Seems like every time I pose the question, “Is it just me, or. . . ‘’ I’m interrupted with an immediate and emphatic “Yeah, it’s just you.’’
Obviously those who know me know me all too well.
Undaunted, I’ll nevertheless pose the following question.
Is it just me, or does Cory Alexander drive you to distraction and beyond every time you listen to him analyze an ACC basketball game?
He’s not Bill Walton bad, mind you. At least he usually knows what planet he’s on, and even occasionally who’s playing. But Alexander’s constant recounting of “The Life and Times of Cory Alexander,’’ leads me to wonder how ESPN, by employing Alexander, could show less regard for the game that is actually being played or for those who actually care what happens.
Who cares how Alexander, during his playing days at Virginia, supposedly engaged in these epic battles with Randolph Childress of Wake Forest?
Who cares that Alexander feels he that, even today, he could destroy anybody in the gym in a game of H-O-R-S-E?
Who cares why Alexander grew a beard, or how long it got?
Who cares that Alexander has to win every round of tit-for-tat he invariably instigates with every play-by-play guy he works with?
Who cares who Alexander coached in AAU, and all he did to prepare that player for college ball?
To all the above question, I give an immediate and emphatic response.
To hear Alexander recount his supposedly halycon days at Virginia (1991-95), one might get the impression he was the Wahoo’s answer to Michael Jordan. His constant bragging drove me to the record books to refresh my memory of just how good Alexander was in college.
Alexander was an All-ACC player, though the distinction comes with a caveat. He made second-team one season, his sophomore season. And even that distinction comes with a caveat. He barely made second-team, as the player with the 10th-most votes cast that season by the ACC Sportswriters Association.
And it was a distant 10th. Bob Sura received the eighth-most votes, with 220. Doug Edwards received the ninth-most votes, with 207. Alexander, for his part, received 148, only 29 more than Thomas Hill, the leading vote-getter on third team.
And Alexander, for the record, did make first-team All-Tournament that season when the Wahoos beat Wake in the first round and lost to North Carolina in the semis.
But to hear Cory Alexander tell it, you’d think he was surely one of the leading scorers in Virginia basketball history. At least Top 10, right?
Think again. Through last season, Alexander ranked 27th in career points scored at Virginia with 1,286. Mel Kennedy scored more (1,415). So did Elton Brown (1,356) and Norman Nolan (1,321).
Alexander, for the record, does rank No. 10 with 401 career assists, though the statistic wasn’t recorded at Virginia until the 1969-70 season. So truth is, we don’t really know where Alexander ranks, other than that it wasn’t the Top 10.
And as for that dead-eye shooting touch from anywhere in the gym, Alexander ranks 16th in career-3-pointers, even though the NCAA didn’t adopt the 3-pointer until the 1986-87 season.
Listen, Cory Alexander was a good player. Any player who plays 85 games in the ACC and scores more than a thousand points is a good player. And Alexander was also good enough to forge an eight-season career in the NBA. He was, for the most part, a journeyman, though he did start 19 games and average 14 points for a 1997-98 Denver Nuggets.
So again, granted, Cory Alexander was a good player.
And the few times I was around him before retiring as an active sportswriter in 2017, I got the impression he was a pretty good guy – loose, friendly, willing to give-and-take in the usual pre-game-gather-around-the-drink-machine banter. Folks seemed to like him.
So I have nothing personal against Cory Alexander, a good player in college who was fun to be around before a game.
My problem is that he’s not what he presents himself to be, and never has been. The truth, in this case, is definitely not in the advertising.
Best I can tell, it all started with Howard Cosell – or maybe Heywood Hale Broun – when commentators felt like they had to make the occasion more about themselves than the game they were analyzing. They needed a persona, or maybe even a shtick to help brand themselves and further their careers.
We all suffered through the verbal exclamation marks from Dick Vitale, but I’ve always defended Vitale for three reasons. I got to know him well enough to know he’s a warm, caring individual, he has helped me on several occasions, and he really, really knows the game of basketball and the people who coach and play it.
Nowadays we’ve got Walton telling us how he danced with the Grateful Dead at the Pyramids and all that. Maybe the Cory Alexanders of the broadcasting world see that as the way to go, to make it all about them. The direction has worked well enough for Alexander to get seemingly every big ACC game ESPN carries.
And with each passing year, there seem to be more analysts going that route. I call them the Lords of Babble-on because all they do is babble on and on and on while what could be a hell of a game is unfolding before us all.
Give me a good-old Dan Bonner, who shows enough respect for the game to actually tell me what’s happening.
Give me Dave Odom, who I thought was getting better and better every game he worked.
For that matter give me Billy Packer, who has an ego every bit as big as that of Cory Alexander but was smart enough to do what he was ostensibly hired to do.
Cory Alexander was hired by ESPN to tell us what is going on in a basketball game.
Instead, he’s become the Lord of Lords of Babble-On.
Am I the only one suffering through his babble?
Didn’t think so.