Driving to the game there is a stillness to things, a comfortable lull. College football coaches are playing musical chairs and making the one indisputable case for trashing the BCS that noone talks about – that the current system forces coaches to campaign for and accept jobs while they still have games to play. Holiday basketball tournaments are mostly over and they have taught us the surprising information that Carolina is , like, way good and that Duke has some shooters and that Paulus has, beyond all expectation, become even MORE annoying. Also, Xavier has a really good forward and excellent guard play – who woulda thunk it.

My beloved piggies have also reached a lull. A lull in which they play a crummy team then take a week off then repeat the same. This might be good for development but it is lousy for building fan momentum.

The holiday season is in a lull as well. The early shoppers are sitting in a bloated post-frenzy daze in the parking lots of Wal-Mart and Target, tending to battle wounds and counting scalps. The last second shoppers like myself are not yet feeling the pressure, content to sit on the sidelines and watch local homes not sell.

It is dark and cold when we arrive at the game, the parking lot 2/3 empty. We are jolly and weirdly satisfied by a meal of steakburgers and cheesefries at Steak & Shake although I can’t quit lamenting the fact that my meal looked like a shrunken version of the one promised in the glossy menu picture. Life is like that sometimes.

I am telling my girlfriend’s son about what Hog hoop games were like when I was his age. About driving north on old 71, the twists and the turns, hoping you didn’t get stuck behind a truck on the one lane road. About how the drive seemed to take you back in time a little, through older towns that were made of stone and sparse light and smokey chimneys. How we emerged into the lights of Fayetteville and how excited I got when I could see things glimmering on the hill.

I am telling him about how the games were as much about ritual and sameness and community as anything else, how they had little to do with the opponent. I am talking about a house with amazing Christmas lights just north of Alma that would be all lit up and almost steaming with heat every year as we headed up the mountain for early season games and how it would be dark and sleeping on our way home. I explain about how my brother would pretend to be asleep when we arrived home so my father would have to carry him into the house, and how this got a little creepy as it continued until my brother was 17.

I am telling about being excited about games all day, thinking Brewer and Moncrief and Delph and Reed and Walker and Robertson and even Norton and Tony Brown were not mere mortals but that it somehow seemed as if I knew them, that if I bumped into them somewhere they would recognize me and we would chat.

Her son looks up at me and asks if it is okay for him to run ahead to the arena because I’m acting a little weird.

As we sit down for the game I have to say that things have changed for me. In part because I am old and and my pants don’t fit well but I am thinking the young folks with comfortable pants don’t feel like I used to either. The crowd is smallish and quiet. We wait to be impressed rather than reveling in being part of crushing an inferior opponent early. The holidays are giving me the blues.

On to the game.

Texas Southern tonight who comes in still looking for a win. During warmups my girlfriend mentions that “Wow, they look like a whole team of grown ups”. Which in fact they do. They are big. So is their coach. He looks like a combo of Warren Sapp and Suge Knight. I’m thinking there is little back talk in practice.

My girlfriend’s teenage daughter agrees with her mother that Steven Cox is “really cute” but she hasn’t decided about RC, he seems “okay”. She likes Fortson because of the hair and his headband accessorizing and is impressed by Andre Clark’s eyebrow grooming. She refuses to rate Sanchez because he tucks his warmup top into his shorts which is unacceptable to our entire group ethos, which is to avoid being dorky.

TIP OFF

The starting lineup hasn’t changed. Jason Henry IS dressed out and things start out a bit ugly. RC misses a three, stef misses a short jumper and both teams kind of toss the ball around a bit like it doesn’t mean too much.

Finally Fortson makes a 3 about 2 and a half minutes in. I’m liking his shot ant his perimeter shot selection more and more. The defense from TS is mostly 3 -2 zone with a guy and a half assigned to Rotnei.

Stef misses a jumper but gets the board and draws a foul.

Then misses a pair – yikes!

Sanchez gets a jam inside. very nice. He looks skinny – like he is losing bulk already. I am concerned about the minutes wearing him down but he does look quicker.

Washington doesn’t look healthy. He has had three straight turnovers or weak misses.

FIRST TIMEOUT 5-6 Texas Southern Leads

RC hits a 3. Gorgeous open court pass from Courtney to Sanchez. He is a very gifted player.

Rotnei appears markedly less tan. Either I was wrong about the tanning booth or he is due for a re-burn.

Britt and Henry are in.

Henry buries a 3 straight off. He is not shy.

Now he walks. Making things happen.

Henry with an oop from Stef after a steal. Hmmmmm, Someone is responding well to discipline.

This group is playing better pressure defense and making a nice run.

2ND TIMEOUT 19-9 Hogs

Henry hits another 3. Wow he looks good. I’m getting a man crush. Britt hits a 3, now that’s just silly.

My girlfriend just asked if the band spends time practicing their cheers too, since they seem so coordinated.

Yes, I say, every Friday and Saturday night. (insert drum rimshot here). Who says vaudeville is dead?

