(Sorry this is late. I had to work.)
“In skating over thin ice our safety is in our speed.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
“If there’s a problem, yo I’ll solve it. Check out the hook while the DJ revolves it.”
Northwest Arkansas is frozen tonight. The air itself is an icy, foggy mist. Light is refracting strangely, with distant streetlights sparkling and expanding in my vision. For some reason all my senses seem clean and sharp, I feel the cold and taste the air. I can see forever. Getting out of the car I hit a patch of ice with my first step and suddenly my feet are in the air and I land on my backside with an inorganic THUD. Slush creeps into my pants and I’m pretty sure the fall has pulled my jeans down just a little bit. I am flashing a deathly pale hint of frozen butt crack. My date is standing over me, hugging herself to control her convulsions of laughter. She is giggling so hard I fear she might wet herself.
Fayetteville and the UA campus really do look like a theme park of sorts. My father is giddy about the weather and I worry he may take off like an excited puppy to frolic in the ice covered limbs. We may need to bump the dose on his medication.
Everywhere there are overburdened trees, limbs bending and sagging under the weight of the ice. The campus reminds me of a Christmas tree lot with all of the merchandise covered with that fake white snow. This makes me think of powdered donuts and I am suddenly kinda hungry.
My father actually does a slow twirl with his arms outstretched, saying something about a “Winter Wonderland”. My mother, his wife of 46 years, is moving crab-like away from him, appearing to reassess the past half century. I ask Dad if dementia is as fun as he makes it seem. He doesn’t find me amusing.
We are early for the game. The roads were not nearly as bad as expected. My mom, who works in Fayetteville, seems vaguely disappointed that we didn’t have a near fatal accident on the way up to meet her. She has been babbling about the treacherous ice for two days and we are mocking her caution. We are brave explorers and cannot be stopped by mere weather calamity. I mention to my date that I think my undies have actually frozen and that this is leading to a friction rash.
Bama is on tap tonight. They just canned their coach and quite frankly they don’t have the look of a real contender. They have some nice players. Alonzo Gee and JaMychael Green are both excellent players with even more excellent names. But we all know that the college game is determined by guards and I really don’t know what the Tide has to offer in that area.
I am troubled as I watch the Hogs warm up. Stef persists with his headband that is clearly jinxed. Worse, Jason Henry has added a headband and he is wearing it low on the forehead like Michael Washington. It’s not a good look. Mostly it serves to draw attention to two small circular bald patches in his scalp. It looks like he has mange or maybe someone put a couple cigarettes out on his noggin.
Multiple players have their warm up tops tucked into their pants AND the legs of the pants tucked into their socks. This is quite simply unacceptable. They look like the are wearing riding pants.
Brandon Moore and Marcus Monk are in street clothes, sigh. Moore looks really skinny in his civies, his shoulders all sharp and pointy.
The mascots seem to have gone a bit batty. It started with Boss Hog, the giant inflatable dude, when we first came in. He was all up in my face trying to get me to have a stare down with him. I think he sensed my fear of mascots and tried to spook me.
Then Boss started in on my Dad who just seemed confused by the whole thing, like maybe he thought it was a hallucination that noone else could see, a rubbery side effect of some medicine or another.
Next was the regular mascot, the one that bizarrely wears a basketball uniform and kinda looks like a bright red Teen Wolf. He was crawling behind our seats and popped up to frighten us. It worked. I spit out my coke into my already cold and moist lap. Geez I hate mascots.
The band is playing “Ring of Fire”. Interesting choices with the playlist this year.
Bama has sort of cool old-school unis. They look a bit like an ABA squad.
We need Henry and Andre Clark to play well. Bama looks kind of large.
I have decided that I want the hospital where I work to treat me like Bud Walton treats the hogs. When I show up for a shift I want them to dim the lights and have the overhead speaker boom out “Ladies and gentleman let’s give a big ER welcome to your doctor tonight.” Then I’ll jog in while strobe lights flash, my scrubs on and my stethoscope twirling. Is that too much to ask?
Let’s get to it and play some ball.
Knox and Green are both really big but both of them seem to have weird legs, slightly flat footed.
Rotnei is guarding Hillman. That is the only guy he can even try to guard because he is 6’1” and the other two perimeter guys are about 6’6”. I’m guessing we end up playing a lot of zone or a lot of Henry.
Nice dish from Courtney to Sanchez.
I would really like to pass a team rule that forbids people from passing ahead to MW when he is ahead of the pack in the middle of the floor. Mike doesn’t control his momentum so well.
Andre Clark just blows an inbound pass to give up the lead.
RC misses a couple. AC with a deep shot.. RC gets off the schneid.
FIRST TIMEOUT 8-9 Bama
Sanchez airballed a 17 footer'. I’m glad he took the shot but geez.
There is a dangerous thing going on. Teams are not guarding Fortson until he gets in the paint and he is afraid to pull the trigger. Worse is the fact that teams aren’t guarding Sanchez at all either. His man is sinking into the lane as well which means things will be pretty congested in there for CF.
RC catch and shoot.
Henry doing a nice job on the boards.
My date mentions that the walk-on, Nolan, looks just like a guy she dated briefly in high school. She informs me he was a “horn-dog” and she had to dump him after the first date due to an over-large belt buckle. I don’t own such a buckle so I think I’m okay.
