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I hate Saint John’s almost as much as I love them

Once Upon a Time, in the West

For of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest these: it might have been. What might have been yesterday, had St John’s beaten the sixteenth ranked Arizona State Sun Devils at the Staples Center Friday night – instead of losing 82-70, which is what they did – is that St John’s would’ve probably gotten a few votes in next week’s AP poll. That doesn’t seem like a lot, a few votes in December, but considering where they were this time last December – at 5-6, just having lost to LIU – or god forbid the year before – on the cusp of a 17 game losing streak – that would have been a real sign of progress. Instead they lost a game they might have won had not Justin Simon, having previously tried to throw the CSU game away with a boneheaded pass at half court, and having previously tried to give the Grand Canyon game away with three or four ill-advised in-bounds passes, finally achieved his goal: with St John’s having rallied from a 15 point first half deficit to within one point with about three minutes left Simon threw a pointless pass that sailed over Ponds head into the third row, from which pointless pass SJU never recovered: ASU scored the next 12 points, to SJU’s none. The picture tells the tale.

The bright spot I suppose is that despite how poorly they played on offense – they shot 40 percent from the floor, 30 percent from three and missed nine of 22 free throws – they got back into the game on the defensive end. Considering how porous the defense was last year that’s pretty remarkable, and bodes well for the future, especially when the back court shoots nine for 38, like they did last night … There’s no point rehashing the Grand Canyon State game except to note that St John’s has now held seven opponents to under 61 points – last year they gave up nearly 80, and this year they’re 35th in the country at 64 ppg. I frankly don’t remember too much about the game and my notes look like they were transcribed by Michael J Fox during an earthquake – it started at 11 PM, so I might have had a cocktail – except that Dan Majerle looked like an egg plant … All in all they acquitted themselves pretty well on the trip, playing in a different time zone in front of hostile crowds and without Marcus Lovett. The next two games are at home and presumably Lovett’ll be back. With St Joe’s and Iona having a combined record of 7-8 it’s possible that St John’s can start league play with 10 wins and a top 30 ish RPI. It’s a shame they don’t have a legit big man, because they might turn out to be a pretty good team.

PLAYERS: I don’t want to say anything bad about Shamorie Ponds, but I’m constrained to point out that he’s currently shooting 21 percent from three, which is worse than Alibeowitz. I know that won’t continue – he shot nearly 40 percent last year – but it is worrisome, sophomore slumps being a thing. The good news is that it doesn’t affect the other aspects of his play – last night he had 7 rebounds and assists and three steals – and doesn’t seem to be in his head either … As bad as Tariq Owens was against GCSU – and he was so awful that I remember it – he came back nicely against ASU, scoring a career high 17 points … Marvin Clark had 18 points and seven rebounds and is currently shooting 52 percent from three … Not to be outdone Goat of the game Justin Simon is shooting 66 percent from three. But Jesus the turnovers. It’s unbelievable he was touted as a point guard, he can barely dribble and maybe it’s rust, but again, worrisome … Ahmed did not have a stellar west coast trip – he shot 4 for 20 and committed nine fouls – but he did have 18 rebounds in those two games. The bad news is that he’s essentially the same player he was last year, which means you have to take the bad with the good … Trimble didn’t embarrass himself in Lovett’s absence … Yawke played a mere 16 minutes in two games and Alibeoqitz played 11. Yakwe looked to have turned a corner a couple of games ago, this trip not so much.

NOTES: I watched the game on something called FUBU and was treated to the mellifluous tones of Steve Lavin. Those of you hoping that I’m going to rip him will be disappointed, because he’s not a bad color guy, the requirements of the job – babbling on inanely without saying anything of importance – playing as they do to his strengths. Last night was no exception: he talked about tickling the twine and sharing the sugar and “having the hot hand like a microwave” which Earth to Lavin, microwaves don’t have hands … Before the basketball season started I went back and read my recaps from the previous two years and came away thinking that what I’d read was the best NY sports commentary since Damon Runyon. That might sound a wee egotistical, and maybe it is, but not that egotistical, because it’s not a very high bar: most sport writing sucks. In fact as a general rule the more well known a sports writer is the more likely he is to be a completely talentless hack. Tony Kornheiser for example, sucks. Jowly Bob Ryan, spending his golden years waxing eloquent about the majesty of Tom Brady, he sucks. Balloon headed abomination Mitch Albom: sucks. And just to show that I’m neither a racist nor a misogynist, Jemele Hill sucks too. And so on down the list. Mostly they all suck. There’s probably a bunch of reasons why this is but mostly it boils down to one thing: sports are stupid, and if you spend all your time thinking about stupid things you’ll become stupid too. The fact is that the average sports writer has no greater insight into sports than any vaguely informed mook on the street – imagine if your doctor knew as much about medicine as the average bus driver – and because many of them majored in journalism, they’re shit writers to boot.

