Thoughts I had while watching Kansas win

Watch­ing the game last night, there were a lot of non-game relat­ed things I want­ed to touch on.  This might be of more inter­est to those of you who haven’t been fol­low­ing KU bas­ket­ball all sea­son.

  • God.  In all the play­er inter­views before the game, dur­ing all the plays of the game, dur­ing all the cel­e­bra­tion after­wards, in all the arti­cles about the game, and even in what I saw of the post-game pressers, God was men­tioned three times.  Just three times.  I find that sur­pris­ing­ly low.
  1. Mario Chalmers point­ed to the sky a lit­tle while after his game-tying three point shot.  This is the clas­sic, “Thank you, God” ges­ture used in sports all over.  Or maybe he was point­ing to the Jum­botron.
  2. Ron­nie Chalmers, Mario’s Dad, car­ried a lit­tle bit of scrip­ture in his pock­et ((Source: Luke Winn’s ESPN Tour­ney Blog, about halfway down the arti­cle)), and read it to him­self qui­et­ly towards the end of reg­u­la­tion.
  3. Cali­pari, the head coach of Mem­phis, told a reporter right after­wards that he told God, dur­ing Der­rick Rose’s one-of-two final free throw appear­ance, that if they both went in, it was meant to be, and if they didn’t, it was not meant to be.
  • Ed High­tow­er was the Ref­er­ee for the game.  I remem­ber him well from our sev­en years in Iowa City.  His main stomp­ing grounds is the Big Ten, though he’s doing more games in the Big 12 (where we are now) late­ly.  Inci­den­tal­ly, he was also the Ref for the last time KU won the Big Dance, in 1988.
  • When they set out the lad­ders for the net snip­ping, the lad­der was rather mod­est­ly embla­zoned with the company’s name, Wern­er.  They did get a Greg Gum­bel announce­ment as the Offi­cial Lad­der of the NCAA Tour­na­ment, but real­ly, I would have made sure the cheap seats knew who made the lad­der.  And nobody fell off.
  • Relat­ed ques­tion: who makes the scis­sors that are used?  Those things are sharp.
  • Anoth­er relat­ed ques­tion: Do the ladder/scissor com­pa­nies cheat?  Like how burg­ers in com­mer­cials are faked up to look bet­ter than they are in real­i­ty.  Are the steps gummed up to ensure nobody slips?  Are the scis­sors ground extra-sharp, to a lev­el no home­own­er would be allowed to have?
  • Bill Self, the KU coach, is report­ed­ly going to be offered the Okla­homa State coach­ing job (his alma mater) for some­thing like $3.5 mil­lion a year with a $6 mil­lion sign­ing bonus.  That’s $10 mil­lion for show­ing up for a year.  Most peo­ple seem to believe he will stay at Kansas, but get a nice salary bump from his cur­rent $1.4 mil­lion annu­al­ly.
  • How classy is Roy Williams (coach of Car­oli­na, for­mer 15-year coach of KU)?  He stuck around for this game, and even allowed a Jay­hawk stick­er be stuck to his black sweater.  He even wore it dur­ing a half­time CBS inter­view.  I think any ani­mos­i­ty Lawrence had for him is gone now.
  • It took a lit­tle while for arti­cles about the game to get pub­lished, but sev­er­al were out with­in hours of the end of the game.  Which means these sports­writ­ers must have notes, ideas, even par­tial arti­cles writ­ten before the game even begins, right?  A col­lec­tion of these “What if” drafts could be fas­ci­nat­ing for a sports fan to read.
  • There’s only one Luther Van­dross song I can stand ((Offi­cial CBS crap­py con­troller with com­mer­cial, or Unof­fi­cial YouTube sure to be pulled edi­tion)).
  • We will prob­a­bly pick up some sort of Cham­pi­onship DVD Com­mem­o­ra­tive Video Pack­age Sea­son Thing when they come out.  I nev­er did under­stand that.  But hav­ing watched these kids for two years, hav­ing watched every game this sea­son, know­ing their sto­ries and watch­ing them play last night, I think I’d like to watch it again in five, ten, fif­teen years.

