Category Archives: Basketball

Plus Five

About a year ago I posted a comment on Shannon’s MySpace page where I was apologizing in advance for what Iowa State was going to do to her UNI Panthers IF Wesley Johnson played in the game.

Wesley Johnson did indeed play in the game and he played well, but UNI came into what was once the toughest building in the nation to play in and beat Iowa State rather soundly. Most disappointing about the game was the fact that ISU seemed to quit in the second half.

It was McDermott’s second team and for the second straight season he had to completely rebuild the roster in the offseason. It was a disappointment, but in retrospect it was to be expected.

Then in early January I was at the Jaycees Year End Banquet. I believe on that same night Michael Beasley was personally destroying the Cyclones.

I believe that it was at this point that Shannon made a rather snide remark about the Cyclones. I had to stand up for the Cyclones and we agreed to attend next season’s game with a friendly wager to boot.

It is a little known fact that I rarely lose wagers. In fact it has been about 5 years since I last lost a wager. I knew that I had, 11 months in advance, secured a victory for the Iowa State Cyclones. Don’t believe me?

Check the archives: I guarantee an ISU victory over UNI! (You will have to scroll past the pictures)

Or I can repost the pertinent part of the blog:

The first event occurred while I was talking to Shannon. Somebody came back from the bar side of the American Legion to announce that my beloved Cyclones were losing by 25 to Kansas State. Although it was sad news, it was to be expected. The simple fact of the matter is that they have Beasley and we do not. That fact alone will decide quite a number of games in Kansas State’s favor this season.

At this point Peggy (the 2008 Jaycees President with questionable taste in college sports teams) came over to point out that her Kansas Jayhawks also thumped Iowa State earlier in the week.

I responded that I wasn’t so sure that wasn’t to be expected. Right now Iowa State is held together by spit, baling wire and a walk-on point guard.

Shannon added that “He will defend Iowa State under any circumstances.”

What she said is undeniably true, but the way she said it indicated that she thinks that there was another way that it is acceptable to be.

Then she took it too far. She wandered down a road that is going to end poorly for her. Even though that road won’t officially end for several months.

She brought up that UNI had beaten ISU this season.

It is a fact. I can’t deny it, but I can make bold proclamations.

I made this bold proclamation:

“I guarantee that we beat UNI next year.”

There I said it. I got it out there. I might have went into some details about how next year’s Cyclone team would be essentially the first team in 3 years that wasn’t going to be built from scratch that offseason.

Then she made the mistake.

“That sounds like a wager.” Those words escaped her lips. I think she knew that she had a mistake as soon as the words had finished reverberating around the American Legion. Yet she gamely continued on and did not back down.

The terms of the wager have not been set, but I can hint at what I’m leaning towards. Let me just say that I think Shannon is going to look good in Cardinal and Gold.


Wednesday was indeed the night that we made our way up to Cedar Falls to witness the game.

I don’t think I need to go into details about the game. UNI fought their hearts out. They were able to force overtime, before the Cyclones were able to finally secure the victory by 5 points.

My impressions of the night are that McLeod Center is an impressive building. It gets surprisingly loud in there. UNI’s program is way better than Iowa State’s program, for the same price. It has pages. Iowa State’s program is a page. Their scoreboard is a little strange. It is split into two separate scoreboards, so it is a little difficult to find the score of the game. It was quite an experience.

I don’t want to go into the details of the wager, because I am not somebody that needs to gloat… but I would like to share that one of the outcomes of the wager was my acquisition of this sweet beanie that Shannon made.


UNI Hat

On a related but unrelated note (that might have been the equivalent of using the nonword irregardless)a fellow miner by the name of Schmidt (I have too many friends with the first name Cory) has designed the ISU Basketball equivalent of an Advent Calendar. We figure that Iowa State needs 20 wins to make it to a tournament this year.

He has placed 20 post-it notes next to his desk in the Mine. Every time ISU wins we take down a post-it note and celebrate with some candy.

Shannon probably won’t be happy that I share this fact, but when we were looking around the UNI Book Store for a food item that would be Panther related for the Cyclone Advent Calendar we failed. Then she noticed that there was a purple package of M&Ms (dark chocolate) and a gold package of M&Ms (peanut) she suggested we use those. In fairness she also said it would be a moot point.

Well, it was not a moot point…


Panther Candy

… it was an excellent idea. Panther candy was tasty!

