How Many Licks?


I grew up with the Tootsy Pop and the classic Tootsy Pop commercials.

Boy: Mr. Turtle, how many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop?
Mr. Turtle: I’ve never even made it without biting. Ask Mr. Owl.
Boy: Mr. Owl, how many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop?
Mr. Owl: Let’s find out. A One… A.two-HOO…A three..
(crunch sound effect)
Mr. Owl: A Three!
Narrator: How many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop?
(crunch sound effect)
Narrator: The world may never know.

Now I don’t know if getting to a tootsie roll center is really worth much, but I do know that the Toronto Raptors need to stop counting the lickings and take a big bite out of a schedule that has finally given them a chance to perform as close to their best as can be possible for a team that still needs to figure out some things. They can have enough breathing space to figure some things out now, with a little more room for error, and time to recuperate and practice between games.

If they can get seven out of the next ten, they’ll be at .500 with a little more than half of the schedule left to go. That’s not a bad place to be. But they really need to take advantage of the opportunity that arrived a couple of games ago.

So far so good, just when the fans seemed to ceremoniously give up all hope. What happened to believing? Is that only something a fan can do when their team is entirely dominant most nights? I always thought that was the definition of a fairweather fan. Not that it matters, since today the stereotypical fan is too busy wailing and bemoaning every degree of imperfection found in the coach or the player they think needs to be the epitome of greatness to be worth biting into the Tootsie Pop themselves. They don’t have the belief required to take that bite, and they feel above the effort required to lick, let alone count the licks. So they just suck away, and if the team tries too hard to placate them, the team will go on sucking as well.

These Raptors do not suck - even with a dance pack that wears outfits with “HUSKIES” emblazoned across them (which must be the final blow to any of them that might be borderline anorexic). Not yet. Really. But if they blow it over the next ten games, my ability to believe will take a blow.

In the meantime, I’m simply not impressed with the NBA game right now. There are too many blowouts altogether, not just with the Raptors. One night Matt Devlin drives you batty with his constantly declaring that they “Needed It!” with every second shot that goes up. And the next night you wonder why he doesn’t throw in a “yawn - didn’t really need it”. This is what comes from a guard-oriented league that puts defenses at an automatic disadvantage. There’s no real getting away from it, and it means that most teams will be strongly affected by how their schedule treats them at any point of the season. I dislike how that means that good teams do not have to be all that competitive every time out. A strong record in the regular season should mean a little more than what it does these days. There should be something a little tastier than a tootsie roll on a stick for us to chew on, no matter what team claims your support. If they don’t figure out a way to get more competitive games beyond two very strong teams or two weak teams pitted against each other, then attendance is going to continue to drop.

It’s all too formulaic, and yeah I was bitching about how bad Triano was with that sort of thing and he’s not alone. He’s come along way in that sense recently, applying real decisions to things he actually observes happening on the court. That is promising at least. Surely as far as the league goes, they can stop favoring perimeter play so much, slow down the three point attempts just a little, and provide us fans, who still want to believe, some to and fro between any two random teams that take the court on any given night. If checking stat trends becomes more meaningful than watching actual games, then I’m just going to dip my tootsie pop in kerosene, light it on fire, and hand it to one of those husky girls.

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