We watched KU win the National Championship

We watched the game at home, live (not delayed via TiVo), as it tipped late enough that we were done with all par­ent­ing duties.  Our boys were tucked safe­ly in their beds, dreams of Jay­hawks danc­ing through their heads.  They both wore their new KU shirts to school, and the lit­tlest one (he’s 22 months old) insist­ed on show­ing every­one his “J Awk,” even if that meant tak­ing his hood­ie off repeat­ed­ly.

We were hop­ing to watch in HD and lis­ten to the local guys on the radio, but when we start­ed the game, the video was behind the audio by almost five sec­onds.  That means the “shot was good!” before the play had even been set up on screen.  Some­thing hap­pened at half time though, and it was all synced up, so we got local col­or for the sec­ond half and the over­time.  The local announc­ers are so delight­ful­ly biased (and I still believe Pack­er and Nance were entranced by the idea of Mem­phis) that it makes up for their being fur­ther from the floor/booth stats.

Watch­ing this game was awe­some.  It was just the two of us, Sweet­ie and I, but we were up and down, ner­vous, groan­ing, I know I cursed at the screen repeat­ed­ly, Sweet­ie was tense, lit­er­al­ly on the edge of her seat.  We could hard­ly believe it when Chalmers’ shot went in, and when it was all over we rushed out­side to hear the scream­ing and honk­ing and fire­works from down­town.

Then we watched it over again (thanks to TiVo) with the TV audio, just to see it once more.

Here are my thoughts on the game.  Please note, you may have to know some­thing about bas­ket­ball, col­lege bas­ket­ball, and/or KU bas­ket­ball to grok much of this.  Sor­ry.

  • Here in Lawrence they are call­ing it “Mario and the Mir­a­cle,” a ref­er­ence to KU’s last cham­pi­onship team, dubbed “Dan­ny and the Mir­a­cles” after Dan­ny Man­ning (now a KU assis­tant coach).  But I much pre­fer the sim­pler, more apt, “Super Mario.”  In my two pal­try years in Lawrence, I’ve seen Mario Chalmers take a clutch shot like that a num­ber of times.  And not one arti­cle before the game, not a sin­gle one from the Nation­al Media, sin­gled him out as any­thing oth­er than part of a guard four­some.
  • All sea­son, Hell, all of his two years, Dar­rell Arthur has been hailed as this great, ath­let­ic, won­der boy.  All of his two years I have failed to see it.  Some games he has been good, even great.  Most games he lets balls slip through his fin­gers, he fouls a lot, he con­tributes a few points.  But this game he was excel­lent.  20 points and 10 rebounds, and a cool hand from start to fin­ish.  His poten­tial is so high that he’ll prob­a­bly jump to the NBA, but this was an excel­lent part­ing per­for­mance.
  • Sher­ron Collins, instru­men­tal in the game, is a play­er I love and hate.  I cussed him up and down the floor both in this game and the Car­oli­na game on Sat­ur­day.  He is mad­den­ing­ly bull­head­ed, but mad-skilled, and for every time he dri­ves the lane against four guys and los­es the ball, or pass­es to nobody, or drib­bles it off a teammate’s foot, there are those times he strips the ball, weaves the trees for a score, or drains a  three at the cru­cial time.  One more year in school and he will be some­thing to see.
  • How impor­tant was the review of that three-point­er?  If the offi­cials didn’t have the abil­i­ty to go back and exam­ine that play, KU los­es and the game gets a huge aster­isk (at least, here in Lawrence).
  • Only one ana­lyst gave KU the nod before the game.  Jay Bilas, of ESPN, has been pick­ing KU since Octo­ber.  Every time he was asked about it dur­ing the tour­na­ment, he reaf­firmed his pick.  Right before the game, he said it again, though he hedged his bet a lit­tle.  Hats off to him.
  • They are call­ing this team the best team KU has ever pro­duced, and they are call­ing KU “Basketball’s most sto­ried pro­gram.”  That makes this the best team ever from basketball’s most sto­ried pro­gram, in case you were won­der­ing.

