Is Dr Naismith smiling?

April03/ 2008

I doubt Poplar Bluff even has “a sports bar” but imagine what it was like anywhere in town when Tyler hit that thunder dunk and then started the long range bombing.   It was “Goose Bump Good” PERIOD!…. If “Life is a you-know-what sandwich” there’s still the occasional cupcake for dessert. …. Dr Naismith, what say you?

Among the hallowed ranks of You Guys is a dear friend I affectionately call “the Forrest Gump of College Basketball” as he has been, for over 60 years, “an insider” to nearabout every special moment in the modern history of college basketball.  His personal rolodex of players and coaches includes and exceeds that of The Hall of Fame in Springfield.  For several years he and I have shared an ongoing query ….. “Do you think Dr Naismith is smiling ….”  Alas, our mutual answer is often “No, not today.” …..  Knowing he was watching last night, I wrote him early Sunday morning ….

“Coach, do you think Dr Naismith had Tyler and Stephan Curry in mind when he hung that first peach basket?”

To which Coach replied “Oh yes. Indeed”.   

Coach should know.  I think he was holding the ladder in that Springfield Y.

The Mizzus went to bed early Saturday night overcome with “a week in Boston” fatigue.  So she missed it.  Being from Missouri too, just an hour from Poplar Bluff, she knows all about Tyler and shares a Show-Me pride in his career.

 Mizzus watches sports with detachment not buying into that it transcends life itself in its all-encompassing importance.  But she will perk up “in the moment”.  The final drive by Baby Eli and the Giants and “the play” … When Mookie’s grounder went between Buckner’s legs …. Vince Young vs The Trojans.  Like how Mother Nature alerts animals just before a tornado or earthquake, she appreciates the magic moments.

When she woke up Sunday morning I told her “you missed one for the ages!”  Seeing endless replays of Tyler Takes Over vs Louisville doesn’t do it justice.  It was the nail-biting anxiety amid Georgetown Nightmares that had me scaring the bejebbers out of the cat when #50 hit that Thunder Dunk and started bombing.

We were all doing scoreboard math and, until about the 1:30 mark, we knew Slick Rick’s crew “could” pull it out …. there was a way.  As to whether “God loves Cardinals too” was unclear.  But Bad Things Do Happen To Good People.  Would Tyler’s heroics be in vain?  IS THERE A GOD and is HE paying attention?  Apparently there IS and He was.  Yeah God, Yeah Tyler ….. Aye Zigga Zoomba.

It wasn’t “the ultimate game”.  That comes next Monday, maybe.  There is that matter of Ol’ Roy’s long-awaited showdown with Phogg Allen’s Ghost.  Life is such that the next game vs KU will immediately replace the Louisville game as what we will remember. Then a possible Monday meeting with the Bruins or Memphis will replace that.  Like the most elaborate sand castle on the beach, it will be a victim of the next high tide.  Tyler vs Louisville in the Elite Eight in ’08 will be naught but trivia for most.  But my archives are good thru 2030 so you can always reread this.

Could last night in Bobcat Arena just be a warm-up for greater heroics to come?  I’m no Doubting BobLee to that possibility that “we ain’t seen nuthin’ yet” with this quite special young man.  If so I will simply and gladly rewrite and update this column.

Yes, it’s a team game and #50 is definitely not surrounded by whozits led by some whistle-tootin’ yahoo.  But like Scottie Pippen and Paxson and Cartwright and Phil Jackson realized ….  there is one among us, #23, who is The Chosen One.  Dwight Clark, Harris Barton, Ronnie Lott and Bill Walsh knew Joe was special.

My Wuff, Devil and Deacon pals are going on record “darn it …. gotta luv that boy”.  NOTE:  I might have a higher grade of rival fan pals than you do.  Bottom-feeders do dwell in the enemy camps.

Until the Great Historian pens the next chapter, let us drink deep of the Pierien Spring of the glory of seeing a young man morphing into a legend.

Tyler Hansbrough is not the first nor will he be the last to take such a step.  A young SkyWalker from Shelby did so in William Neal Reynolds Coliseum in the mid 70s.  A fellow named Choo Choo took that step on Kenan’s greensward in the late 40s.  The rafters of the Legend’s Lair are heavy laden with misty-eyed memories of “ultimate game glories” past.  Even the hated confines of Cameron Indoor echo with the sights and sounds of their Satanic glory.

Each and all of which takes away not a whit from the unabashed whoops and hollers that resounded across The TarHeelNation on Saturday, March 29, 2008.

