pick in the draft.
In January, USC announced Mayo was ineligible the only season he played at the school. The ineligibility was, SC officials said, for receiving improper benefits.
As punishment for the infractions, USC withdrew this year from postseason consideration including the Pac-10 tournament.
Mayo isn’t the only former college player who has allegedly gone afoul of the rules.
But from what we know about Butler and Duke players, all are good men unraveled by glamour and temptations of fame.
Monday’s championship game was one of the finest fans will ever see, but most importantly it was played with coaches and student-athletes who had their priorities in order.
Butler obviously captured the hearts of America during their Cinderella-like ride to the championship game.
With the game now in the rearview mirror, it might be best for Butler players to listen to David Letterman’s advice and wipe the final score from their memories.
“Ah, you know, you got to stop worrying about that (the score) because what you did for your team, for your university and for your community and the nation at large is a victory, and just don’t ever forget that, by God,” he said on his nightly television show.
Wildlife fair on tap
The spring recreation scene peaks 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. May 8 at Green Valley Park where the 15th Annual Payson Wildlife Fair will offer a myriad of free activities including fishing and outdoor games.
Also participating will be the usual array of conservation groups offering up-close and personal looks at all types of wildlife including birds of prey, snakes, Gila monsters and alligators.
Food booths will offer a variety of lip-smacking delights including hamburgers and hot dogs cooked up by members of the Mogollon Sporting Association.
The fair is a cooperative effort of the Arizona Game and Fish Department, Mogollon Sporting Association, U.S. Forest Service and the Payson Parks, Recreation and Tourism Department.
For the event, fishing opportunities will be greatly enhanced by a stocking of trout that will be twice the amount usually placed in the lake.
Each year since the fair’s founding 15 years ago inside Rim Country Middle School gymnasium, it has grown in leaps and bounds. It now attracts hundreds of visitors from around Gila County and the Valley area.
It is especially popular among the younger set who enjoy the free fishing, angling lessons, children’s game and the fascinating glimpses of wildlife.