Editorial: Greensboro, the Tournament-less Town

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The tweet heard ’round the basketball world was deployed on the Greensboro city Twitter feed by Communications Manager Jake Keys, who zinged Syracuse Head Coach Jim Boeheim after Boeheim told a reporter that there was “no value” to playing the storied ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament in its longtime home of Greensboro.

Keys’ retort — “I guess you can lose in the 1st round anywhere. At least it’s a quick ride home.” — was the finest piece of college hoops trash-talk so far this postseason, and possibly the greatest ever takedown of a big-time college basketball coach by a mid-level city employee.

And while the tournament played out in Brooklyn at the Barclays Center, where it will live for yet another season, local basketball fans had a small reason to smile amid the hurt.

This is the time to be reminded that the Greensboro Coliseum was supposed to be holding a round of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament this very weekend, but instead will be playing host to the NC Rabbit Breeders Convention.

That is not a joke.

The tournament will not suffer. Duke and Carolina fans will just as soon travel south to Greenville, SC as they would west to Greensboro. And it’s close enough that both teams will still enjoy their traditional first-round home-team advantage.

But on the ground in Greensboro it will be felt by empty parking lots, empty bars and restaurants and hotel beds bereft of heads.

When Greensboro lost the tournament in September 2016, we knew it would be something like this, we knew it would be bad. And back then it was easy to blame our disgrace on HB 2, that nasty piece of legislation that besmirched the name and reputation of our state and the people who live in it.

Now some months have passed and still nothing has changed on the HB 2 front, except for Rep. Mark Brody’s bill, expected to be filed this week, proposing an investigation into the ACC and the NCAA. Brody believes the organizations may have violated their tax-exempt status by engaging in political activities — by which he means refusing to play big games in his home state.

It doesn’t seem like this bill will do much for Greensboro, either. While college basketball luminaries have been defending Tournament Town’s status and role in the ACC, the fact is we will never see any of it — not the ACC nor the NCAA tournaments, not to mention every other college sport that once held tournaments here — until we handle the business of HB 2 first.

We can no longer blame this on the bill itself. The fault must be laid at the feet of the people who refuse to do anything about it.