We are planning on celebrating our victory Saturday over the Oregon State Beavers with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.

Mmmmm…. I wonder what Jayhawk is going to taste like.

Spring Game

I started my Saturday by stepping on the basketball court at Beyer Hall for the first time in over a year. To be more direct, it was the first time I have stepped on any basketball court in over a year.

On the court with me was Andree, Russell and Baier. We had been planning this game for over a month. Through a series of e-mails I might have built my basketball skills up to them based on the baller that I was in my youth. I was not the only one though. Russell gave himself the nickname The Open Flame. I believe he also gave himself the nickname the Big HuHot. He also gave himself the nickname The Big Nome de Plume. However, he decided to rely mostly on the nickname The Open Flame. I tried to get him to wear a head band with flame design, but he only indicated that he would “work on it”.

I did not want to be outnicknamed, so in the tradition of some of my friends, I chose to give myself the nickname The Almighty. This was mostly based on the fact that Andree claims that the only thing that could make him cower is being in the presence of The Almighty.

There was doubt that I would be able to live up to the nickname, but through our first three contests I lived up to the nickname and more. I opened up the outside game early, then I showed off my post up moves. Then I cracked out the dribble penetration. Finally I showed off the passing game.

After three games, I was The Almighty. I was undefeated and everybody else had felt the bitter taste of defeat. Then my years of eating bad food and not exercising caught up to me. I ran out of steam. I didn’t fare so well in the last couple of games, but no need to dwell on that.

After the basketball game, Baier and I met up with Willy, Faust and Bret in lot B6 for a little tailgating. I had brought my grill over, but I was a bit concerned that it would not fire up. That fear was not necessary. The grill fired up and we knocked down a wide assortment of meats and a pasta salad that Baier had made. A couple other gents joined us and we made our way to the spring game. I posted some pictures from the Spring Game in the Snapshots Gallery. You can get there via the picture of the link below:


Spring Game

IOWA STATE FOOTBALL – 2008


I have some observations from the Spring Game, but I don’t really put any stock in the Spring Game, so I won’t bore you with any of that information.

The Roundball Oracles: Year 4

2005-William McAlpine
2006-William McAlpine
2007-Tim Peterson

Now the name Mark Wolfram will sit proudly next to theirs. The miracle comeback of Kansas made them champions. It also made Mark the third champion of The Roundball Oracles (An NCAA tournament pool).

The Final Standings:

  1. Mark Wolfram (Taiwan Hoops) 136 points
  2. Lowell Davis (Davis) 114 points
  3. Jesse Howard (Goldie’s Bracket Brilliance) 108 points
  4. Dan Dill (dandydan) 92 points
  5. Corey Faust (UCLA Love) 90 points
  6. Jason Baier (Baier’s Winning Bracket) 90 points
  7. Tim Peterson (Dominate Monkey) 87 points
  8. Toby Sebring (esgefhg) 85 points
  9. Me (The Zechariah of the Hardwood) 85 points
  10. Willy McAlpine (william) 84 points
  11. Bill Wentworth (Bill’s) 84 points
  12. Frank Meiners (FHM) 75 points
  13. Nate Buckingham (Wade Lookingbill allstars) 73 points
  14. Robert Henning (Drake Bandwagon) 64 points
  15. Russell Kennerly (Fighting Grossmans) 61 points

A trophy has been ordered and will be given to Mark when he returns from Taiwan. I miss college basketball already.

Test Camera

A few months ago Nader gave me a camera to test for his trip to London. I put in a roll of film and took some test shots. Then I put the camera away and forgot about it. I finally finished off the roll and got it developed. I thought I would share some of the images, not because of any of them are particularly interesting, but because maybe they are interesting as a whole. A study of intermittent shots taking over time from a forgotten camera.


02-28-08
Computer Mine Basketball Hoop


Flowers

02-28-08
Flowers

02-28-08
Self Portrait

02-28-08
Fat Jake

02-28-08
Jay Snuggly

02-28-08
Fat Jake

02-28-08
Willy: Keeper of Fat Jake

02-28-08
Fat Jake

02-28-08
Experiment

02-28-08
Vest

02-28-08
Frame


Party in Jesse’s Office


Cory

02-28-08
Deer


Deer through Windows of “The Quad”

02-28-08
Computer Mine Basketball Hoop

My Saturday

Most of my Saturday was devoted to Jaycee activities. It started out with the Super Shooters competition. This is only the second Jaycees activity that I have had a chance to work. I was planning on taking a few pictures there, but as it turns out, I left my memory card sitting at home in my memory card reader. I did have my film camera, so I took a few B&W photos. This wasn’t the ideal situation, but I made do.

