Let's Get Physical
Few things look more foreign to me than basketball clips from the '50s and '60s, and my reaction to them isn't so different than most young people's reaction to viewing classic films. Rather than appreciating it for what it is and how it's shaped what we've come to know and love we can't get past the fact that it's shot in black and white and that much of the acting is way over the top. Watch if you will, the clip below which is about 26 seconds of the first game at Allen Fieldhouse. The date is March 1, 1955, and the opponent is Kansas State.
To me, "40 Minutes of Hell" back then, looked more like 40 minutes of.....well.....kinda just being in the way. Also, it appeared as though Tyrel Reed drew more fouls from his own teammates Wednesday night than these guys did in a season.
Rest assured I'm not calling any of the players soft as I'm one of the nearly 130,000 viewers to have seen another YouTube gem showcasing footage of the '61 KU and MU brawl on the court. My guess is the haymaker you see at about the 25-second mark in the upper left corner would hurt just as much today as it did back then. This one's worth a few plays.
Such pieces do make me wonder, however, if a speedy guard like Reed or a wrecking ball like Sherron Collins might just blow the short shorts off a back-pedeling defender of the '50s. To put an end to my constant state of fear that columnist Bill Mayer would read this blog, march down stairs and slap me over the back of the head for insulting the legends, I instead asked his opinion, along with that of sports editor Tom Keegan. We talked about the game's evolution into hyperdrive and hyperphysical.
Beyond the advent of the dunk, which obviously revolutionized the game, Bill, who witnessed firsthand the feats of Wilt Chamberlain, Clyde Lovellette and JoJo White, explained that implementing year-round conditioning has played a great role in producing stronger and faster athletes. He did, however, stop me short of my next question to emphasize that these three greats, as well as plenty of others, could more than hang in today's game. Tom opined, with a smile, that the play and players have gotten faster but the refs have not, which can partially explain a more physical and loosely-called game.
Whatever the case, maybe I'm glad it's where it's at now because the physical game can be pretty interesting photographically. I'd rather be shooting game action where an occasional elbow sneaks by and one that isn't so ridiculously polite.