Not only is the crowd small tonight it seems to be heavily salted with, shall we say, special needs folk. I’m looking at an entire section of the crowd and save for a dude that may or may not be the lead singer for Nickleback they all have the same vacant look on their face, as if they may start drooling soon. I’m wondering if it is some sort of promotion I missed.

“No, that’s just the way we look here in Arkansas sometimes honey. It’s past our bedtime.” My girlfriend says.” Don’t worry, it just makes us seem better looking in comparison and that’s what really matters.” Her daughter nods her head vigorously in agreement. I look at the boy and he looks at me and we both have pretzel cheese on our shirts. We shrug our shoulders at each other and move on.

Texas Southern’s coach got ejected. Seems unfair. I think you should be allowed to yell whatever you want as long as you stay politely seated and he was doing that. He calmly walks off the court followed by a comically skinny security guard who will be able to do absolutely nothing if this man decides to get mad and turn around.

There seems to be a battle going on between the TS assistants to NOT be saddled with coaching this crummy team for the rest of the game. The clipboard is a hot potato.

OH MY! Fortson oops of the board to Andre Clark. He never looked back. No idea how he knew where he was.

THIRD TIMEOUT 31-13

Henry gets a couple boards and a layup. Stef scores. RC misses a 3 pointer – struggling with rhythm yet he has about 7.

LAST TIMEOUT 39-19

RC gets a 3 pointer blocked by a fast closing defender – first time we have seen that I think.

Guy on Southern keeps complaining to the refs even while he is driving. Stepped a full foot out of bounds and complained. I love this guy. He has strips of black cloth coming out of the tops of his shoes that make them look like jester caps. That’ the kind of player you build a championship squad around.

Courtney gets an unbelievable tip in. He can FLY. I can’t wait for his first 2 hand cram in traffic. It is coming – I promise.

HALFTIME 43-25 Hogs

The lights go down and the dance squad comes out in red sequined thingies. They do a nice little Vegas themed dance but they wear far more clothing than the Vegas dancers I have been exposed to.

I get a text from my brother saying he feels sorry for Texas Southern.

“Why” I text back.

“They seem like the all-black Washington Generals” he replies. I love my brother.

I guess I need to mention that Southern is a crappy team in all facets. Bad defenders, bad ball handlers, bad shooters all brought together nicely with bad attitudes. Hopefully they have fresh oranges in the locker room to improve their collective mood.

SECOND HALF
We open with a Stef 3 and an RC miss then a Stef 2 and an RC 3. It is amazing how much better we are when everybody is shooting good.

Washington is the only one struggling tonight.

FIRST TIMEOUT 53-32 Hogs

Things are getting a bit sloppy as might be expected. Our teenage girl is asking when Cox is going to play. She thinks Rotnei is cuter now because he “shoots so good”. The 11 year old boy is yawning and asking if he can have my iPhone to play games.

I tell him I need it because I’m taking notes because I am a semi-famous blogger and literally tens of people are counting on me to write silly stuff about the game. He just rolls his eyes dubiously and turns back to the game, tasting some of the pretzel cheese from his shirt.

I’m not going to go into much more detail about the second half. They played well but the competition was poor. RC made a couple more and continued to show that he doesn’t force shots. Henry made another jumper and looked good. Andre Clark looked pretty decent. Brandon Moore looked lost on both ends at times. He launched another 3 that had Pel laughing as he immediately yanked him from the game. Stef is becoming a defensive demon and I will continue to argue that the former Razorback he is most like in career arc is Clint McDaniel.

My brother texted me again and said that we reminded him of “Van Exel era Cinncinatti”. I told him he had been changing too many diapers.

Cox got to play and made a free throw. He smiled and had very white teeth. Everyone was happy.


FINAL SCORE 80-61 Hogs

The drive home was pretty and quiet. I-540 is more sterile than old 71 but it is fast and safe. There are no shacks or cars on front lawns and I don’t get to hear my father string together expletives as he tries to pass an 18 wheeler. The kids didn’t sleep, they listened to iPods and texted friends. We didn’t slow down as we passed a special house with lights.

But it was still hoops and it was still the Hogs. Stef joked with a guy in the crowd when he chased a ball into the front row. Courtney threw one of the best passes I have ever seen live. And I watched the birth of a potential new star in Henry. Things are different now, but they will be the same again. Soon.

JCK

4 comments

  1. Rod N. // December 5, 2008 at 7:09 AM  

    Brilliant. Sounds like a great time was had by all.

    Awesome read and detail.

  2. Taylor // December 5, 2008 at 3:59 PM  

    Very funny.

  3. Anonymous // December 5, 2008 at 8:30 PM  

    dude you are hilarious.

    i love your writing style!

    ("...happened until my brother was 17")

    LOL.

    Keep it up!

    your writeups are posted on hogville usually, so you though there might not be many comments, you are gaining page views.

    Again, love the work!

  4. Hayden Hodges // December 5, 2008 at 9:16 PM  

    It is pretty funny.

    Anonymous, please feel free to post us anywhere at anytime. We have no bias for or against any sports fan nor sports site. We appreciate the support from you and all of the folks on Hogville and other message boards.