Richard Nixon helped open China to the world in the 1970s. Let’s hope UCLA’s basketball team doesn’t close it.

Tuesday’s story that three freshmen Bruins were detained and interrogated for allegedly shoplifting on a Pac 12 “goodwill” exhibition in China would have been enough to drop my jaw. The fact that one of the players was LiAngelo Ball, second son of LaVar Ball, just adds another layer of international intrigue.

I can’t wait to read all about it in my hometown community paper: “The China Champion.”

Let’s put aside the absurdity of players thinking they can shoplift from a Louis Vuitton outlet in China, a communist country with a repressive government and a 99% conviction rate.

Someone please, please tell me the UCLA players were sat down before the trip and told what NOT to do on this trip:

1: No jokes about pandas or Chairman Mao, no matter how much you liked John Lennon’s lyric “And if you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao, you ain’t going to make it with anyone anyhow.”

2: Don’t doodle on the “Great Wall.”

3: Observe the laws and customs of the country you’re in.  Remember, every great basketball take-off from the free-throw line in China is called “The Great Leap Forward.” Oh.  Don’t shop lift. Don’t even think about shoplifting.

Seems easy enough, but three UCLA Bruins thought otherwise.

Don’t worry, though, LaVar Ball is already on the ground and on the case.

We learned Wednesday the three UCLA players were released on bond and LaVar had released a statement to ESPN: “He’ll be fine. He’ll be fine.  Everybody making it a big deal. It ain’t that big of a deal.”

He’ll be fine? What about the other two players? And sorry, LaVar, it is a big deal. A HUGE, embarrassing, deal.

Pac 12 Commissioner Larry Scott has to be seething. He’s carved his reputation on expanding the Pac 12 brand to Asia, specifically China. In October, Scott secured a deal with media conglomerate Alibaba Group to stream conference games in China. This is Larry Scott’s “baby” and these series of basketball exhibitions are key components to his global strategy.

Scott and UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero are both on the China trip and the only good news for Dan is that this is a distraction from his crumbling football program.

The Pac 12 and UCLA can only hope this doesn’t turn into an even uglier, international incident:  A State Department official told The Washington Post it is “aware of reports of three U.S. citizens arrested in China and subsequently released on bail in China. We stand ready to provide appropriate consular assistance for U.S. citizens. Due to privacy considerations, we have no further comment.‎”

LaVar Ball is also, wisely, heeding advice from counsel and not talking–but how long can that last?  As it is written on Chinese t-shirts regarding foreigners trying to interfere with the country’s inner workings: “Stay In Your Own Yang.”

Henry Kissinger is an old man–his diplomacy days are done.

Dennis Rodman is busy baby sitting North Korea’s dictator.

The UCLA news made the front page of the L.A. Times sports section and jumped to a story on USC associate head basketball coach Tony Bland being indicted as part of a larger college basketball bribery web.

It’s been a swell start for NCAA basketball, don’t you think?


Let’s do it for the kids  

Florida State wasn’t about to allow Fresno State to become the only “FSU” to become bowl eligible this year. Especially given that Fresno State is now 6-3, a year after going 1-11, and was not expected to compete for this year’s national title.

Florida State has gone to 35 straight bowl games, dating to 1982, but currently stands 3-5 with remaining games against Clemson, Delaware State and Florida. Wait a minute–that only adds up to 11 games.

That’s right. Florida State’s Sept. 9 game vs. Louisiana Monroe was canceled because of Hurricane Irma.

Well, that game is canceled no more. The rest of this article is available to subscribers only – to become a subscriber click here.