Archive for the 'Basketball' Category

A Not-So-Fabulous First: Le Broken Toe!

Here’s a first that I wasn’t exactly planning on: I BROKE the big toe on my left foot. How I wish I had a really great story about ninjas, superpowers, or even a runway mishap. But no — I tripped on a rug in my own house! It did happen toward the end of the KU-Texas game, so maybe I can say I was jumping up and down, celebrating KU’s winning the Big 12 regular season championship. Although by the end of the game, I was icing down the foot and banged-up knee.

Fortunately, my toe was the only casualty; my left knee and wrist are just bruised. The fractured toe is a lovely shade of dirty yellowish-purple, and I’m committed to the ever-so-stylish velcro boot for about six weeks. (Just TRY to find another shoe to work with THAT!) On the bright side, I have a specially abled parking tag — so handy last week on that rainy day of errands! — and I’m burning through my 2009 deductible!

#9: Rock Chalk and AWE!

Oh YEAH! My Jayhawks are national champs, outlasting Memphis 75-68 in OT. Seems like a first, even though we did this twenty years ago (so let’s count it as a Fab First)! Throughout the tournament, I’d been angling for the twentieth-anniversary storyline, and was I ever delighted to see that come about! Of course, as my viewing buddies will attest, with a little over four minutes to go in regulation, right after young Derrick Rose hit an unbelievable jump shot, I was convinced Memphis would win. Then that miraculous two minutes and twelve seconds of laserlike focus and mojo unfolded, the equivalent of a two-minute drill if there ever was such a thing in hoops! The state of Kansas now has another term in its lexicon: The Shot! Not to mention the 2008 version of Danny and the Miracles, this one known as Mario and the Miracles!

So what made the difference?

  • Free throws in the last four minutes, both made (KU) and unmade (Memphis)
  • KU’s pesky –– check that, relentless –– defense, which was largely ignored by the media in the run-up to the Big Game!
  • Points in the paint: KU 44, Memphis 26
  • Rebounds: KU 39, Memphis 28
  • Typical KU bench support: KU 15, Memphis 2

What I thought was very telling is that if you line up KU’s average statistics for the whole year against its stats for the Memphis game, they were all pretty much in synch, while Memphis was off in several categories.

I could feel for Memphis on that free-throw thing. After all, I sat through that ultra-painful KU loss to Syracuse (78-81) in 2005, in which KU went 12 of 30 from the line. OUCH!

All of this happened so fast, I didn’t even write about KU’s other spectacular Final Four game, against North Carolina on April 5. I watched it in real time, then turned around and watched it again via DVR! Like many of the KU faithful, I still had not quite forgiven Roy for his departure, even though I’m a huge believer in Bill Self. After KU trounced Carolina, my gritchy feelings about Roy were assuaged. Then during the Memphis game, when the camera panned to Roy in the stands wearing a Jayhawk sticker, I must confess, I got a bit teary. That did it! All is forgiven, Roy!

#6: Gordon at the Bat

Everyone who’s ever heard me blab on and on about family knows I’m bonkers about my seven nieces and nephews. Chris Gordon, my oldest nephew at 22 (how is that possible?!), has always been a baseball fanatic. We always attributed some of that to genetics. Chris and my father were basically soulmates, and Dad had grown up worshiping Ted Williams and the Red Sox then added the Cubs to the family baseball altar when he took up residence in the Windy City in 1969. As Chris grew up, his drive and devotion to baseball never waned. He’s a superb athlete, perfectly suited to the sport with his speed, his bat, and his uncanny instincts –– the Natural of our family!

After playing ball for his hometown Colby Community College and the summer Canadian leagues, Chris landed at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois, a convenient 96 miles from his mother (my sister Cathy), who lives in Burlington, Iowa. Alas, the transition to BU hasn’t quite panned out as we’d all hoped: Not only is Chris carrying a brutal courseload in cellular and molecular biology (the kid is on his way to his M.D.), but he’s also been relegated to the bench and pinch running/hitting for the Braves.

I hadn’t seen Chris play ball since he was nine or ten, when he came to Austin for UT baseball camp. He had begged his dad to send him to camp, promising, “I’ll pay you back when I make it to the majors”!
Anyway, I FINALLY got to see him in action on March 28, when the Braves took on the Indiana State Sycamores in a bitterly chilly yet sunny day at O’Brien Field, home to Ryne Sandberg’s Peoria Chiefs as well as the BU Braves. After falling behind 6-3, Chris came in to pinch run from second base in the bottom of the eighth inning! When a ball was hit to deep left field, Chris took off only to be thrown out at the plate –– wah! But he played left in the top of the ninth; I don’t think he saw any action. Then in the bottom of the ninth, still trailing, Chris came up to bat, only to receive an intentional walk! He did score (did he?) and BU ended up winning, 8-7, only to drop the next two games against the dreaded Sycamores by identical scores of 16-2! Aunt Cyd sez: A coach whose team isn’t exactly kicking you-know-what really oughta give the guy a chance.

After the game, we went out to dinner and cheered on KU as they dismantled UNLV in the Sweet 16. Chris is as big a KU basketball fan as I am, so that was great fun. But the best part? At 22, Chris knows something it took me nearly 45 years to figure out: He is fully aware that certain things are beyond his control, and all he can do is focus on what he does have control over. He is determined to do the best he can whenever he gets a chance to play. He made me laugh when he announced, “Hey, I’m going to be the king of batting practice. I’ll just keep hitting balls out of the park, and maybe they’ll notice!”

I love that guy!

