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Thanks to some personal and professional contacts, I have become something of a Big East fan, especially of the Villanova University Wildcats. I listen to some of the games on the Internet and then read the Yahoo Sports pages and Nova blogs to find out what really happened.

Unfortunately, my basketball reality is being re-shaped by someone named Dan Gelston, who signs his byline “AP Sports Writer” and writes about Villanova basketball. In his case “AP” stands for “Almost Professional.” Dan thinks his job is not to report what actually happens at games, but in Dick Vitale fashion, to offer his personal commentary and interpretation.

Unfortunately, Dan is spoiling the games for anyone who truly loves college basketball. Most times his commentary is dead wrong; most times it is clear that he has an abiding disdain for Villanova and the Big East; most times he is like that mouthy relative who shows up at holiday dinners that you wish would go away and never come back. For Villanova fans, the sad news is that it appears we are stuck with Dan for the rest of the season.

Last night’s game versus Temple was a good example of Dan’s non-reporting at its worst. The game was a “Big Five” Philadelphia match-up — a great Philly college hoops tradition in which Nova, Temple, Penn, St Joe’s, and LaSalle, each play each other for city bragging rights.

Villanova won the game against Temple, which right off meant that Dan was in a bad mood. As a Kansas guy, Dan is still smarting about Nova’s incredible upset over then #2 Kansas in 2005. That was a game Dan got to cover and write about, too. I think he remembers it pretty well. And this year, Kansas is nowhere on the national basketball map, while Villanova is currently ranked #15. So, of course, Dan’s favorite Nova put-down is to belittle their “soft” schedule — and he does this in every story, guaranteed!

In Dan’s latest opinion piece (we can’t really call it reporting — it would give all the legit sports reporters a bad name), this is what he had to say about the first half of the Temple game:

The great games in city history are often billed as “Big 5 Classics.” This one was a big dud in the first half with the Owls and Wildcats shooting like they spent their holiday breaks anywhere but the gym.

Bid dud? That’s a matter of opinion, isn’t it? Not exactly reporting, is it? In fact, Dan forgets that what appeared to him as a “big dud” was in fact an awesome defensive battle between Temple and Villanova. Maybe in Kansas they don’t play defense, but we’re not in Kansas anymore, Dan. In Philly, in the Big East, we play defense.

After the game it was interesting to listen to assistant coach Pat Chambers laud the Nova playyers for their outstanding defense. When you play great defense, the other team doesn’t make baskets — that’s how it works, Dan! A dud? Only if you consider great games to be shooting marathons.

Dan also wise cracks that the players must have been home playing video games instead of getting ready for the game. Again, Dan is wrong. I can’t speak for Temple, but in his radio interview Coach Chambers mentioned that Villanova had its two best practices ever the two days before the Temple game. Those players weren’t home, Dan, like you eating Christmas leftovers, they were in the gym, working hard, shooting hoops, practicing defense.

Now that Villanova is 12-1 overall, Dan inserts another erroneous put-down into his story:

With the Big East season set to tip off, the Wildcats are hoping to avoid a repeat of last season’s early conference slump. Much like this season, Villanova rolled to a 10-1 record and were No. 17 in The Associated Press’ Top 25 thanks to a soft non-conference schedule before it lost six of its first nine Big East games.

Can’t you just feel the energy in Dan’s animus towards the ‘Cats? It must make his day when they lose, which is sad given his professional responsibility to be objective and unbiased in his reporting.

Let’s remember that last year was supposed to be a rebuilding year. Let’s also remember that within that 10 game non-conference winning record before Big East play was a phenomenal 21-point comeback victory against LSU — one of the greatest comebacks in basketball history. Not exactly a pushover.

It should also be noted that within those first nine Big East games, Nova beat then #13 Pitt as well as Syracuse. Some might say that last year was actually one of Nova’s best years ever, given their strong performance down the stretch and a Sweet Sixteen appearance in the NCAA tournament.

Opinions don’t change facts. That’s one of the reasons I like college basketball. The score is the score, the win-loss record is what it is, the stats are the stats. For fans like me and the millions like me who enjoy college hoops, a little partisan commentary is part of our jobs as fans. But it is not Dan’s job. His job is to report the facts.

Instead, he wants to give us his opinion. I don’t give a shit about Dan’s opinion. If he thinks he has earned the right to give it because he sits at games earning a salary, he’s wrong. He’s supposed to be a reporter. If he wants to write sports commentary he should get another job, or at least add the word “Commentator”  to his byline. At least readers will know he has a chip on his shoulders and he’s going to throw it in our direction.

It’s just too bad we have a whole season of Dan Gelston to deal with. Playing in the Big East is tough enough as it is.

Read more about the game here, here, and here.

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