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Dancing without the stars

In fifth grade, all the boys I knew decided they were skaters. They threw away Pogs, stashed Barkley's in the closet and told mom they needed bigger pants.

At first, it didn't bother me. That was, until skating hijacked my recess. Suddenly, all my soccer buddies were hangin' out on the concrete. Not cool.

That's when having an opinionated older sister came in handy.

"Your friends are such posers!" she'd say.

Although I pretended to be offended, I secretly adopted my new favorite insult. Posers. They were all posers.

As the years went on, the boys made their way back. Unfortunately, they only returned masquerading as basketball fans. More specifically, they posed as Bulls fans. Fast forward a few more years and they were Laker fans. Most of us lost touch after junior high, but I'm fairly confident they're now Cavs fans.

Before I start sounding like Paris Hilton at a bus stop, let me first clarify that I don't consider myself an elite or "true" fan of any team. I call myself a Suns fan mostly because I was born and raised in Phoenix, can rattle off some random facts about guys like A.C. Green and Oliver Miller and just so happen to have a giant poster of Steve Nash in my bedroom (which makes me feel really creepy whenever I see him in person).

More than anything, I'm just a basketball fan. And it's for that very reason that I've been getting sick of basketball.

In a world of highlights, 140 character messages and 100 million dollar endorsement deals, the little guy is getting the shaft. Don't get me wrong; I appreciate the freaks of nature that are LeBron James and Kobe Bryant, but it bothers me that they don't just play the game... they are the game.

Talk to fans that bought tickets to the Cavs/Bucks game earlier this month, only to discover that James wouldn't be playing that night. Fans of both teams cried "foul".

The media hype machine exists to create celebrities, stars... and therefore, money. If the merchants of cool can associate a game with a name, they've got the people right where they want them.

I didn't yet realize that I was a guilty member when I covered the Paradise Jam Tournament in November. Tennessee and Purdue were the favorites. The championship game featured Tyler Smith and Robbie Hummel.

Right on cue, I had a sit down interview with Tyler to talk about the NBA, video games and his life in Knoxville. Give the people what they want, right?

Unfortunately, things didn't work out for Tyler. He was dismissed from the team a few months later after an arrest for misdemeanor drug and gun charges.

It appeared the machine had propped him up, only to remove the chair when he wasn't sittin' well.

A poignant text from an NBA scout the next day said it all.

"Tyler Smith's NBA career just went bye-bye."

Obviously, I didn't have the foresight to ask Tyler what he'd do if worse case scenario became reality, but that's not what upsets me the most about my work that week.

Maybe they just blended in with the white sandy beaches and purple flowers, but I didn't see much of the Northern Iowa Panthers that week in St. Thomas.

Mostly, that's because I wasn't paying attention. Guys like Tyler Smith were there, after all.

In the name of fairness, we tried to squeeze in a thirty-minute time slot to walk around downtown with UNI head coach Ben Jacobson and center Jordan Eglseder. We talked about life in Cedar Falls and what it was like playin' the "big boys". The feature was taped for use during the tournament broadcast.

There were stars playing that weekend, however, and there just wasn't enough time to get it in.

Which brings me to today, as I scramble to find the old footage of my interviews with the guys from UNI... the ones we never aired.

Even back in November, it was obvious that Coach Jacobson had a quality team. Unfortunately, that's where we left it. No stars, no attention.

Then March showed up and UNI forced us to take a closer look. The machine is frantically trying to find a star. After his bold pull-up three that sealed the victory against top seeded Kansas, Ali Farokhmanesh garnered the star treatment.

The problem is, Farokhmanesh really isn't a star. He averages 9.7 points, 1.1 assists, and1.5 rebounds per game.

And that's what makes it perfect.

March Madness reminds me why I love basketball like Andy Griffith reminds me why I love people. There's something pure about it.

We may try and conjure up some stars to feed the beast that is our Kobe and LeBron culture, but real basketball fans won't bite.

Without many of the stargazers who think basketball is just about big names, ratings are slightly down this March. As far as I'm concerned, that's alright.

We simply weeded out the posers.

Check out the last article written by Samantha Steele Here:

Success is a Choice

Samantha Steele with Jordan Eglseder of Northern Iowa in the Virgin Island for the Paradise Jam pre-season basketball tournament hosted by FCS.

Samantha Steele with Bruce Pearl, Coach of the University of Tennessee Basketball Team.

Location: Virgin Island for the Paradise Jam pre-season basketball tournament hosted by FCS.