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My Column: The Current State of Basketball: Random Observations from a '70s Guy

The era of techno basketball is here to stay. And in a facetious manner, "Thank-you very much Mr. Roboto."

The greatest coach of the 70s, Indiana's Bobby Knight, the innovator of the motion offense
The greatest coach of the 70s, Indiana's Bobby Knight, the innovator of the motion offense
Todd Warshaw/Getty Images

Humans have a fascination with the sophistication of technology. It pervades our planet. And now it consumes high school and college basketball players, alike. Kids these days jet across the country to play AAU ball. Hell, I had to pedal my bike two miles, uphill, to find a game. Bring back the '70s Mr. Roboto, when basketball was pure and simple with individualistic style.

That being said, it's fun to to compare the different generation gaps, reminisce and exaggerate your era, while at the same time, blasphemous today's generation. Don't get this grumpy old man confused, he still enjoys the game and admires today's players. Those long and lean sculped specimens with acrobatic dunks, who can soar higher than the Empire State.

Like any Literature Professor, it's important to educate the reader with a historical context, then divulge into the content after one has gained a better understanding of the time period.

The 1970s will always be remembered for three major events. The impeachment of President Richard M. Nixon in 1974 after the infamous Watergate scandal. The opposition to the War in Vietnam that grew exponentially before finally ending in 1975. And the Apollo 15 landing on the moon in 1971.

The music scene introduced The Temptations, Stevie Wonder, and The Jackson Five, referred to as soul music. Several popular kick-ass rock bands erupted onto the scene. Rush, Boston, Supertramp, Jethro Tull, Aerosmith, AC/DC, Kiss, Black Sabath, Van Halen, Alice Cooper, and many more, generated musical rage that has had a lasting impression.

HBO, Showtime, and The Movie Channel were introduced on television and they caught immediate viewer attraction. And so did shows like the Love Boat, Three's Company, The Brady Bunch, and The Partridge Family, as well as, movies like Rocky, The Sting, Jaws, The Godfather, and The French Connection. And of course, ESPN was launched on September 7, 1979, with Chris Berman, the ace of sports anchors.

Technology was booming with the inventions of the microwave oven, VCR, 8-track tape, pocket calculator, and Sony Walkman. Apple Computer was founded in a garage. That's funny.

The 1970s was also a decade of sports dynasties. Parity wasn't a concern. UCLA dominated college basketball, the Cincinnati "Big Red Machine" dominated Major League Baseball, the Dallas Cowboys were "America's Team," and the Lakers and the Celtics seemed to always play in the NBA Finals.

But what teenage ballers of the time remember most of all, The Three Ms: Rick Mount (Purdue), Calvin Murphy (Niagara), and "Pistol" Pete Maravich (LSU). All three averaged over 40 points per game. And every kid tried to emulate them. It wasn't uncommon to notice the plethora of adolescent boys with long hair, gray socks, and black, low-cut Converse All-Stars, playing basketball.

Speaking of teenagers, life was full of simple pleasures. The girls talked on their touch-tone phones all hours of the night. The guys played whatever sport was in season. Our parents made us go to church on Sundays. We experimented with drugs and alcohol, loved music and concerts, and attended dances. It was a much safer time.

Enough said class.

It seems that the the players of today all look and play, alike. They are nothing more than a bunch of robotic clones created by some mad sports scientist looking to enhance athletic performance. The genetic formula is redundant - 6' 7" tall, long and lean -  and the side affects discouraging - converting threes at a low rate, missing free throws, and traveling two to three steps at a time. Nobody really stands out because they're all super human athletes with identical, chronic basketball flaws.

Why are we doing this? Golf is just as guilty. The David Leadbetter Golf Academy is loaded with talented youngsters that have been molded into the exact same (Tiger Woods) golf swing. Whatever happened to individuality? The days of signature styles are a lost art.

In the words of Paul McCartney, "Let it Be."

Rick Mount shot with flying elbows, Lew Alcindor had a sky hook, Earl Monroe had a double spin move, and Nate Archibald had more dribble-penetration moves than a teenage boy trying to get to first base on a first date. Speaking of foul shooting again, Rick Barry shot his free throws underhanded with reverse spin, while Hal Greer relied on a jump shot six inches behind the line. If I'm not mistaken, they both converted at a nifty 90 percent clip.

Talk about look-a-likes, these players are littered (tattoos) with more compression wraps and sleeves than a M-A-S-H unit. Under Armour has it all - knee, elbow, ankle, shoulder, back, wrist, calf, and bicep - covered. What's next, Ethylene-Vinyl-Acetate (EVA) helmets? Maybe these kids wouldn't need all the medical attention at the tender age of 18 if they had their summers off to recuperate.

