(Said during Charlie Weiss’s first season at Notre Dame)
“If Charlie Weiss gives a clinic, I’m going. I’m on the bandwagon now.”
- Bob Davie-
I think I injured something diving headfirst back onto the Arkansas Basketball bandwagon. I’m not sure if it was my butt or my ego that got bruised but something down there sure is sore.
Seriously - WTF! I actually tried to write one of these diaries after the Florida game but failed. I was striving to have a more positive tone but it quickly degenerated into a nasty bashing so bleak and humorless that I was too embarrassed to post it. That was maybe 2 and a half weeks ago. Now the Hogs are in first place in the West and my brother is shooting me texts because he is concerned about our RPI. (#111 - gulp) I haven’t checked a freakin’ RPI site in 2 years!
How does a team go from from being publicly sodomized at Kentucky to first place in just a couple of weeks? How does Pelphrey go from being all but history to relatively secure over the course of a few ballgames?
Something remarkable is going on but I have absolutely no idea what. Which is why I decided to just leap on the bandwagon and enjoy the best ball played by an Arkansas basketball team in a decade. Now - On with the diary.
Arkansas v LSU Running Diary
“Game shows are designed to make us feel better about the random, useless facts that are all we have left of our education.”
-Chuck Palahniuk -
My wife likes my blogs and diaries. At least she says she does. Since she is my wife she can’t really tell me that I’m an insufferable know-it-all with a bathroom sense of humor. Well, she can but she doesn’t want to waste that sort of quality verbal assault on mere literary tomfoolery.
So anyway my wife pretty much thinks I’m funny, most of the time. However she was a teensy tiny bit miffed at her depiction in my most recent diary. Something about me making her the epitome of “slutterosity” or some such.
So for the record my wife is way too hot for me and I am fortunate to have her ( and she would make Stephen Cox at least take her on 3 dates before, well, you know).
Also she is pregnant and lovely but feeling bad about herself and she said that “If I’m gonna make her out to be some sort of hoops Jezebel then I could at least show her looking hot.” So here she is. I’m the bloated clown in a Huskies cap holding on for dear life.
-I feel like I have to mention all of this here because the night before the LSU game my wife had a disturbing dream. She was at a party, a dinner party but it was mostly wives and old friends and she was sipping vodka mixed with cherry slush from a big Sonic cup with a red straw. She explains that in this dream she is positive that Chuck Woolery is at the party (yes THAT Chuck Woolery). She has actually seen him at this party, and when she saw him a part of her realized that this actually WASN’T Chuck Woolery but everyone kept calling him that and insisting that this was him.
Faced with a dinner party sans her husband, a styrofoam cup full of sugary booze, a suddenly flat stomach, and an amazing lack of nausea my beloved set off on a quest to meet this Chuck Woolery who isn’t Chuck Woolery. She is stymied at every turn. She doesn’t know if she wants to meet him because she loves him or because she wants to expose him. Before she can figure it out, I show up to whisk her away and she wakes up. (I think she may have just added this last part for my sake - she knows how much I hate Chuck Woolery)
This was a dream that posed too many questions and almost no answers. Was Chuck a symbolic version of me - a beloved imposter, a phantom phony? Or could Chuck have been a larger metaphor, for fulfillment and lost youth - always just out of grasp? Or could Chuck be our yet to be born daughter, beautiful but untouchable, loved but beyond our grasp?
Stranger still could Chuck be our Hog basketball team, an image of handsomeness and glory, loved but replaced by something else, something foreign?
Or, to paraphrase Freud, maybe sometimes a Chuck Woolery is just a Chuck Woolery.
And sometimes a frustrating basketball team is just a frustrating team. Maybe these Hogs just are what they are (to misquote an annoying truism) - a team that has miraculously turned a corner, the best team in the SEC West. Maybe they are a team that in all likelihood will be favored in all but one of their remaining games, a team that shines on the road.
Or maybe they are just a shiny Chuck Woolery. A group that suddenly looks good but their quality is an illusion. Maybe they are false hope. Maybe they are a guy with good hair trying to steal your drunk pregnant wife at a party. Right now it is just impossible to say.