RC and Stef both miss but RC cleans it up.
SECOND TIMEOUT 15-11 Hogs
Green has a great touch. Very good player.
MW handling the double better. He is looking backside a bit..
Nice head fake and drive by RC.
We have a 4 guard lineup with Henry for Sanchez. I like it. Make them adjust to US.
Rotnei is playing ok defense. Nice steal. He slaps too much with his hands but he is a good off-the-ball defender.
Stef is WAY off.
My date just said that the Bama interim coach is a “cute little feller”. Alrighty then.
THIRD TIMEOUT 22-16 Hogs
Mike Washington! Little jumper. He is a solid, solid post player.
Welsh with a great dish to Sanchez.
Henry touching every rebound. RC transition 3. Finally.
RC again. This is his night.
Stef with another good dish inside to Henry. Good to see Stef shake off the bad shooting.
Stef feeds RC TWICE on the same possession but he finally misses.
I just noticed a young woman on the south side just looking around as she casually runs her pinky finger up, into, and around her left nostril. She keeps looking side to side to see if any of the 10,000! people surrounding her might be noticing.
LAST TIMEOUT 34-25
We need to close the half hard.
Alonzo Gee follow hoop. I think I will name my first born Alonzo Gee. It is just that fun a name.
Cox in and gets swatted. Who does he think he is? That is a Sanchez move.
CF with a bad time for a silly turnover. And it’s down to 4 points.
“Steven Cox is just really, really cute”, my date says. “I could do without the squatting though. He has a weird squat on defense.” I make a note to remember this.
Henry big 3. He has had a good half.
HALFTIME 38-31 Hogs
We look pretty good against teams that can’t shoot.
Great half from RC. We become a decent team when he is shooting.
They introduce all the athletes with a 3.0 GPA or higher at halftime. There are a bunch. I can’t decide if I am impressed by the number or simply shocked at how short a couple of the golfers are.
Sanchez takes a 3 because he was completely unguarded. he needs to take that shot. If he doesn’t become a threat he will have to sit. Of course it would help if he made one.
Knox has a nice mid-range shot.
Not sure MW can go left.
Not guarding CF again but Stef finally nails a big three then draws a foul.
We are getting KILLED in the paint but still up 6.
And then RC hits. That gives us a ton of flexibility.
But then Hillman just outmuscles RC for 2 straight buckets.
Then RC hits again and Hillman blows a jumper trying to post up RC. 10 point game
There is a fella sitting in the floor seats, a grown man with an unkempt mustache and chin fur, wearing a drab green warmup suit. I’m pretty sure he is a Russian mobster or possibly a Ukrainian flesh trader. Someone needs to look into this.
My date can’t stop laughing because I referred to the color of his warm-up as “olive”. Tough crowd.
FIRST TIMEOUT 54-44 Hogs
Henry and Britt in and another turnover trying to hit MW on the break in the middle of the floor. Why is Mike running the middle of the floor anyway? Ball should go middle and the other guys pick a lane to either side and a trailer spots up. Me no likey.
We are pressing a bit now. Interesting. Wait until late so we don’t wear out.
Clarke can’t miss. Good lineup – Henry, Britt, Courtney, RC, and Washington.
Green is gonna be a pro.
Nice outlet to Britt for a layup.
SECOND TIMEOUT 64-54
Sanchez misses a pair. RC has 26.
Andre Clark blows a dunk and Bama scores. We aren’t putting them away.
We are trapping some now.
Nice move from Sanchez. Aggressive.
There were NO BURGERS at halftime. I repeat, NO BURGERS. After last week I was looking forward to one the whole first half.
THIRD TIMEOUT 72-60
The band was running around the court during the last break. That should be a pay-per-view event. “Band Guys Running”.
Green and Knox are scoring at will.
Stef 3 then Knox again.
Gee blows by Rotnei for a jam.
We have been playing mostly zone and it has been fairly effective because Bama can’t shoot. When we try to switch to man we have match up problems, Gee being the main one.
My date has started a new game. We pick out some guy in the crowd and try to decide if he is wearing a rug or just has horrible hair. This is making us feel better about ourselves.
LAST TIMEOUT 75-67
They are going right at Rotnei every time, or at least for the last 3 possessions and it’s a 6 point game.
RC is out.
We are milking clock and I hate it.
“Stop slowing it down!!”, my mother screams. “We SUCK at slowing it down!!” That’s my momma. (And she has a point)
We are making FTs.
RC comes back in with 20 seconds left. I guess it is a question of whether he can play crunch time minutes if we don’t have confidence in his defense. It will be a problem if he has to be involved in offense/defense substitutions.
FINAL SCORE 89-80
So what have we learned? Not much. We learned RC can shoot but we already knew that. Good to see it happen though. We learned that we have defensive match up problems but they don’t stand out against poor shooting teams, but we knew that too.
We learned that Sanchez is going to be more aggressive offensively, which he must be or he will sit. And he would sit because of the next thing we learned which is that we are at our best with Henry playing big minutes at the 4 and Britt getting big minutes backing up the other 3 guys.
Finally we learned that squatting looks funny, toupees are a bad idea, and grown men shouldn’t wear warm-up suits to public events.
Until next time
PS - if anyone is interested I have (self) published a book of short stories. There are a bunch of Hog stories in it. If you like these diaries I think you will like this stuff. Thanks for reading.