Day: January 14, 2009

Terrific Drama

In which a game goes down to the wire.

My high school basketball reporting experience this year has been decidedly one-sided. Other than two games that featured two local teams, and thus had me covering both the winners and losers, just about every game I’ve done this year has been a comfortable win. More often than not, the team I’m writing about has been on the wrong side of the blow-out.

Tuesday night looked like yet another game where I would struggle to put together 400 words about a team that was never in the game. As the third quarter wound down, the W’s, as I’ll call my team, trailed the D’s by 15 points. The W’s were shooting a cool 19% for the game, were under 50% from the line, and couldn’t get a rebound to save their lives. The only thing they could do right was pressure defense. The W’s were forcing turnovers left and right, but couldn’t convert. On the rare possession they did score, they’d let the D’s come right back and score immediately.

Things looked bleak when one of the W’s took a deep three pointer that came up about five feet short. I could sense that the fourth quarter was going to be mind numbing as the airballs piled up and I struggled to track all the missed shots while thinking about what my lede should be.

Then, the W’s started hitting shots.

A three.

Then a two.

Then another three.

The deficit was 12. Then ten. Then seven. Suddenly the game seemed within reach. They kept forcing turnovers, but finally they were running offense and getting clean looks. Another three cut it to four. Traded baskets and free throws had it at three with under a minute to play.

I was seated right behind the W’s bench. With about 30 seconds left, one of their guards came off a screen right in front of me, got the ball, and unleashed a high arcing shot. It looked about as pure as could be from my view. It dropped through the net; tie game! And then, “TWEET!” I looked down to see the shooter on the ground with a defender on top of her. And one! A free throw to take the lead after being down by 15! Finally, something juicy to write about!

Alas, she missed the free throw. Then, for some strange reason, the W’s point guard decided to foul 60 feet from the basket. In a tie game. With under 30 seconds left. When she had four fouls. Oy! Or WTF, depending on your point of view.

The D’s hit both shots to go up two.

The W’s came back, got the ball to the girl who had just tied the game. She looked down the lane, saw a clear path, and headed towards the hoop. A defender closed and she went up, twisting and flipped a difficult lay-up from five feet.

It rimmed out.

The W’s couldn’t corral the rebound, were forced to foul again, and ended up losing by four.

Sigh.

I made my way back to the locker room and could hear their coach screaming at them. In 15 minutes I went from dreading writing about the game, to being very excited about it, to now dreading talking to the coach after her team blew the game.

When she emerged she looked to be in no mood to talk, so I let her go sit with her assistants and cool off. When I finally talked to her, she had calmed down but still was not pleased with her team.

But the story came together ok, I guess. I built the story around the comeback and the coach’s laments about missing the opportunities to win the game. And I got to watch a hell of a fourth quarter for a change.

Casey’s Coast to Coast

In which I listen to the music of my youth.

Those of you that follow my Facebook status may have caught that I spent Sunday morning listening to a 25 year old American Top 40 rebroadcast. Our local retro hits station began reairing AT40s from the 80s last fall and, life with a newborn and two preschoolers being what it is, this was my first chance to sit down and actually listen to one of the shows. Forget about forcing the girls to do something other than stare at the Disney Channel on a cold Sunday morning, I was excited to chill out, feed L. a bottle, and listen to my boy Casey Kasim for awhile.

This week’s countdown was from the corresponding week in 1984. I caught tracks 20-1, and since the countdown usually lagged a bit behind actual airplay, that meant I was hearing music that I had been listening to in December 1983. Big month, December 1983. That’s the Christmas I got both an Atari 2600 and a sweet boombox. I spent most of that Christmas vacation sitting in front of my TV, working through my pile of new games (I’m pretty sure most of my time was spent playing Pitfall, Q*Bert, and Pole Position) while listening to my tape collection and the latest hits on Q-104 and ZZ99.

As Casey counted down through Peter Schilling’s “Major Tom,” Pat Benatar’s “Love Is A Battlefield,” Lionel Richie’s double shot of “All Night Long,” and “Running With The Night” at #11 and #10, Elton John’s “I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues,” H20’s “Say It Isn’t So,” and Yes’ “Owner Of A Broken Heart,” it was hard not to think of the hours spent playing games while avoiding the bitter cold of that holiday season. I think the only time I left that house that week was to play in a basketball tournament.* Even then, the second I hit the house, I was back in the beanbag, popping in Pitfall, trying to get a high enough score to Polaroid the screen and send it in for the patch or certificate or whatever you got for getting 100,000 points.**

(You think the NFL’s overtime rules are dumb? In the championship game of the tournament, we went to overtime. Still tied after two added minutes, we went to a second overtime, which was sudden freaking death. Sudden death in basketball! I may or may not have missed a shot that would have won the game, the memory is fuzzy, but the other team scored first and we lost. We didn’t lose again until the championship game of our league, in which I played with a broken right hand and couldn’t shoot, pass, dribble.*** So we went 20-2 or something like that, losing only in a tournament title game and our championship game. I was prepared for what KU did in the late 90s, I guess.)

(Pitfall II was a much better game than the original.)

(Some would say I could do none of those basketball skills with a healthy right hand, either.)

The number one song? For the sixth straight week, Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson with “Say Say Say.” Two things about that song. First, Paul got over on Michael there. It was on his Pipes Of Peace album, while Michael got “The Girl Is Mine” for Thriller. Say-cubed is a exponentially better song. Second, was that the last time McCartney was culturally significant for his most recent work, rather than as a relic of the greatest band ever? Sure, he did the theme for “Spies Like Us,” but it’s not like that was a mega hit like Say3. That’s what he gets for hanging with a pedophile, I guess.

Also in the top 10 was Olivia Newton-John’s “Twist Of Fate.” I had totally forgotten about it, although I recognized it when I heard it. Turns out it was the theme from the desperately-cast Two Of A Kind, which brought together O N-J and John Travolta in a lame attempt to recapture the magic of Grease. It got horrible reviews bombed at the box office. “Twist Of Fate” ended up being Olivia’s final top 10 hit after having 13 previous ones. So the same top 10 saw the final hits of two giants of the 70s and early 80s. Wacky wild stuff.

If you think you might hear more about some old AT40s if I listen to them, you are correct.

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