Random Rumblings: April 6th

After yesterday's blurb on the national title game, the blog of varied topics returns today. It includes a note on the historic Warriors run, something I forgot to mention about that title game and we start with a trial that captured America all over again.

The People vs OJ Simpson

The series finale of The People vs OJ Simpson last night on FX wrapped up a brilliant series that deserves the critical acclaim it's getting. The 1995 trial of OJ Simpson captivated America, right down to me as a kindergartener. While most of my classmates didn't care, I distinctly remember watching the verdict in my classroom along with one of my teachers. At the time, I obviously had no clue what I was watching. A five year old can't process the crime or the context, but I remember watching and knowing it was a big deal.

Twenty-one years later, I understand as much as one can not having consciously lived through it. The show did a remarkable job retelling an incredibly complex story that took 16 months in a ten episode mini-series. What I enjoyed about the show is how it wasn't trying to tell the story of the murders, but instead how the jury arrived at the verdict and how that journey impacted in incredibly high number of people.

I had no idea what the prosecutors went through. I didn't know nearly as much about Johnny Cochran's background and mission. I certainly didn't know about the insane twists and turns Judge Ito and the jury went through during the case. It was a learning experience as much as a show for entertainment, which I consider a massive positive considering the subject matter. Two people died. That can't be forgotten or taken for granted.

After every episode, I read fact-checking articles and I was astonished to see how accurate the show was. From the sexual tension between Marcia Clark and Chris Darden to various bombs dropped in the court room, the series did a rather remarkable job of capturing the circus that the trial was at the very least in spirit, if not directly accurately.

There was really only one moment where a stray from reality bothered me and that was the glove scene. It's the most pivotal moment of the trial and the show presents Darden's request of Simpson to try on the gloves as a rogue move that shocks his boss and colleague in Clark. That's not how it happened, so I'm not sure why the writers of the show chose that moment for perhaps their furthest stretch from the truth.

All in all, the show was fantastic. It was captivating, and many who were there for the trial were stunned at how it took them back, which is perhaps the greatest compliment the show could receive. I don't want to say I enjoyed it, again because of the subject matter, but it became much watch and I'm certainly glad I learned about one of the more captivating events of the last 30 years of American history.

One More Wildcat Thing

I wrote yesterday on Monday's national championship game, and soon after hitting publish realized I had forgotten one thing I wanted to mention: Villanova's discipline in that game was as easily identifiable as I've ever seen in a basketball game.

Controlling pace is talked about a lot in basketball, especially when one team has a very distinct preference. Villanova did a masterful job of slowing the game down, not so much because they like to play that way, but because they know North Carolina doesn't.

I've never seen a team so deliberately slow the pace while still playing with urgency. Even when teams slow down, they'll still run to try and steal a basket on a live ball turnover (steal, block, etc.) or a long rebound. Villanova didn't. They walked the ball up the court every single time, but they didn't then stand there and waste clock like so many teams in college basketball do. They walked up, ran a set and got good shots. It was a way to keep the pace down, but the pressure on North Carolina. It worked to the tune of 77 points on 57% shooting. This wasn't Wisconsin playing a garbage game in the forties. This was an offensive display of master discipline and execution. Credit to the Villanova coaches for the plan and the players for executing it to perfection.

For The Record

I've admired how the Golden State Warriors have conducted themselves this season. They're not afraid to talk about pursuing the '96 Bulls record of 72 wins. After last night's loss to Minnesota, they now need to win their final four games to break that record. Surely some will say "if they'd quit talking about it and just focus on the task, maybe they wouldn't lose games at home to lottery teams," but I'm not sure how they're supposed to avoid it.

The media wouldn't be doing their job if they didn't ask about the record. It's an amazing achievement that teams don't often have a chance of touching. Refusing to answer questions about it would just stack pressure internally. Instead, the Warriors have spoken openly about wanting to break it and why wouldn't they? "We want to win a lot!" Oh the horror!

The tricky thing with a record like this and the season they've had is that it's been a question for most of the season. As we near the end of the season and the reality of achieving the feat, the fatigue has to be real. The constant scrutiny has to wear down on them, as is the reality of having played 78 NBA games where teams are gunning to be one of the few losses in the Warriors' history books.

Even though the Warriors haven't played their best ball over the last few weeks, they're still winning at a remarkable rate and still are the team to beat, despite San Antonio's nearly equally remarkable season. If anything, doubts of their demise might serve as a boost of motivation and reinvigorate them for the playoffs.

The Warriors can still win the final four games and get the record. Whether they do or not, this is still unquestionably one of the best regular seasons by a team in NBA history, and if they win a title they'll be on any short list for best team ever.