Wednesday, April 6, 2011

NCAA Men's Hoops Title Game Review

Already three and a half minutes into the culmination of the greatest sporting event of the year (don't argue with me, it has been scientifically proven) and I am just now tuning in. The kids have a knack of keeping me from life's most important moments with their needy little habits - bedtime stories, clean diapers, rehydration - but they are finally all tucked in. Now my mom and her husband are in a silent power struggle over control of the TV. What about my needs?


So I'm watching the game on some Internet channel or another, no idea if I'm paying for it. Check that - no idea if mom is paying for it. Got this document window open to about the size of a playing card so I can see the entire screen. And a few key stats along the sidebar. (Quick question: How do you pronounce 'Oriakhi'?)

So UConn's Kemba Walker just got the smack down by Andrew Smith after traveling down the lane after getting hip-checked by aforementioned Andrew. Looks like we're in for some fun tonight.

Jim Calhoun, UConn's coach, would join some very elite company if he captures his third national title tonight. This however will not make him any better, smarter or sexier than Shaka Smart in anyone's mind, not even Mrs. Calhoun. I see on the sidebar that Shaka just signed on for eight more years with VCU. (See? His team is out of the tournament and they're still talking about him, the guy is celebrity material.) Who wants to bet he'll stick around Richmond that long? Then again he chose to go to Kenyon over Harvard and Brown or one of those other foo-foo Ivies so maybe this guy is the real deal - for better or for worse in these high-dollar times.

A missed three pointer by someone named, if I understood correctly, Combs. No surprise really. No one named after any hair care implement is going to hit many threes.

Mark Howard hits a three for Butler in front of seventeen family members, all trucked in from his hometown of Connersville, Indiana. Nice story there, I'll try to get to it.

Oriakhi gets the layup to fall. Also gets extra points in my book for the coolest name on the court now that I know how to say it. But he gets penalized half a point for that arm thing he's wearing. Looks like a piece of women's hose circa 1920. Makes him look leprous.

Okay, 8-6 UConn. You now ianm not a goosd typer (I'll leave that bit unedited as an example) - I have to look at the keyboard to type so I'm missing a lot. Though I don't think I'd be seeing many shots fall even I could do that no-look eight-finger thing. Slick pass by Okwandu but the white guy misses the layup. Typical.

Indiana hits, 8-8.

I don't know how these guys can look so silky smooth hitting the jumper. I always felt like I was about to fall backwards off my chair when I tried a jump shot. Not that I practiced much. I probably fell off my chair more times than I've attempted a jumper in my life overall.

And suddenly UConn is up by 5; three free throws around a sweet layup. Now that was something I could always do, drive the lane. Maybe because it is much closer in form to falling off your chair.

Kemba Walker is on the bench for the first time in the last four games. That is impressive, mainly because of how often he celebrates a basket with that stiff-armed fists-over-the-crotch screaming war cry stance; that has got to take a lot out of you if you aren't in tip-top shape.

I took an early shot at Calhoun so it's only fair I say something snappy now about the Butler coach. I don't know his name - I dont know anything about any of these teams except what they are telling me on that sidebar which I have no time to read. I can barely even hear the announcer over the announcer on the TV behind me that has now been switched to the game. Same guy but with these new TVs you can reverse and fast-forward (particularly impressive when you are watching a live event) so I'm listening to the same guy (Jim Nantz?) talk over himself. It's worse than trying to listen to two different people talk at once. (Believe me, I have five sisters.)

Anyway, the Butler coach reminds me of the sprockets guys on Saturday Night Live a number of years ago, except it's like he's gotten a makeover by the cast of that show 'Fashion Advice By The Queer Eye Guy' or something like that.

Why does #3 for UConn remind me of Todd Bridges?

Two quick fouls for Oriakhi, that arm thing isn't working. Neither are the tattoos that must have increased his body weight to an actual measurable degree.

'Queer Eye for the Straight Guy', I think that was the name of the show.

