The dangerous and unpredictable leader of a poor and isolated state was recently laid to rest.
We’re talking about the UCLA Bruins of course. The preseason favorite to win the Pac-12 died of a sudden heart attack; that is to say they’ve played their way to a 6-5 record with no heart, no urgency, and like a group incapable of handling large weapons (Nelson, Smith, two Wears, Stover), dismissing (not launching) one.
There appears to be an obvious parallel here as just last weekend North Korea, a poor and isolated state, lost their dangerous and unpredictable leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). A man incapable of handling large weapons (nuclear warheads), Kim Jong-il, died of a sudden heart attack.
With the respective passings, both North Korea and the Pac-12 are left to unknown, unpredictable new leadership.
Kim Jong-un, the son of the late dictator, is the presumed heir to the DPRK “throne” (what does a dictator sit on? Everyone?). Cal, Arizona, and Stanford are the presumed heirs of the Pac-12 “throne” (what does the winner of the worst major conference sit on? Pumpkin carriage?). Little is known about any of the aforementioned heirs and their prospective leadership qualities.
Arizona has point guard and front court depth questions; Stanford isn’t particularly battle tested; Cal demonstrated an inability to hang with the big boys; and Kim Jong-un is a late-twenties recluse of which almost nothing is known – a frightening thought considering what is at this fingertips.
Internationally – that is to comment on North Korea’s predicament – there is great fear in the unknown. The late dictator scared many, impoverishing and isolating his country, while creating international strife with his access to nuclear weaponry. But at least there was a level of predictability with Kim Jong-il. Discussions were had; diplomacy was at least within the realm of possibility. His passing leaves the world on the edge of its collective seat: what is to come of this repressive and volatile state?
This is where our analogy begins to diverge (that is if you agree it was ever convergent).
While the world fears what will come of North Korea and how Kim Jong-un will lead or if he’ll even be able to maintain his position, the beauty of sports – and perhaps democracy – is parity. Sure parity is an ideal but a moderate reality to be sure. While UCLA may have been the preseason favorite, they were by no means the conference dictator. On December 29, all twelve teams have an equal, eighteen game shot at winning the conference championship (yes, it is a twelve-way equal shot, the staggered league schedule is semantics).
The young and unknown will have their opportunity to sit atop the conference – just like Kim Jong-un – but the question is: who will and how?
One has to like Cal’s chances; they have arguably the two best players in the conference in Allen Crabbe and Jorge Gutierrez. But Arizona, while they haven’t quite pieced it all together, has the most talented lineup, top-to-bottom. Of course Stanford has been the most consistent amongst the twelve teams and is playing some good ball.
Or could the aforementioned deceased rise? Could UCLA pull off the proverbial addition-by-subtraction, gel as a unit, and return to power?
Or is Washington the sleeping giant? With talent abound in the back court, could the Huskies right their ship and win this thing?
Oregon State with Jared Cunningham and the president’s brother-in-law? Oregon?
That’s a lot of question marks but let’s get serious for a second: at least none of them are regarding red buttons, extreme censorship, or bad international policy.