March Madness: The First Round

March Madness is here, at last! I love the first four days of the tournament, especially when Kansas keeps winning (Sweet 16, here we come!) and when I don’t have to juggle basketball with South by Southwest. So here are some observations on Round 1:

Best Future NBA Name: Joevan Catron, Oregon

Out-There Uniforms: Oregon and Marquette (tie)

God Was on Their Side: Siena Saints

Missed It by That Much: Belmont

My Favorite Upset: San Diego vs. UConn

Best Dred Head: Raymond Sykes, Clemson

Ad That I’ll Be Sick of by Round 2: UPS Whiteboard (what’s up with that guy’s HAIR?!)

Worst Network: CBS (don’t get me started!)

All Cute Team Nominees (so far):

  • Brandon Rush, Kansas
  • Connor Atchley, Texas
  • Joe Alexander, West Virginia
  • Curtis Terry, UNLV
  • Bench: Connor Teahan, Kansas
  • Coach: Jay Wright, Villanova
  • #4: A Voting Double Dip

    Texas Primary Day should be a holiday. Even with record numbers for early voting all over the state, I waited, for I like to cast my vote on the actual day. I warmed up last night by going to the Hillary rally at Burger Center (she was great, by the way; I need to write that one up!). After much soul-searching, I had hit upon a brilliant plan for my own version of the Texas Electoral Two Step (and another Fab First!).

    Step One: Around 10 a.m., Patsy Clementine and I walked over to my precinct at nearby Lanier High School. All was calm, and we signed right in and cast our vote. I do like Hillary a lot; and I don’t care what the Obama folks say, Hillary probably does have stronger experience. Plus, this is my first time EVER to vote for a woman for president. So Patsy and I cast our vote for Hillary Clinton; I did get goosebumps when I reviewed my ballot before casting and saw “U.S. President: Hillary Clinton”! One for the ladies and the future! (And that was Patsy’s first vote, but I don’t think she even noticed!)

    Step Two: I managed to get some work done while waiting to return for the Precinct 161 Caucus. I arrived around 7 p.m. and joined 150 or so of my neighbors in the cafeteria. By 7:15 p.m., the numbers had swelled to close to 400, a heartening mix of races and ages, men and women. Even though everyone in Texas had known for two weeks that voting turnout was huge among Dems, the party had not planned for such huge numbers at the caucus (our usual turnout was more like 60!). It made me think of my sister Cathy, who had been immersed in the Iowa caucuses; I found myself wishing for an influx of Iowa volunteers to help us Texans figure out how to run our caucus! They’d get it done!

    Our beleaguered temporary precinct chair took the stage and admitted to being overwhelmed by the turnout. She tried her best to shout out instructions on how the caucus would work, but that was tough, since she didn’t have a microphone. A few groans ran through the crowd when she announced that the county organization hadn’t sent enough sign-in sheets, so they would have to go make copies. The groans escalated when someone popped up to say copies would have to made off site, because the school library was locked. Fortunately, a woman behind me stood up and said, “I have a key!” She saved the day, bless her! Once the copying crisis was resolved, the chair called for 10 volunteers to help with sign-in; about 30 people rushed up to the stage!

    By 7:37, our chair called the caucus to order and the sign-in mob started. Here’s where I launched the second prong of my cunning plan: I caucused for Barack! By 7:47 p.m., I was signed up. A few minutes later the sign-up volunteers are shouting out for more signees and it wrapped up neatly, considering the onslaught of numbers. By then, the crowd easily dropped by more than half.

    The counting started at 7:55 p.m. With this being a caucus, we had to total up the number of signees and then apply a formula to calculate how to allocate the 33 delegates from Precinct 161. Unfortunately, my hopes for another 2008 first –– seeing if I could be a delegate to the National Convention –– were dashed by my own timing: The Travis County convention is March 29, but I’ll be in Illinois enjoying an upcoming Fab First (details to follow as the date approaches — I’m sworn to secrecy!). So much for Denver Delegate idea! Even so, I thought I’d stick around and see what transpired. Within minutes, our “temporary” precinct chair and secretary were elected “permanent” officers. We were then divvied up into our respective groups and chose a representative to help count.

    8:10 p.m. While waiting on the final talley, I checked in on the caucus’s main competition, the UT-Nebraska basketball game at the Erwin Center. Score: UT 55 and Nebraska 52 with 7:09 left –– whoa! A few minutes later, Texas was up 58-52. Someone announced he had two Obama posters to give away and played “Hickory Dickory Dock” to get down from eight or nine to the two winners. By 8:18, oooh! The Huskers are still in it, down 2 with 2:54 left. Then it’s tied 61 all with 44 seconds to go!!! Some excitement!

    8:27 p.m.: The delegate counts are announced: 20 for Barack and 13 for Hillary. And Texas pulls it out 70-66 — dang it! From there, our group chose 20 delegates and 20 alternates. And that was that.

    Postscript at 9:45 p.m. Jeffrey Toobin just told Anderson Cooper on CNN, “This is a disgrace, what Texas is doing, making people who voted in the afternoon come back, wait in line … having a primary in a caucus in the same day. … Subjecting people to a system like that and allocating votes for president of the U.S. on such an insane system, I think Texas should be ashamed of itself.” I beg to differ! It allowed me to double dip and vote twice!

    Rock Chalk, Jayhawk, K-eeeeeew!

    Texas 72, Kansas 69 — OUCH! Yes, I was there. Oh, well, KU could stand to lose a couple more games (I vote for four total) before March Madness.

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