Almost thirty seconds of straight viewing and I can't quite pin down what kind of defense Butler is playing. Looks like the zone my CYO coach tried to teach us - the one that pretty much fell apart as soon as the ball was in play.

I wonder if it would help these guys to use some of that sticky stuff the NFL receivers use. Big #35 for UConn could certainly use some.

Okay here's the shooting roundup. ... Great I just hit something on my keyboard and the game has frozen. Wait it's on again. Somehow we've skipped to Butler missing a free throw. No matter, I think I can estimate the combined shooting percentage for the game. Same as mine in CYO league - not including my uncanny proficiency driving the lane with the ball. Wait a minute, the game has now skipped back to where it was a minute ago, same guy missing the same free throw. Crap I'm stuck on some kind of auto repeat, if I don't figure something out soon the score is going to be 16-15 for the rest of the night. Criminy, come on, technology is fun but auto repeat? Infinite auto repeat? Forget it, I'm turning around to the TV since mom has given up and gone to bed.

Aerial coverage of the game - being held indoors.

Man, Mark Howard is going to lose his fan base - all seventeen of them. I think some of them have already headed for the cowboy bar down the street.

Big #2 for UConn has that panty hose arm thing too. I got it; they have to cover up the obscenities on their tattoos. This is the sort of unforeseen downside of HDTV. Along with seeing how much makeup David Letterman wears now.

UConn is 0 for their last 16 from downtown going back to last game. Maybe they are using that sticky stuff after all.

Oops, my mom is still on the couch, right behind me. And now she and her husband are facing some kind of viewing/recording conflict on the super cyber-age TV and the game is once again being pre-empted. Oh how I long for the good old days when life was simple: five channels and total male domination of the remote. Today, it's back to the PC for me.

But hey look the score is 19-19! Auto repeat has been eradicated. (Foorn ow.) Now I'm getting strings of commercials for this online viewing channel which mom might be paying an arm and a leg for. That's the price she has to pay for preempting the greatest single sporting evening of the year.

Low turnover count so far. This because the two teams don't need to do anything except wait for the other to miss another shot.

Nice save on an inbound by Todd Bridges. Kemba Walker called for the charge, he looks tired and a bit out of control. And still he does that straight arm thing. Maybe with a different scream.

I am kind of glad I suck at typing and can't keep my eyes on the screen because as far as I can tell from the few glimpses I am getting this has been one ugly game. This keeps up and there may be an emergency meeting to consider giving the title to VCU.

A guy named Shaka can make something like that happen in America.

Butler is 5 for 25 shooting, UConn 9 for 31. Did I say ugly? I need a better word.

Wow, huge three from way downtown by Butler's Mack to end the half.

Quick interview with Coach Sprockets as we head to the locker rooms. He says the game has been ugly (my word) because both teams are playing so hard. By that logic teams haven't been playing very hard until now.

Butler up by 3 at half, and it's finally time for some ice cream.

Or not.

The wife just came down. 'I need to get some phone numbers off the Internet.' What a time to be worrying about visas and immigration violations. Mom is steadfast in her normal viewing which sends me off on a mission around the house to track down another working TV, a frantic search that puts me in the master bedroom. Slight hesitation as mom's husband (who abandoned his fight for the remote and retreated to bed) tells me he may fall asleep but pull up a chair. The only one in the room is the wooden job that goes (sort of) with mom's sewing table. Lifting it up to maneuver it around the corner of the post bed the seat part crashes to the floor. Now I'm seated precariously while pieces of chair are falling to the floor beneath me. I need some of that sticky stuff myself.

My ice-cream run time is now gone, the announcers back on with their game summary. Kemba Walker is tired. (I already said that.) UConn has fourteen points in the paint (even without that sticky NFL stuff they fail to mention). And...that's it?

Cut to a Motorola Atrix 4G commercial. I wonder if that thing has an auto repeat function.

Late Night with Letterman teaser. My wife has never used that much cover-up.