Its an eerie night as we head up the mountain. We emerge through islands of dense fog into unbroken inky sky, then descend back into the soup. Snow is frozen in place along the highway but the roads are bone dry. Trees seem desperate to shake off the cold weight of the season, their limbs bowed and heavy
We encounter actual traffic as we approach Razorback road - the first time this season that this has happened. We may be a fan base of bandwagon jumpers but the fact remains that if you give us any hint of a winning team we will fill the joint up.
There is a certain zen or maybe it is just fortune when you assemble a truly good basketball team. Ask Florida. They won back to back national titles with the least heralded group of players Donavon has ever put on the floor. The Gators have been awash in All-Americans since Billy the Kid came to town. But it was the team with the oddly complementary players, the guys that to a man sat their freshman year, not good enough to break into the lineup as rookies much less contemplate leaping straight to the NBA. They were the guys with vision and unselfishness and brains.
Prior to their title teams Florida was mostly an enormously talented up and down team - as likely to get beat in the first round as they were to make the finals. They wore headbands to hold their flowing curls back and dated Playboy models.
Since those two wonderful championship teams they, honestly, have been a hot, talented, mess. Players go one and done (Speight) or transfer due to PT (Lucas). The guys that stick around seem like soft tweeners.
Florida is packed with 4 and 5 star recruits. Filled to the brim. And they have been to the NIT 2 years in a row and appear headed there again. I’m not so sure this is a system we should be emulating. Yet . . .
I arrive to the game too late to see if Chuck Barrett announced a salute to a past player. The last game I attended they honored Nick Davis.
Not to dog Nicky - he played hard and did a lot with a little - but he was an awkward, average player with a swirl around the head jump shot that seemed to go in only through random chance. He was an average player on a below average team. There was never a time that I saw my beloved Hogs in a hopeless situation and thought to myself “Don’t worry, we have Nick Davis.”
Again, I’m not trying to be hard on Nicky but are we really so starved for heroes? Has our basketball tradition fallen that far?
Should we salute Kevin Rehl, John Snively, Mike Ratliff, Tim Scott etc.? (Okay maybe that would be fun. I’m getting kind of excited now.) We should have salutes to the guys in the middle of the Bell Curve. A shout out to mediocrity if you will.
So I guess you could say I’m kind of glad I missed the salute this game. It sort of brought me down last time. And it didn’t bode well.
Captain Picard is sitting 2 rows in front of me. I want to be his #1.
The tail on the ”Boss Hog“ costume is oddly phallic. I am officially disturbed.
My wife comments that a little guy on LSU ”is adorable - like Webster“.
I don’t respond, somehow fearful that this comment could be construed as racist even though I have no idea how.
”Is Emmanuel Lewis or whatever that kid’s real name was still alive?“ My wife asks. ”Didn’t he need new kidneys? Or was that Gary Coleman?“ She is pulling things up on IMDB on her iPhone now.
I suggest to her that this could be a good game show - guessing whether D-list celebrities from decades past are alive or dead. ”Chuck Woolery could host“ I say. ”Or is he dead“ I add.
She is not amused.
We are a few seconds late for tipoff and can hear the crowd roar for a Mike Washington basket. That sounded like a real crowd at a real game. I’m serious. Are you people feeling this? Hog basketball is alive.
We open the game with a 10-0 run - just like a good team should do at home. RC and Courtney both make 3s. CF isn’t hesitating on his shot and it makes all the difference. Still not pure but good enough.
Tasmin Mitchell breaks the LSU drought. I think he was on the team back in the Dale Brown era. He is the David Overstreet of college basketball. (My apologies for the obscure reference but back in the day it seemed like Overstreet logged about a decade in the OU wishbone backfield)
FIRST TIMEOUT 12-2
Hard to believe what a difference some confidence makes - oh yeah and guard play, that helps too.
We are aggressive on defense. Not full court or anything but LSU is starting their offense from near half court. Don’t know if this is a strategy change or simply confident players being more aggresive.
LSU has pretty much subbed the whole lineup save Tasmin. They even have a redhead in the game.
”Good for him“ my wife says, as if being redheaded is a physical debility. ”I bet his mom is proud“.