It had been awhile since I have had REAL B&W film developed. I went to a local camera shop that I haven’t visited in some time to get prints made. I would like to say that I was impressed by their work, but the prints that came out are filled with a myriad of scratches and dust spots. I don’t know what to make of that, I surely don’t.

Here are some of the images from Super Shooters:


01-28-08
Ames has their own electric car?

01-28-08
I dig this dragon sculpture.

01-28-08
The Ames City Hall Gym

01-28-08
Same Gym, Different Angle

01-28-08
Keeping Score

01-28-08
More Keeping Score

01-28-08
Gym Window

01-28-08
Super Shooters

01-28-08
More Super Shooters

01-28-08
More Super Shooters

01-28-08
More Windows

01-28-08
The Youngest Super Shooter

01-28-08
Center Court

01-28-08
Ribbons

Year End Banquet

Before I discuss the Year End Banquet, I should point out that I have excellent news for Cyclone fans. I can pretty much guarantee a Cyclone victory over the UNI Panthers next basketball season. You will understand in a moment, but it is important for you to understand my reasoning for making this claim. You see lately I have been hotter than a firecracker when it comes to wagering. I have been so unstoppable that I have had to turn down my friends’ offers of wagers because I fear them going so deeply into debt with me at which time I will have to swear out a warrant for their arrest and they will rot away in debtors prison.

For example, just this Saturday I have won yet another wager with Russell. It was so obvious I was going to win this wager that I almost turned down his wager. He bet me that Hillary Clinton would defeat Barack Obama in the South Carolina Primary. Not only did he defeat her, it was something of a woodshed beating. His vote total more than doubled her vote total.

I could have won a second wager this weekend with Jason Baier. He wanted to bet me that Rambo would make more than 40 million at the box office this weekend. Even though he pursued this wager aggressively, I had to turn him down. I don’t like to make wagers with people when they can’t win. Even if they don’t know they can’t win. Well almost never as it turns out.

For the record, Rambo grossed 18.1 million at the box office this weekend.

I don’t really need to go into much detail about the banquet. I think that I can break the event down to the two core events that left the deepest impression on me. I can say that before I went to the banquet, I could place a name and a face together for about 6 or 7 Jaycees. After the banquet I think I can up that number to about 12 or 14, but sadly for me, that number should be much higher, but I think I’m starting to suffer from Jay Janson’s Disease. (The inability to put names with faces)

The first event occurred while I was talking to Shannon. Somebody came back from the bar side of the American Legion to announce that my beloved Cyclones were losing by 25 to Kansas State. Although it was sad news, it was to be expected. The simple fact of the matter is that they have Beasley and we do not. That fact alone will decide quite a number of games in Kansas State’s favor this season.

At this point Peggy (the 2008 Jaycees President with questionable taste in college sports teams) came over to point out that her Kansas Jayhawks also thumped Iowa State earlier in the week.

I responded that I wasn’t so sure that wasn’t to be expected. Right now Iowa State is held together by spit, baling wire and a walk-on point guard.

Shannon added that “He will defend Iowa State under any circumstances.”

What she said is undeniably true, but the way she said it indicated that she thinks that there was another way that it is acceptable to be.

Then she took it too far. She wandered down a road that is going to end poorly for her. Even though that road won’t officially end for several months.

She brought up that UNI had beaten ISU this season.

It is a fact. I can’t deny it, but I can make bold proclamations.

I made this bold proclamation:

“I guarantee that we beat UNI next year.”

There I said it. I got it out there. I might have went into some details about how next year’s Cyclone team would be essentially the first team in 3 years that wasn’t going to be built from scratch that offseason.

Then she made the mistake.

“That sounds like a wager.” Those words escaped her lips. I think she knew that she had a mistake as soon as the words had finished reverberating around the American Legion. Yet she gamely continued on and did not back down.

The terms of the wager have not been set, but I can hint at what I’m leaning towards. Let me just say that I think Shannon is going to look good in Cardinal and Gold.

The other event that left an impression on me at the banquet also involved Shannon. I think it was the previous weekend that Shannon won an award at a Jaycees convention known as All-State. She won a pretty major award. She was declared to be the Secretary of the Year in the entire state of Iowa.