Mentalist teaser. I am insanely jealous of that guy for too many reasons to list here.

150 year old guy singing a song that sounds vaguely tied to a hair color product. No wait, it's about a Discovery Channel show about a bunch of guys with goatees drinking out of paper cups in a semi-circle in a field. Can't wait.

Mom's got a flat screen here to complement the big flat screen downstairs. Meanwhile back home in Fukushima we have a fat old analog TV with built-in VCR. We've been holding off on buying anything new, thinking we would eventually move and it would be smarter to just wait and buy stuff - like a fridge that didn't freeze solid everything on the back half of every shelf - when we move into new home... somewhere... someday. Looks like the time has come.

Okay, back to the action!

Why don't they have a jump ball to start the second half? So much cooler. So was that red white and blue ball the ABA used to use.

Quick 3-pointer by Butler, now up by six while UConn keeps missing their jumpers. Looks like the outside shooters are using that sticky stuff instead of the big guys dropping the ball like a hot potato down low.

Tyler Olander of UConn looks about as much a basketball player as I look like...a journalist.

UConn hasn't hit a field goal in the last 7.5 minutes going back to the first half. But just as I finish typing that sentence, which took another full minute, Kemba Walker breaks the curse.

UConn is playing a pretty tight man-to-man defense, Butler seems a bit frazzled. Soon we're back the other way and Todd Bridges I mean Jeremy Lamb hits a three to put UConn up by one. Wait, how can that be correct? Has Butler gone on a scoring drought? Is someone shaving points? I can't keep up my disastrous typing and keep my chair from completely falling apart under me and keep track of the score all at the same time, something has to give here. I'd sit on the floor but I wouldn't be able to see over the bed.

UConn's Shabazz Napier doesn't really look all that much like Jeremy Lamb but somehow he looks like Todd Bridges too. I must have some kind of childhood mental thing going on upstairs. Is today the anniversary of Arnold's death?

Another miss for our boy from Connorsville, his relatives are probably well on their way back to Indiana by now.

My junior year of high school I managed to make the JV basketball team. During one of our practices coach said, in a sort of side door form of justifying his never putting me in the game, said my style of play was much more suited for the playground than our playbook. What he didn't realize was that I was way ahead of the times, priming myself for the exact style of hoops we are now seeing in the National Championship game. Heck the way things are going down there in Houston I'd fit right in, forget the fact I graduated 19 years ago.

What's with Alec baldwin doing these horrid Capital One airline mileage credit card commercials? I remember he played a doctor in a movie once, and in this hard-hitting monologue in the hospital's chapel said (and I paraphrase) to a woman: 'You think when people some in here to pray for the loved ones I'm operating on they're praying to God? They're praying to me, do you understand that? Me. Because here...I AM God!' No more, Alec, no more.

Butler coach Brad Stevens, at 34, is less than half Jim Calhoun's age. There's a joke in there but it's not coming to me.

Okay, total shooting stats so far: Butler 7 for 34, UConn 11 of 35. Sound more like batting stats. Jim Nantz (I'm pretty sure that's him) asks his fellow commentators why. 'Defense? Jitters? Simply an off night?' 'All of the above,' says Charles Barkley. And we are all to a man enlightened. Criminy. 'But look, these teams aren't committing a lot of turnovers,' he says, for no reason I can figure at the moment. Besides Charles, I said that a half hour ago.

Butler has a guy named Nored. Sounds like an acronym for a secret government agency, which might explain this game to a degree.

Jeremy Lamb with the steal and the slam. Olander is over on the sidelines celebrating and looking about as cool as he probably does on the dance floor.

Car commercial on now, a Benz is doing donuts in the desert, three guys with their backs to each other are scowling and saying things in tough-guy voices. One of them I swear is Robert Gant, who actually bought a copy of The Tunge Pit at my book-signing in LA last September. He seemed a real personable guy, now he's got this demonic edge in his voice - which tells me he's probably read my book. Perhaps a few too many times.

