At a time when we all have so many doubts, so many questions, about what is going on in the world, we can always turn to sports for a few basic truths. I mean, who could dispute these pieces of reality?
• It's not great to lose your most valuable player late in the season. Yes, it's true, Scottie Pippen isn't Portland's best offensive player, best defensive player or best rebounder. He's not the quickest guy on the team or the highest jumper. But all that said, the guy has been the glue holding the mess together all season long. He's the best decision maker and the most experienced player in big games. If he can't make it back for the playoffs, this team is in serious trouble Ñ no matter whom it faces in the first round.
• It's not great to lose your coach late in the season. That's right, Portland not only loses its most valuable player when Pippen is sidelined for three weeks, the Blazers also lose their coach. Yes, he'll still be on the sideline, whispering in Maurice Cheeks' ear, but that's not where he's needed. Secondhand information isn't good enough. Pippen's job has been to run the team's offense and defense on the court during games. It's been the most forceful guidance for this team, which has a baby-sitter playing the role of head coach.
• It's not great to get the No. 8 or No. 9 seed in the NCAA playoffs. It mostly leads to a one-game run in the tournament because you have to play the No. 1 seed in the second round. Sorry, Ducks. Nice year.
• If your company hands out a women's bracket for an office pool, quit your job. Seriously, your workplace is way too politically correct if it tries to run a women's pool in place of, or in addition to, the men's tourney bracket contest. Hey, nobody follows the women's game, and to try to get people to gamble on it is some kind of cruel joke.
• If you're stuck with that women's bracket, just do what you do every single year Ñ fill in U-Conn, Tennessee, Stanford and Duke. Then, whenever they all eventually meet, just keep writing 'U-Conn' until the championship. There are enough great female players for only four or five teams, and they end up at the same schools every year.
• Other sports have expanded their playoff formats, but hockey invented the system. That's why the Portland Winter Hawks, who have won about five games in the last three months and score a goal every week or so, still find themselves in the Western Hockey League playoffs, starting tonight at the Rose Garden against Spokane.