Part of the banquet was devoted to handing out awards and re-presenting the awards that various chapter members had won the previous weekend.

Something interesting happened when Shannon got her award. Everybody else got a “clap”. Just one clap. It was confusing to me, but I learned this morning that “the clap” is known as “Rally Applause” or something like that. Everybody got that. However, when Shannon got her award, the room spontaneously broke out in the wave.

I’m not making that up. I’ve been in several crowds where the wave has broken out. Almost all of them have been at sporting events. A couple times it has been at political rally. Sometimes I’ve seen it forced upon a crowd at a corporate brainwashing seminar. I’ve never seen this happen at a formal banquet before. I can only say that this turn of events was very impressive to me. I still can’t quite get my head around it.

This isn’t to say that she doesn’t deserve it. From what I know, she is hyper-organized and put in tons of hard work at that position. The wave was an interesting way of showing admiration for her hard work and skills.

After the banquet, several Jaycees retired to a bar down the street. The name currently escapes me, but my best stab at it is DG’s Tap House. It is in a commercial space that was formally known as The Zone. This makes me wonder where all the women that have graduated from Club Element go now.

This was my first appearance at a bar in 2008. I made 3 bar appearances all of 2007. Cory, a co-worker from the Computer Mine, has made it one of his goals this year to get me to the bar 4 times this year. We’ll see how that turns out.

The most interesting thing to transpire at the bar was running into Julie. I haven’t seen or talked to Julie in several months and it was awesome getting a chance to talk to her and catch up with her. Although I think she was quite shocked to actually see me at a bar. In fact, I know that she was surprised. It took her a little while to actually convince herself that she was seeing me. Of course Julie also thinks that her house is haunted, so I’m not sure why seeing me at a bar would be so hard for her to believe.

I think I was at the bar listening to some band until about midnight. Then I took off to get some sleep. I had a big day ahead of me on Monday. Rambo and There Will Be Blood weren’t going to see themselves.

Jaycees Run

I am a big fan of the 1976 science fiction classic Logan’s Run. So much so that I used the movie as the basis for the invitations to a birthday party a few years back.


Bennett's Run
Jesse and Andy as Sandmen. Me as a runner. Notice the greenish hue of the picture caused by the fluorescent lighting of the bathroom.

I went to an Ames Jaycees meeting on Thursday night. I don’t care to report much of the meeting, except that there was one point during the meeting when it came time to discuss members renewing their membership for 2008. For some reason this lead to a brief period of time when some people chanted: “Renew! Renew! Renew!”

The Jaycees already remind me of Logan’s Run because in Logan’s Run when you turn 30 you are required to go to Carousel and renew. If you choose not to go to Carousel, Sandmen hunt you down and terminate you.

When you reach the age of 40, you also get the boot from the Jaycees.

The resemblance got taken up a notch by the “Renew!” chant. When you go to Carousel in Logan’s Run, the crowd chants “Renew!” as well.



RENEW! RENEW!

One other thing that came out of the meeting is that I found a new home for the KU basketball calendar. It hung on my wall at work a full week. Then I decided that it might need a new home, so I deposited it where I think all KU things belong.


01-18-08

It turns out that the President of the Ames Jaycees has questionable taste in sporting teams and roots for Kansas. Eventually that calendar will be heading in her direction. She can enjoy the 3 pictures of Drew Gooden and the picture of the KU mascot that is clearly taken at a football game. In the week that the calendar hung on my wall, the corners were already starting to bend. They didn’t try too hard when they made this calendar. Maybe KU fans don’t demand or expect excellence like Iowa State fans.

Broken

I got one of the ugliest Christmas presents from Mary Beth this Christmas. I wasn’t really sure what to do with it, but in the end I decided to hang it up at work. Take a look:


01-15-08


Yesterday I picked up another cheap mirror. I sat it outside for the night. After sitting in the extreme cold for about 24 hours it broke just like I was hoping when I brought the thunder.


01-15-08

Clearing My Head

I’ve been sick lately. Without going into too much detail, about the color and size of things that have been extracted from my body lately I will just say that I’ve never been one to let me body dictate to me my social engagements. That is unless my body just completely shuts down and does not allow me to move. So rather than making an attempt to get healthy by resting and taking medicine and eating soup, I have been gallivanting around town. I really have only done two things to help myself get better. I’ve avoided the basement and I made some wassail. I don’t know if the wassail really aided my recovery process, but I did feel better after throwing down a warm cup of it now and then. However, this morning when I woke up, I actually felt akin to a human being for the first time in almost a week.