This may have been the most fun I have ever had watch­ing sports, right up there with Argentina’s win in the World Cup Final in 1986.

Preparing for the Big Game

Tonight is the Final game of the 2008 NCAA Men’s Bas­ket­ball Tour­na­ment.  The Uni­ver­si­ty of Kansas, where I live (and where I am new­ly employed!) is play­ing in this game, against the Uni­ver­si­ty of Mem­phis.  Tip off is at 8:21 pm, our time.  That means the boys will be in bed, and we can watch it live, with the radio guys announc­ing along­side.

I am ter­ri­bly ner­vous.  Our game on Sat­ur­day was awe­some, and fright­en­ing, and shows exact­ly what our team can do, both good and bad.  We need the good to show up tonight, not the bad.

I am doing what I can to help them.  I am wear­ing a new t-shirt today, but I’ll put the oth­er one on before the game.  That’s the one I’ve worn for each game this Tour­na­ment.  The boys both have new t-shirts they are wear­ing (I think I have yet to see a sin­gle per­son today who is not wear­ing some sort of KU mer­chan­dise).  We have our flag out front (the house came with a flag sock­et).  I have a new hat (one that fits, yay).

It’s all I can do, except wish them luck.

In the Final Four: thoughts on the Tournament so far

So, Kansas made it into the Final Four.  Bare­ly. ((We won 59–57 ver­sus a tal­ent­ed David­son team that deserved more than a 10-seed, if I do say so myself.  Here’s a good sum­ma­ry of the game.)) It has been an enter­tain­ing tour­na­ment so far, though there have been few bright spots.  In fact, Kansas is respon­si­ble for snuff­ing one of those bright spots out, the David­son team was a Cin­derel­la for the ages in the mak­ing.

But now that all the #1 seeds have made it to the Final Four (for the first time, ever) we should have a lot of com­pet­i­tive bas­ket­ball to watch next week­end.

Here are a few of my thoughts so far.

  • I’m wear­ing my Kansas shirt for every game.  It’s not that I’m super­sti­tious, but just in case.  Plus, Rus­sell Robin­son, one of our seniors, asked the fans, “we need you to wear your lucky socks, wear your lucky shirt … what­ev­er you do to help us win the games, you’ve got to con­tin­ue to do that the rest of the sea­son.”  So I am.
  • I’m doing a lot of laun­dry, as a result.
  • I’m think­ing about buy­ing a flag­pole and a flag, too.  Band­wag­on!
  • My sports year con­tin­ues to be charmed.  The Red Sox win the World Series.  KU’s foot­ball pro­gram goes 10–1, then wins the Orange Bowl.  The Patri­ots make it to the Super­bowl.  And now KU makes it to the Final Four.  I should clear­ly enjoy it now, as this will nev­er hap­pen again.
  • I see Steve Alford got a con­tract exten­sion (to the 2015–2016 sea­son) at New Mex­i­co.  And they are wel­come to him.  “Until the walls and rafters ring! Go Hawks!” ((That’s from the Iowa fight song.))
  • We (KU, that is) played pret­ty bad­ly in the last game vs. David­son.  The pun­dits said the team was “tight.”  I say they were bad.  Except for the big Russ­ian.  Go Sha­ka Kaun! ((Yes, that’s a joke, his name is Sasha Kaun, but the announc­ers test­ed call­ing him Cha­ka Khan for a while.  It flopped.))
  • I’m afraid North Car­oli­na is going to crush us.  We can beat them, but we have to have a per­fect game.  At least it should make good Tv.  News arti­cles have been call­ing it Roy Williams’ night­mare. ((Because he coached KU for fif­teen years before jump­ing to UNC, his alma mater.))
  • This arti­cle at ESPN.com on pos­si­ble sce­nar­ios for the Tour­na­ment is a fun read now that it is almost over.  It helps if you’ve been watch­ing, of course.

Your thoughts?  Are you even watch­ing bas­ket­ball, or are you all “Iron Chef is the best, man!”  ;)