Not overly proud since he has yet to even glance towards the bucket.
Glen Bryant is in and he is wearing knee socks. I repeat, Glen Bryant is in and he is wearing knee socks.
Bit of a lull for the hogs. This might be a good time to complain about over-substittion again but whatever Pel is doing seems to be working so I’ll get off his back.
SECOND TIMEOUT 13-9 Hogs
RC hits a tough jumper.
Coach Evans is as into the game as I have seen him - up off the bench, pointing and yelling. Is the team feeding off his energy or is he feeding off theirs?
LSU skipper Trent Johnson has on some sweet shoes. Some kind of elephant skin loafer. Nolan would be proud.
We are going small.
Bryant has some serious holes in his game but he makes stuff happen. He can fly and has an excellent nose for the ball. I really hope he develops. He just got a board and a tip in. (Oops - and a silly foul)
Nobles makes a great steal in open court. He is a terrific ball defender. Using him and Stef for pressure D off the bench can be a huge bonus.
RC hits a runner then makes 2 straight pick pocket steals. He looked like Robby benson at the end of ”One on One“.
THIRD TIMEOUT 25-9 Hogs
Wow. The place is about 3/4 full and very active. Ushers keep moving people out of the good seats. I think everybody is used to sitting wherever the heck they want. This is a good sign.
The band is playing ”Hey Jude“ during the timeout. Seems a strange choice to fire up the joint.
I’d like to file an official protest regarding Marshawn Powell’s facial hair. It is a thin beard that runs just along the angle of his chin and jaw. He looks like a fetal Civil War general.
Goofy guy in camo from head to toe is sitting in the front row with a creepily hot chick in painted on jeans and thigh high boots. I suggest to my wife that ”Guess How Long ‘til They Divorce“ could be another good game show. Gene Rayburn could host with that silly little thin microphone. (Or is he dead? Maybe he could be a question in my other game show. My ideas are developing layers.)
Courtney misses a 3 and gets yanked for Nobles. CF isn’t happy - does a kind of slow saunter to the bench. He is playing beautifully but has to control his emotions just a bit.
Soft press and Nobles almost gets a steal. Then Stef DOES steal it. I LOVE this.
Now Stef does a Robbie Benson and dunks on the other end. We have more steals this half then I hace sen all year. And they are all straight strips. (This might be a good time to mention that LSU really blows. Trent Johnson looks like he is considering self mutilation.)
Stef looks incredibly quick tonight, as does RC. Aggression covers many weaknesses in college hoops.
LAST TIMEOUT 31-14
Courtney misses a 3 and Mike misses a follow (he is still leaving too many chances out on the floor). Courtney drives and gets knocked around. They have no hope of staying in front of him, even with double teams. The whole team rushes to help him up from the floor. Seems like all that junk about helping out teammates comes a little more naturally when you are playing well.
I think sometimes coaches think that they can force chemistry with junk like having everyone run to a fallen player but the fact is that picking people up FOLLOWS team play - it doesn’t cause it.
Guy in the floor seats has the flattest face I have ever seen His nose disappears when he turns sideways. And he has a shock of white hair sticking up in a Johnny Cash circa 1963 kind of look. Are they giving these seats away in a raffle or something?
CF beats a TRIPLE team and feeds Mike. Goodness.
Courtney is either way, way, way better than I remembered or he has really improved. Probably both.
HALFTIME 43-21 Hogs
Good things are happening at Bud Walton. I am freaking giddy. I don’t care if LSU slurps. We are doing to a bad team exactly what we should - slapping them around.
Defensive intensity is up. Ball movement is good against zones and even the ever unpopular pick and roll looks servicable these days. Our lack of shooting is still an issue but if we force turnovers and protect the ball (I think we had 2 or 3 turnovers in the first half) then we will keep on rolling. This looks like an 11-5 team easy and the credit has to go to Pel for patience and consistency. (I still have major problems with some of the schemes but he has proved me wrong. His way CAN work.)
It turns out my wife has some sort of game show obsession. She is rattling off various hosts as if they are family friends. She thinks Sajak is ”short but sweet“. She found Richard Dawson ”offensive“. Peter Marshall (of ”The Hollywood Squares“) was ”sneaky hot“. Burt Convy ”looks like a pedophile and always pretends he would have known the answer on “Password”. She liked Bert Parks better in that role. (Bert Parks - alive or dead - or Canadian?)