Shooting update: Butler now 7 for 41, nothing in 6.5 minutes after opening the second half with that three. Can we get Shaka and VCU in here please?

Butler is now missing their free throws, while Jeremy Lamb alone has 9 this half. Fame may be in this kid's future, I hope he does better things with it than Todd.

Butler hits! And we get a shot of their mascot, a real live bulldog...I think...

Cut to a commercial for a movie which by all appearances consists of 90 minutes of car crashes with a random shot of a woman wearing a bikini indoors to really make the plot interesting. Next is Magic Johnson doing a Dove soap commercial. Not bad for a guy who tested HIV-positive twenty years ago.

Kenny Walker (I think that's his name) is now telling us Butler, despite their second-half woes, are going to stay the course. Things didn't go too well the last time someone used that phrase.

Butler gets the ball down low. All the guy has to do is reach up, maybe jump a few inches, and slam it home. Two points. Done deal. But no, let's toss it back outside and try to put it in from 18 feet away. History 101: It's tough to stay the course if you don't have one.

Layup by UConn, missed layup by Butler. I see a new pattern emerging.

Kenny Walker uses the term 'acrobatic' perfectly as I ponder the real possibility that Butler, playing in their second championship game in a row, is the biggest fluke in basketball history - with the possible exception of me making the JV squad my junior year.

Howard misses a 2-foot over-the-head layup. No problem, none of his relatives are here to see it, he can just deny it later.

If this were a game of horse and Butler were playing against themselves they'd lose. Or wait, no, they wouldn't, they'd play forever and never get to H.

Butler is now playing a zone. On both ends of the floor it looks like.

Okay so according to this one article I read the people of Connorsville, Indiana (not exactly the epitome of American financial recovery) pulled their dimes and dollars together to send seventeen of Matt Howard's relatives to Houston to cheer on their hometown hero in person. I'm betting they're lining up along the interstate off-ramp with pitchforks and burning two-by-fours waiting for the family to get back so they can get their money back.

Bud Light bottles now have labels with a square of blank space to etch your name (or someone's phone number, or your own address) with a coin or a key. Good idea, these light beer drinking pansies can't finish their beers without losing them first.

News brief: More bodies have been found on Long Island, more holes in more Southwest aircraft. Good news compared to this game.

Suddenly UConn is up by 13. Make that 14. Six minutes left.Can I stop watching now? My mom's husband is still awake, he must have indigestion again.

Howard hits a free throw and immediately looks toward the crowd, where his relatives were sitting once upon a time we can assume. Close-up of an Asian couple identified as his parents.

Butler hits a three? The refs call a timeout to discuss whether this doesn't violate some sort of rule.

No matter how bad this game is, it is still eminently entertaining next to a commercial for Redemption Island. Whatever that is.

'Impressive defensive showing by UConn,' one of the announcers says.

Yes and the Taliban are a finely-tuned military machine.

Correction: UConn's Giffey, not UConn's Olander, is the least basketball-player-looking guy out there. And they're still winning.

Butler's Vanzant, for all his misses, is still doing that 'I'm such a f***ing bad-ass' backpedal as he watches his latest brick fall toward the rim. Follow your shots, boys, they're not going in.

Howard has to come out because he has blood on him. With enough tattoos that would blend right in and he could stay out there.

Another Butler three; the refs are eyeing each other but apparently they're going to let it stand.

Howard is back in the game, no more blood on him but no tattoos either, not even the lick-and-stick kind. Too late to help I suppose.

We're down to under a minute, UConn is up by ten, and mom enters the bedroom holding a Stuart woods novel. This game, this atrocity, might be the only possible excuse for wanting to pick up a Stuart woods novel.

And the game is in the books.

Thanks to the Notre Dame women we won't be subjected to another men's - women's sweep like in 2004. Though if the womens' title game is anything like this I might petition for the UConn women to be named national champions by default or protest or bribe.

Then maybe someone will bring back Shaka and VCU.