LEXINGTON, Ky. — Thank you, Georgetown.
Thank you for not even thinking about letting St. John's, the sentimental favorite, slip by you and into the NCAA championship game Monday night.
Thank you for setting up the confrontation the nation's fans really want to see, but didn't realize it until now--Cinderella vs. the Ugly Stepsisters.
I mean nothing personal by that, of course.
It's just that a lot of fans see you as the bad guys, as bullies and thugs. I think the fans will come around, though, and learn to appreciate you as I have.
Without you, Monday's final game would be too much like Saturday's Villanova-Memphis State game--the battle of the blands.
You'll win easily Monday night, of course, sending Cinderella back to her mop in your ruthless and efficient fashion.
But you'll do it with a style and elan that sets you apart.
Take your coach. Please. I don't know about anyone else, but I'm tired of those short, folksy, wisecracking coaches who set everyone to smiling and chuckling in the postgame press conferences.
John Thompson, I love the guy. Did you see him intimidate the officials Saturday? He did everything but snap their rear ends with his towel.
Lou Carnesecca, the St. John's coach, is a nice fellow, which is why I'm glad he's out. Louie tried a new sweater Saturday, a ski sweater. Very appropriate, considering how fast his team went downhill. I think they passed Bill Johnson just after halftime.
Now John Thompson, there's a fun guy.
"I think our team is just a stem from Coach Thompson," said your backup center, Ralph Dalton, after Saturday's game. "He comes to work, he's about business. When he yells at us, I think it creates an atmosphere, it prepares us for pressure situations.
"I think we kind of enjoy it, actually."
I know I do. I can't stand to see a coach let his team get complacent with a 16-point lead and 52 seconds left in the game.
Ralph, you mention atmosphere, and I think that's what I'm talking about here. Your team has an aura, a mystique.
Your games are theater. For you guys, all the world's a stage, and all the people on it are players who keep getting their layups swatted away by Patrick Ewing.
You put on a show. For starters, you run. That's the way the game is supposed to be played. What's more exciting to watch, a horse pulling a plow, or the Kentucky Derby?
That first game Saturday, what a thriller, with Villanova hitting the magic half-century mark on the scoreboard, with 52 points.
I don't know what happened to Memphis State's "transaction game," as Memphis State guard Andre (the Little General) Turner calls his team's alleged fast break.
Just as well. Had Memphis State won Saturday, Monday's game would have been the Little General vs. General Motors.
You guys are fun to watch because you run.
"We don't like nobody dictating to us," guard Horace Broadnax said after the game Saturday. "We like to set the tempo."
Broadnax said St. John's "gave out of gas" Saturday.
Why is it the other team always seems to give out of gas, when running and pressing should be just as taxing on the running and pressing team as on the runee and pressee?
"If you come to one of our practices, you'll see," Broadnax told me.
If I come to one of your practices, Horace, I will probably be glared to death by Coach Thompson, who allows no visitors.
"We got an upbeat practice," Broadnax explained. "We run, we press, we sprint. I don't think we missed a day all year without running in practice."
And you probably won't miss one today, because as Broadnax explained, "Coach Thompson don't believe in taking no vacation until after the season."
Thompson does believe in academics, though, and I've got to salute him for that. He even has an academic adviser, Mary Fenlon, sitting on the bench.
Incidentally, why is she there? Does she give you guys academic advice during timeouts? Correct your grammar when you're woofing at opponents? And is she a knucklerapper, or is that game face just a grim facade she puts on in public?
Another gimmick I love is the out-of-town bit, where you guys hole up several miles away from the game site, real secretive, then on game day you ride into town on a bus. Or is it an armored personnel carrier?
I bet those are some real fun bus rides, what with Coach Thompson and Academic Adviser Fenlon up there in the front seats, practicing their glowers.
A lot of people seem to be put off by some of these things they see or read about. I guess some think you guys are too sinister, too mysterious. Too good, too.
They're calling you the basketball version of the L.A. Raiders. About 10,000 people booed you when you came to Rupp Arena Friday to shoot around.
"Either they love us or they hate us," said guard Bill Martin. "We're not concerned with that."
Of course not. That's part of your charm. You don't care what anybody thinks or says.
You're the Hoyas, dammit, and--if I may use a triple negative--you don't take no guff from nobody.
Monday night, you'll cram the pumpkin down Cinderella's throat, and the nation's fans, if they're smart, will sit back and enjoy the show.