RC hits a 3. Nice.
Britt is guarding Tasmin Mitchell - giving up about 3 inches and 30 pounds - and doing a terrific job.
Courtney goes coast to coast, really pushing tempo. He feeds Powell for a tap in alley oop.
Then CF gives up 2 straight easy buckets to Bass. Consistency is still lacking a bit.
Washington is already tired. He just doesn’t seem to be in very good shape. Of course I got winded climbing down from the drivers seat of our SUV today so I guess I shouldn’t talk.
FIRST TIMEOUT 54-28 Hogs
My wife claims Bob Eubanks is “masculine but had a weird growth on his face”. Wink Martindale was “overrated” (I wasn’t even aware he was rated at all). Charles Nelson Reilly and Paul Lynde were “funny queens before being funny queens was cool”.
Another steal for RC. Excellent hands defensively.
Mike blows another bunny. He loses focus when tired.
Another steal for Stef. Man he is quick tonight.
Farmer is guarding Tasmin now and is having trouble. We really need him to break out.
3 from Stef. He is having a nice game. He does his best when he plays 15-20 minutes.
Bryant forces a quick jumper.
SECOND TIMEOUT 64-38 Hogs
I tell my wife that when my little brother was about 7 he used to do a Paul Lynde impression. She wonders aloud if she married the wrong brother.
Farmer hits a nice 3. Stroke looked natural. Didn’t know he had that.
Then he pulls up and buries another just because he feels hot.
Farmer is calling for the ball. He hits another! Barely looked at the goal. Its good to know he has at least the potential to be a shooter.
THIRD TIMEOUT 72-38 Hogs
This is a serious whoopin’.
We talk about Alex Trebek, ( “cocky”), the Ray Combs tragedy and his penchant for boots with lifts, Monty Hall and the things people would do to be on television, Chuck Barris and J.P. Morgan flit through the conversational air and we both wonder what J.P. actually did to become qualified to be a “Gong Show” judge.
This is the sort of thing that builds the foundation of a healthy marriage.
RC and CF have been sitting for a while. Have I mentioned lately how far good guard play can get you in college basketball?
My father, who has been going to hog games religiously for 35 years, just turned around and asked me how everyone knew there would be a timeout at the last dead ball. I stare at him for a second and then explain how for the last 20 years there have been official timeouts every 4 minutes of every college basketball game. He is astounded by this information. My mother expresses shock about this “timeout” business as well. I’m not sure I should let them travel alone any more.
Powell is soooooo good!
It looks like Fran Drescher has joined the Pom squad.
We are playing a lot more zone this half - maybe just to practice it?
The redhead on LSU still hasn’t looked at the basket, like he was told “Whatever you do - DON’T SHOOT”
My coach used to say that to me.
Delvon makes a pretty little hook. He is an enigma.
Bryant makes a wild spinning up and under that covered about 15 feet of court. Kid has some talent.
LAST TIMEOUT 82-46 Hogs
Farmer does another heat check and his run is over - alas.
The crowd is screaming for Cox to shoot every time he touched the ball. They are acting like he is a walk on that never plays. The kid has gotten minutes in every single game - sometimes during crunchtime. I realize I am nit-picking but this is an example of how un-knowledgable our student section is. It is like they simply cheer from a “student section chants for dummies” book.
Nick Mason is checking in. My mother is pleased. “He is like a very cute little miniature person” she says.
Bow-legged miniature person I might add.
FINAL SCORE 87-52
I am man enough to admit that my analysis of this team might have been slightly off. (Okay - way way off). Whatever Pel is doing is working. They are a fun team in a very weak conference. I think we will win the West at 11-5. Is that a tourney team? If they just use our record with Courtney it is and that is what they claim to do. 2 weeks ago who could have imagined we would be having THIS conversation? Then again right after the Texas and OU games last year who would have imagined we would win only 2 conference games. Sports are weird.
And right now sports are fun again.
(Said during Charlie Weiss’s first season at Notre Dame)