I even pursued tickets to the ISU-UNI game. A game that I was emotionally invested in because a certain Panther friend of mine sure likes to remind me that we keep losing to UNI. I might have even made bold proclamations on their MySpace page about a certain Cyclone victory.

Well the Cyclones did not cover the check that my mouth wrote. In fact, they were thoroughly humiliated. That check bounced about a mile high. UNI fans were allowed to chant: “U-N-I” in the hallowed arena that was once home to Hilton Magic. Cyclone “fans” (although they assuredly do not deserve the moniker “fan” which is derived from the term “fanatic” and since these people clearly are not fanatical so there must be another term that could describe them like “fanciers” or “People who have a passing interest in the Cyclones”) began funneling out of Hilton Coliseum shortly after the final television timeout.

I left the arena half expecting my phone to ring at any moment. There was a chance that a thorough thrashing like the Panthers had put on the Cyclones might trigger a gloating phone call. I know a thing or two about the gloating phone call. I make one to Jason Baier about every week that the Chiefs lose. Well I used to, but they lose so often now it hardly seems worth the effort to dial his phone number.

My phone did not ring. This meant that the gloating was going to come through the medium known as MySpace. I knew I needed to take my medicine, figuratively speaking of course. However, I knew that I could buy myself some time. I descended into the frigid depths of the basement and opened up Photoshop. I decided to wait a bit before knocking down my full piece of humble pie. I began editing some images I created last week to clear my head and make me forget about the horrible display of Naismith’s great game that I was witness to earlier this evening.

This pictures are similar to the other pictures I made earlier. I haven’t quite captured the image that I’m striving to make, but I am moving into that ballpark.


11-23-07


11-23-07


11-23-07


11-23-07


11-23-07


11-23-07


11-23-07


Why I Love College Basketball

This is taken from Paul Shirley’s ESPN Diary. It is a retelling of one of the greatest injustices in the history of College Basketball. Plus he only gives a cursory look to my least favorite college basketball memory (I watched that game in F-ing Hunky Dory’s!) and the peripheral reason why I will never have State Farm Insurance.

Journal 43: When basketball became the crying game

Because I am an American with at least one functional eyeball and/or eardrum, I was exposed to the regional finals of this year’s NCAA tournament. Usually I pay only cursory attention to the NCAA tournament; unlike most humans, I find college basketball to be subpar.

I’ve never fully grasped why people prefer it to the NBA. In my mind, the NBA is to the NCAA as a bottle of Pacifico is to a can of light beer. Increased consumption of both results in entertainment for all — one just makes the journey a little more enjoyable.

This year, though, I had a reason to watch the tournament. My favorite college head coach, Tim Floyd, managed to unexpectedly lead his Pre-Mayo USC Trojans into the Sweet 16. Sadly, his team lost its game with North Carolina but, because I had given the tournament more than one idle thought, I resolved to watch on.

Thanks to the shockingly humorless commentating and a realization that it matters not a whit to me if someone wins the national championship or the tournament is canceled due to an outbreak of hantavirus, I was quickly relieved of most of my interest in the tournament.

Except for one part: I paid attention to the crying. And that reminded me of why I should cut college basketball fans some slack.

Back before I embarked on my wending professional career, I played basketball at Iowa State. In March 2000, my team played Michigan State in the Midwest regional final, with a trip to the Final Four at stake.

It would prove to be a memorable game for me, but not for reasons I could have anticipated beforehand. In a semi-prophetic turn of events, I became known not for plays I made on the court, but for my actions off it — specifically for my actions at the end of the bench after I fouled out and it became apparent that my junior year of college would not include participation in the Final Four.

I cried. A lot.

This year, when I watched players break down when their respective seasons came to an end, I was sent into flashbacks via my own episode of quasi-post-traumatic stress syndrome. Thankfully, I was able to stave off tears this time. My brothers might have packed me away for admission to the sanitarium if I hadn’t.

My most memorable emotional breakdown was not an isolated event. I’ve cried after many, many basketball losses. In fact, I’m fairly confident that I teared up after every non-win of my junior and senior seasons of college. (I didn’t play much my freshman year. And we lost 18 times when I was a sophomore — I would have needed a tear duct transplant.)