To fully revel and wallow in the joy of sports in 2008 requires either terminal naïveté or a set of blinders of an ever diminishing periphery.  The commercialism, overt hypocrisy, and rampant scallywaggetry is epidemic whether it be professional or collegiate.  To those who have quit on sports, I hear you my cynical brothers and sisters.

I have never fully recovered from being told by “an insider” that virginity was not a requirement to be a Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader.  Of the 100s of schools in Division 1 Basketball I do realize the sum total of legitimate student-athletes (excluding Davidson) is hardly large enough to fill a WAFFLE HOUSE at 4 AM.

If you’ve read a dozen of these columns you know I do NOT believe that simply “wearing Carolina Blue” bestows the slightest purity or piety on any player, coach, or administrator OR FAN (especially the fans).  I know far too much about the UNC “sausage factory” to be so bamboozled.  ‘Tis true …. ‘Tis true.  That said …. I’d share a foxhole and my last pint of Brunswick Stew with Ol’ Roy, Sylvia Hatchell, and #50.  There are others too but if I start listing them you would put too much emphasis on figuring out who I omit rather than who I list.  There are two lists.

A pal of mine owns a baronial oceanside mansion.  He recently had to leave his home for a week while exterminators rid his 30,000 sq feet of freakin’ termites.  Termites, dry rot, mildew and dust bunnies are universal.  Opulence is no assurance of sanctity.

As I so love the “color and pageantry” of that percolating septic field known as “big time college football” so too do I love the delightful drama of a Stephan Curry enfuego …. or a Grant Hill Hail Mary to Laettner. …. Or Tyler vs Louisville.  

As fate fingers a kid to be on the foul line in the final seconds of “the big game” I always wonder what, if anything, that kid is thinking about?  Is he even thinking at all.  Is it Scott Hoch over a 3’ putt on #10 at Augusta?  Is it Connor Barth waiting for the snap vs Miami?  In an action moment instinct takes over and adrenaline replaces thought and endless hours of repetitive practice fundamentals kicks in, but what of “the frozen moment”?  With Tyler vs Louisville in that final ten minutes you could sense simply an unscripted drama being written on-the-fly.

Did any among us yell on those long bombs “No Tyler, DON’T SHOOT …. Pass it to Wayne or Danny!”  No, somehow you just knew that it was Tyler’s Moment.  It was Tyler’s Destiny.

As we all watched “something special” taking place wouldn’t you have loved to be sitting just behind Roy and Joe and Steve and Jared and CB.  You got to figure they shared a grin, a wink, a knowing nod.  To quote Otter about Bluto …. “Gentlemen, let’s leave him alone. He’s on a roll.”  ….. Indeed.

Showdown In San Antonio. 

Ol’ Roy   vs   Phogg’s Ghost

Zigga Zoomba   vs   Rock Chalk

   In a quiet cemetery in Lawrence KS, the spirits are restless.  Not only Dr Allen but Dr Jimmy Naismith rests there too.  The Showdown Is Set ….. The Basketball Legends are assembling on The Riverwalk.  Dr Danny and his ’57 teammates …. Wilt is gone but Ron Loneski and the others still remember …. Ye Olde Legend from Emporia but more recently from Chapel Hill …. Suitcase Larry Brown whose suitcase bears both logos …. Faithful Gut knows of the waving wheat …. Mad Matt @ SMU might travel down from Big D for he too knows both shades of Blue ….. Jared and C.B. still bear floor burns from The Allen hardwood ….. yea verily ’twill be a fine one indeed.  Dr Naismith IS smiling. 



 Jacoby Ellsbury was a cursed Oregon State Beaver, but he was gone before those sumbitches did in Mike Foxes’ Moochies in ’06.

   Huzza aplenty to Bob McKillop and Stephan and Potsie, Richie, Ralph Malph, and Wally.  They have all just been signed up for Hoosiers II – The College Years …..

   Of all that is Tyler.  I think of the relationship between Tyler and Ol’ Roy.  Lots of tough love I suspect over the past three years and counting.  That’s Ol’ Roy’s way.  I think of how Doc Hansbrough feels about his middle son choosing UNC and Ol’ Roy versus his glamorous options.  When Tyler does move on (and move on he will…. but no need to hurry!!) there will be hugs and tears aplenty twixt these three men … the father, the coach, the son/player.  Two of them old enough to know that many roads diverge in Life’s yellow wood and each choice will go to making the man. The youngest of the three will know this choice has worked out quite well.

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