The reason college scoring is down is two-fold. Shooting percentages are down both from the field and from the foul line. Secondly, these kids are so athletic that it translates to better defense. Teams are able to apply full-court pressure from start to finish. The end result equals turnovers. Back in the day, if a team committed 15-20 turnovers in a game, they'd lose. Not in today's game.

The 30-second clock won't help, it will just cause more errant shots and more turnovers. And inferior teams will get blown out by 50 points. March Madness screams Cinderella stories, not blow-outs. Eliminate the shot clock. And while you're at it Mr. NCAA, eliminate the three-point arc. Bring back the good old days.

The games are nothing more than a series of runs by each team and in between those runs, there are spastic intervals of helter-skelter. Hey Scooter, calm down. Sometimes their athleticism gets in their own way. Basketball is meant to be poetry in motion, like the UCLA teams of John Wooden, the Kansas teams of Larry Brown, the North Carolina teams of Dean Smith, and the Bobby Knight era at Indiana.

Back in the day it was simple. The biggest kid played center, the shortest kid played point guard, and the other three player positions took care of themselves. Now it's shooting guard, power forward, small forward, combo guard, combo forward, point forward, hybrid player, and combo double cheese burger with bacon and mushrooms on a sesame seed bun guard.

Back in the day it was Converse sneakers until Adidas came out with its techno-advanced shell cap toe made of kangaroo skin. Everybody had to have a pair. Now its the Under Armour Micro G Pro, Nike Zoom Hyper Rev, and Adidas D Rose 5 Boost BHM. Sounds like the new 2016 automobile models.

Do these shoes come with GPS systems?

Back in the day, we attended one summer basketball camp for one week. The rest of the summer we hung out at the pool and then played basketball in the evenings at various outdoor courts with chain-link nets. It was simple. Pick your five and play. The winners held court and the losers went home. Fun times. The girls would sit on benches and watch us play as we tried to show off. Then it was off to the ice cream parlor.

Now a days, these kids play basketball 24/7. They have no time to hang out and just be teenagers. Whatever happened to hot dogs, apple pie, and Chevrolet? Now it's vitamins, minerals, supplements, and the constant pressure to win, train, and perform. These youngsters become so physically and emotionally exhausted that "athlete burnout" is on the rise, not to mention injuries.

Let's play the blame game. Kobe Bryant has been outspoken, criticizing the AAU, describing it as "Horrible...terrible...stupid." He believes that European players are better passers and cutters and more fundamentally sound than American players.

Some critics believe the AAU is corrupt because they supposedly funnel monies from the universities and shoe companies under the table to help prospective recruits and their families. If that's the case, I don't see it as corruption, rather people helping people.

The AAU is one of the largest sports organizations in the country and plays a vital role in the lives of teenagers who aspire to become NBA stars. All the events, tournaments, camps, skill challenges, and games provide opportunities for these kids to gain national recognition, but at the same token, exposes them to recruiters at a young age and robs them of any down time.

A recent example is the offer Illinois proposed to 14-year-old Tyger Campbell. Now that's a "C'mon Man." These kids are receiving offers before their first pimple. Who cares if the young laddie can't drink or drive, yet alone, miss homecoming and the prom because the NCAA, hypothetically, instigates a new rule that teenagers can jump to the college level after two years of high school eligibility.

I can see the wave of the future, parents enroll their children in kindergarten at age three. That way, by the time they turn 14, their eligible for college ball and at age 16, they're ready for the jump to the NBA.

Parents enrolling their kids in AAU basketball shell out thousands of dollars a year. The fees don't even include traveling expenses to all the national tournaments. These parents are the American heroes in all this. I've read and heard countless stories of all the sacrifices these parents have made so their bouncing baby boy could keep his dreams alive.

Back in the day, parents were always supportive of us playing basketball, but they didn't have to re-finance the house or find a second and third job. AAU basketball didn't come into existence until 1978. By then, we were all in college and not playing basketball.

Back in the day Letters of Intent were delivered via the US Postal Service, no such thing as those crazy-sounding fax machines that s-c-r-e-e-e-e-t-c-h out weird-looking paper. Back in the day, the recruitment process was more copacetic. Today it seems like the same old song and dance, "Should I stay or should I go."

Back in the day, it was barbells and dumbbells and jogging on cinder tracks. Holy Moses, now it's Ellipticals, Treadmills, Step Climbers, Plyometrics, Yoga and Pilates, Cardio and Core, and kettlebells. What's a kettlebell? It must be an offspring of the barbell and dumbbell. Maybe it's the name of a restaurant. Who knows.

On a more serious note, I hope the 50-something crowd enjoyed the stroll down memory lane. And I wish these talented athletes "nothing but net."

And so, in the verbage of a '70s teenage boy, "Groovy man, that 6' 5" center played like tits."

Follow Tim Langevin on Twitter@Sports Rockers