But my moist and salty trend had begun much earlier. After a sub-state loss during my junior year of high school, I spent an hour in a bathroom stall in a locker room in Silver Lake, Kansas. When we lost in the state tournament the next year, it took me two hours to regroup enough to talk to the one college coach whot had waited for me to pull myself together — Tom Brennan, then of the University of Vermont.

But the loss to Michigan State in the Elite Eight was particularly crushing. En route to Big 12 regular-season and tournament championships, we had lost all of four times on the year. I had grown accustomed to winning. Losses came as shocks to my admittedly fragile emotional system.

I had played a fairly significant role on the team. I didn’t start, but was consistently the first player off the bench. That is, until one of our last regular season games, a matchup with Texas in Ames. During the first half, I came down awkwardly on my right foot and broke a bone within. (I, of course, cried when I found out it was broken.)

Because of my crippled status, I didn’t play in either of our first-weekend wins in the NCAA tournament. But I had healed sufficiently to play sparingly in our Sweet 16 thrashing of UCLA. Emboldened by my ability to tolerate foot pain (assist: injection-delivered opiates), coach Larry Eustachy returned me to my sixth-man status in our game against Michigan State.

I played well enough that I was still on the court with about five minutes to go. (Warning: Most of what follows will be extracted from my admittedly fuzzy memory of the events that transpired. Times and scores are approximations, mostly because I don’t want to take the time to do actual “research.”)

We were up by four or five at the time and were playing well. I allowed myself to think — as I was running down the court — “You could be playing in the Final Four next weekend. Gosh, that’s neat.” (I had not yet been exposed to the cruelties of the world outside of the Midwest, so I thought in sock-hop.)

Then, it seemed like life got even better. I caught a pass in the middle of the lane, lofted up a shot, and ran into someone wearing Michigan State green. The referee in my field of vision immediately put his hands on his hips to signal a blocking foul and then dropped his hand like they do, counting the basket I had semi-inadvertently made. We would soon be up by, well, two more than whatever the margin was at the time. Three more if I could summon the wherewithal to make a free throw.

But then I noticed a referee conference develop. There was discord in the striped ranks — debate over whether the foul had been a charge by me or a block by . . . the other guy. The one in the green.

(Again, fuzziness. In my defense, much of what transpired has become twisted because the events quickly became part of Cyclone Nation lore.)

After a lengthy discussion, the officials came to the conclusion that they would call . . . a double foul. My teammates and I were, obviously, aghast. And a little awed. Our feeble minds had not contemplated the double foul to be a viable option.

We did quickly realize the following: Blocking foul, good for us. Charging foul, bad for us. Double foul, bad for us . . . and bad for the referees. Public admissions of ineptitude are rarely looked upon fondly by 18,000 basketball fans.

(Unless those fans are overwhelmingly in support of the team that stands to benefit from the call. Like if the game is played in Auburn Hills, Mich. and one of the teams’ campuses is in East Lansing, Michigan. Not that we found that 10:1 green-to-red advantage daunting. Or that I’m the least bitter about the logistics.)

The basket was waved off, I fouled out, and our momentum came screeching to a halt. I next looked up to watch Michigan State’s Morris Peterson finish off a lob with a dunk, which inspired the partisan Palace crowd to explode. We couldn’t stop the tide and, soon, it was over.

And so I cried.

Fortunately, I was given exceedingly ample time for emotional expression. With a few seconds remaining in a game that was then out of reach, coach Eustachy took it upon himself to demonstrate his frustration with the officials’ work by storming onto the court.

The circus that followed his ejection gave those manning the cameras — both television and standard still-photo — plenty of time to capture my mood. That mood being the one that inspires a clean-cut white kid to make really ugly faces as he cries and tries to hide behind his left hand.

I was sad because we had lost. But my despair was exacerbated by the personal circumstances at work. I had trained hard to return from injury in time to help my team. My efforts had resulted in a tragic loss. Obviously, I had let someone down.

The next 24 hours was a blur. I remember choking my way through a few postgame locker-room interviews, enduring a long charter flight home, and wading through several hundred Cyclone uber-fans who had awaited our arrival in Des Moines.

We had lost on Saturday, which meant that the poignant shots of the Iowa State basketball player crying his naïve little heart out were featured prominently in Sunday papers all over the Midwest. I vaguely remember hearing from a relative that my tear-stained visage made an appearance even in the Los Angeles Times.

