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!”  ;)

State legislator says global warming is good for us and our crops

From my own back­yard: Lar­ry Pow­ell, a Repub­li­can state leg­is­la­tor from West­ern Kansas, has assert­ed that increased CO2 lev­els will make crops flour­ish. He cites a study that says that, “atmos­pher­ic CO2 enrich­ment will boost world agri­cul­tur­al out­put by about 50 per­cent.” They don’t deny glob­al warm­ing any­more, instead they insist that it is good for us. Here is the link to the Lawrence Jour­nal-World arti­cle. The com­ments are actu­al­ly much more inter­est­ing than the idi­ot­ic asser­tions in the arti­cle itself.

This game is proving hard to watch

Third quar­ter. This is awful. KU is play­ing like the team they were last year. Mis­souri is play­ing as adver­tised. I have offered a cou­ple of times to stop watch­ing and put on this week’s Sur­vivor instead. A Miz­zou fan holds up the best sign of the game, “Kansas Foot­ball, a Tra­di­tion since Sep­tem­ber.” I can laugh at it because it’s fun­ny. The KU radio guys are say­ing that KU has to be per­fect from here on out to win. The score is 28–7 Mis­souri, and my wife adds, “And what, Mis­souri is going to have to go home?”

The anticipation is killing me

I haven’t been so excit­ed and ner­vous about a foot­ball game since… a long time… maybe since John Elway won his first Super­bowl in 1997 (you can’t blame me, my wife’s fam­i­ly is Bron­co fan-atic, and real­ly, he deserved it). If KU wins, it’ll be because of their defense. None of the pre-game dis­cus­sion of Mis­souri has talked about their defense, so I’m assum­ing they have one, but it isn’t much to go on about (at least not to a bewil­dered nation­al audi­ence still try­ing to fig­ure out if Kansas City is in Mis­souri or Kansas). Oy, it’s Brent Mus­burg­er.

Not Since 1899

Damn. The Kansas Jay­hawks foot­ball team is now 10–0. They have not had a record this good since 1899. That’s more than a hun­dred years ago.

I’ve been reluc­tant to talk much about these games (nary a word about the thrash­ing of Nebras­ka last week­end, aren’t you proud?) because I am, at heart, a super­sti­tious man. Do you hear me, Mom, don’t you dare watch any of these games!

Okay, so, we start­ed lis­ten­ing to the game on the radio (you can’t beat local radio guys, man) while we were putting the boys to bed. Then we turned the TV on, and watched Brent Mus­burg­er and his part­ner talk about all kinds of things except the game. Sev­er­al series went by while they chat­ted about Ohio State’s loss to Illi­nois, the Big Ten, the big Okla­homa State donor they were going to have on lat­er… so we stopped lis­ten­ing to them. We got a radio from the bed­room and plugged it in to lis­ten to a cou­ple of guys who were actu­al­ly both­er­ing to watch the game in front of them.

The game was excit­ing, no doubt, espe­cial­ly when Okla­homa State scored a cou­ple of times on quick long pass­es, but they came through in the end. A lit­tle luck, a key injury on the oth­er side (you hate to see that) and some excel­lent plays, and we’re 10–0.

Wow. It is safe to say, even if we crash and burn against Iowa State next week­end, that I have nev­er had a col­lege foot­ball sea­son like this one. It’s fun.

A cou­ple of notes:

  • KU leads the nation in kick­off returns. One of the radio guys asked, after our return­er brought one back past the 50-yard line, “Why would any­one kick to him?”
  • Brent Mus­burg­er is mak­ing a smooth tran­si­tion into grumpy-old-man, with a com­ment to Adar­ius Bow­man on the side­lines gri­mac­ing at the cam­era shad­ow­ing his injury walk, “You play on Sun­day, you bet­ter get used to the cam­eras, young man.” Next for Mus­burg­er, a shot­gun and a rock­ing chair.
  • Doug Flu­tie has got to be tired of get­ting every small quar­ter­back who runs for his life out of the pock­et com­pared to him. He does speak with author­i­ty when talk­ing about final-sec­ond vic­to­ries, though.
  • Mark Mangi­no (KU’s coach) has nev­er seen a two point con­ver­sion that he did­n’t like. The feel­ing does not appear to be mutu­al.
  • The mid-third-quar­ter lec­ture on flu­id dynam­ics was inter­est­ing. Not.
  • Wire­less radio com­mu­ni­ca­tions do not pre­vent Mangi­no from hav­ing a cable boy. Instead of mak­ing sure the coach does­n’t trip on the long cable allow­ing him to talk to the coach­es up in the booth, this cable boy gets to hold the radio box… because Mangi­no just does­n’t want to hang it on his belt? That job has got to suck.

The Kansas Jayhawks are 8–0 for the first time since 1909

This has been a great year to be me, sports­wise. Of course, I’m going to curse it all now, but it may be that every­one needs a lit­tle hum­bling, right? (Nev­er­the­less, I’m knock­ing on all the wood I can find.)

I’m not what you would call a sports fan. I like the com­pe­ti­tion, I like root­ing for a team and see­ing them win. I grew up over­seas, and I remem­ber a Mundi­al between Argenti­na and Ger­many. As it became increas­ing­ly clear that the Ger­mans were hand­ing it to the Argen­tines, I got so upset I took my bike out and rode around the neigh­bor­hood. It was crush­ing, and I was… twelve, prob­a­bly. [And on doing research, I can’t find a game I would have watched between Argenti­na and Ger­many that Argenti­na lost… so, so much for mem­o­ry. Ed.] I used to watch some soc­cer, some bas­ket­ball, but I was nev­er a stats-track­ing, game-going, fan.

Then i came to the US, and went to col­lege in Rhode Island (a state that calls Boston teams home), and was steeped in New Eng­land sports. So I have been (and most cer­tain­ly am today) a Boston sports fan. Watch­ing the Patri­ots play unde­feat­ed foot­ball has been fun all sea­son. Not that I get many of the games here, but some make it through. It is dou­bly fun because we were in Min­neso­ta for the year of Randy Moss’ break­out, and it is good to see him back. Watch­ing the Red Sox last night was lots of fun, too, espe­cial­ly when it looked like the Rock­ies were going to spoil it. I used to watch a lot of base­ball (and even attend­ed some Paw­sox game dur­ing col­lege), and I have enjoyed the play­offs this year.

But I live in Kansas now, and watch­ing the unde­feat­ed Kansas Jay­hawks (KU’s col­lege foot­ball team) play foot­ball has been a blast. They played a pow­der-puff non-con­fer­ence sched­ule, but in the last three weeks have played tough road games and still won. Last year, our first col­lege foot­ball sea­son in Kansas, the team lost a large num­ber of games in the last quar­ter. This year, they are putting those games away. It actu­al­ly reminds me a lot of the years we spent in Iowa, when Kirk Fer­entz was just get­ting the Iowa foot­ball pro­gram back on its feet. Watch­ing this lit­tle team that could was great. The wife and I have fond mem­o­ries of week­ends spent work­ing on the house, or in the yard, with the game on the radio. And we’re build­ing that here, too.

[A note of con­do­lence for the Iowa foot­ball fans this year… sor­ry about your sea­son.]

And, of course, we have col­lege bas­ket­ball to look for­ward to, start­ing this next week! Would it be greedy to hope for their suc­cess, too?