I spent that Sunday holed up in my apartment, healing. That sounds melodramatic, but it’s actually true. Basketball was all I cared about. And that spring, it was all anyone in Iowa cared about. We were the talk of the state. Which meant that I felt like I had failed a population base of around 2 million full-on or partial Iowa State Cyclone fans.

And yes, I took myself a little too seriously.

But by Sunday night, I was ready to move on. I had another season to look forward to — my senior year at a Division I basketball program.

With the departure of Marcus Fizer, I undoubtedly would move into a starting role (true). I surely would have an injury-free season for a change (not true). And of course, we would avenge the previous year’s exit from the NCAA tournament (also not true: At the end of my senior year, we became only the fourth No. 2 seed to lose in the first round). Life was full of promise.

On Monday morning, I woke up ready to begin anew. On my walk to campus, I received a few sympathetic greetings from total strangers. I humbly shrugged off their condolences, nobly declining to confirm their rage against referees who had — in their eyes — bungled a call and taken the game away from their Cyclones.

As I did every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, I stopped in at the cafeteria on the western side of campus. I opened the door to Friley Hall and grabbed a copy of the Iowa State Daily.

Whereupon my heart immediately dropped into my colon. In the interest of the entertainment of 23,999, and to the horror of one, the editors of the university newspaper had covered the entire top half of the paper, from left margin to right, with a picture of me, crying.

Specifically, this one

I’d like to say that the picture instantly crystallized for me the relationship between sports and money. I wish that what dawned on me at the time was a realization that the NCAA, CBS and the Iowa State Daily cared very little about my feelings — that they cared about selling tires, razors, and ad space to local bars. And if my inability to control my inner infant helped them to accomplish those goals, they would put a picture of it wherever they could.

But, instead of anything so cynical as that, I only realized that each of my walks between classes was going to be extraordinarily awkward.

I ate my breakfast and walked to class. My suspicions had been correct. As they passed, my fellow studentry looked at me with a mix of awe, sympathy and wild-eyed panic.

Except for one person. While I sat in the library, plowing through the mess of hieroglyphics that passed for my engineering homework, a girl walked up and, without hesitation, asked me to autograph the day’s paper.

I resisted the urge to push her down the nearby stairs and politely signed my name.

Eventually, it dawned on me that her request summarized the feelings of everyone who had watched me break down on the bench in Auburn Hills. They weren’t ashamed of me because we had lost, and they weren’t ashamed of me because I had cried like a sixth-grade girl who’s been told she will have to wait another year to get her ears pierced. In fact, they were proud of me for crying. They loved that I cared enough to cry.

Which, I suppose is why people like college basketball. They want to see heartbreak. They want to see the farm kid burst into tears when his Cinderella hopes are crushed by some basketball juggernaut. And they want to see vulnerability in the street-hardened eyes of that juggernaut’s McDonald’s All-American, when his team’s hopes are crushed by someone else.

On and on, until only one team is left. A winner. A conqueror. Whose head coach immediately chokes up on the podium.

(It would seem that sports fans just want to see people cry. Kind of the opposite of the bloodlust we might expect.)

As I watched teams fall in the tournament this year, I was struck with how ridiculous the players look when their seasons end. I know that they’ll probably play more games. For the better players, those will be more important games: Their ability to feed themselves will depend on them.

But, just like the 21-year-old version of me, they don’t know that yet. Their attention was more focused: They cared only about winning that game. And that, I grudgingly will admit, makes college basketball a little more watchable than I would like to admit.

i’m just glad my emotional fragility could contribute to the entertainment of us all.

Source URL: http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/columns/story?columnist=shirley_paul&page=Journal-43

Something Out of Nothing

I went on a brief sojourn to Minnesota this past weekend. I had some pretty ambitious plans for a photo montage, but that fell through. So I put this little thing together to make me feel better about me.

The Drink


2007
“This beer tastes like dog rectum. Jay let me pour you a glass and see how you like it.”

2007
“Dog rectum. Indeed! Pour me a glass and I shall decide the truth of this matter.”

2007
Glug, glug, glug!

Jay's Last Drink
“Ugh! Not so good!”

2007
“Ha! Ha! I take joy from your suffering!!!”

The End

Also, I’m putting together a little NCAA tournament pool. I have already sent an e-mail out to everybody I know that likes basketball. If I missed you and you would like to enter, let me know. There is nothing on the line but pride. I say nothing only to bait the foolish people that think that pride is nothing.