I might be a little biased towards my home town, but NY sport writers are the worst. I remember exactly where I was when the appalling Dick Young died: I was in a bar day drinking and high fived the stranger next to me. I remember hate fucking reading Steve Serby’s stupid columns over and over, the ones where he’d repeat a stupid catch phrase every couple of paragraphs – blah blah blah blah CATCH PHRASE blah blah blah blah CATCH PHRASE – which he probably thought of as literary style, which it is, in the same way that if you put shit on tuna fish sandwich it’s mayonnaise. And I defy you to name a worse writer or human being than tortured dwarf Mike Lupica – worse than Steve Lavin even – who I could watch get the Dominick Santoro treatment while eating a shrimp cocktail and not spill a morsel. (Because he’s a dwarf and shrimp is small, geddit?) Not content with being the worst sport writer in America, Lupica has parleyed his Sunday column of vapid thoughts …. about Derek Jeter … separated by ellipses …. from inane musings …. about Bill Parcells …. into a career as – wait for it – a writer of children’s books, books about little runts like himself turning the tables on the big strong bullies and winning the big game. Hooray! Which is fitting, because he sucks and children’s books are perhaps the one literary form that’s lower than sports writing.

Kid’s books used to be written by pedophiles as a form of twisted Victorian pornography – see also JM Barrie and Lewis Caroll – but nowadays mostly are churned out by vapid celebrities as a way of making a cheap buck imparting the important life lessons they’ve learned on the road to fame and fortune. Everyone of them it seems has written a kid’s book, from Madonna (How to Fellate a Hispanic Producer The English Rose), to Keith Richard (The Story of My First Guitar); Hillary Clinton (It Takes a Village to Raise a Village Idiot), her horse faced daughter Chelsea, Bruce Springsteen, Terrell Owens, Spike Lee, George Foreman, Brooke Shields, Sharon Osborne, Billy Joel, Tina Louise, Jamie Lee Curtis. Everyone. When bloated drunken murderer Ted Kennedy wasn’t raping waitresses even he wrote a children’s book (My Senator and Me). In fact I defy you to name a celebrity who hasn’t written a children’s book. Pro tip, you can’t.

Can you imagine being so desperate for intellectual affirmation that you’d sit down at your computer and pump out 200 words a day about a giant talking cucumber that makes friends with a lesbian walrus and saves a turtle from drowning while learning a valuable lesson about tolerance. I’d blow my fucking brains out first. Which is why – like sports writing – most children’s books are shit. Sports writing sucks because the people doing the writing are idiots writing for idiots. Children’s books suck because they’re full of romanticized lies and nonsense and written for idiots by people who wouldn’t know real life if real life crawled up into their colons and died there.

Fact: if you live in a NYC high rise with a monkey called George George is eventually going to get so curious that he rips your face off and eats your genitalia. Because he’s a fucking monkey and that’s what monkeys do. In real life that cute little waif Madeline, bravely wandering the streets of Paris? She’d end up raped by a Persian and her body thrown in the Seine. Am I supposed to believe that any self respecting evil witch with an army of flying monkeys and orcs is going to be done in by a pre-pubescent Kansas farm girl? I think not. In the children’s classic Mr Popper’s Penguins – along with Nausea a fun fave as a tad – Popper receives a penguin (don’t ask) that has so many penguin babies that Popper is forced to take the penguins on the vaudeville circuit to make ends meet except things go awry and he gets arrested and after being gang raped in prison, dies of AIDS. Okay, I made that last part up, but its much more realistic than the real ending, wherein he decides to set the penguins free and so is invited to go to on an expedition with Admiral Drake the North Pole. (The story does have a happy ending though, because the trip takes about two years, meaning Popper doesn’t have to see his insufferable wife and kids for that long.) And I’m not going to mention Harry Potter, the insipid brainchild of a UK welfare slag written in prose that makes Stephen King’s look like Cormac McCarthy: it’s utter garbage. The Little Engine That Could purports to teach children that if they want something bad enough – “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can” – they can achieve it. Yeah, no they can’t. Most endeavors end in failure, degradation and despair. In real life the way you get ahead is to cheat and lie and steal and failing that you have to watch Harvey Weinstein shower and then after your tits start to sag you churn out some shitty kid lit.

My favorite children’s book story though is the story of Molly Bang. Molly is a real person, like Hillary Clinton a graduate of Wellesley who went on to get a a PhD in literature from Harvard. She wrote, in 1983, a children’s book called Ten, Nine, Eight, which is a countdown from ten to one by a little girl getting ready for bed. This book is considered a classic and is on the NY Public libraries list of 100 greatest children’s books: “Ten soft toes are washed and warm. Nine soft friends in a quiet room. Eight square window panes in the falling snow.” That’s as far as I got but I assume the next one is “seven Oxycontin chased with a gallon of vodka and a nice lie down in the bathtub” But that’s not the interesting part of the Molly Bang story. The interesting part is that Bang wrote in 1996 a book called Goose, which in 2016 won the Phoenix Picture Book Award: it was named by the Children’s Literature Association as the best English-language children’s book that had not previously won a book award. And so we come full circle: in a world where every little special snowflake gets a gold star for participation, the adults who encourage the children to remain forever children give themselves their own participation trophies. Hooray!

There is one children’s book that doesn’t suck, and that’s because it’s not a children’s book: Yertle the Turtle. Yertle tells the story of a turtle who acts like a cunt and gets his comeuppance, the moral being don’t act like a cunt. Which is all anybody really needs to know. I have my own idea for a great children’s book, one that imparts similar life lessons, because children are the future. Here it is. There’s this cute little Muslim bunny rabbit called Allah Snuggles who befriends a talking Jewish carrot called Schlomupagus. Snuggles found Schlomo alive in a pile of rubble, the only survivor of a blast caused when Snuggles good friend Fluffy – an adorable jihadist puppet come to life – detonated an explosive vest in a Beirut marketplace. The two new friends set off on a long and arduous journey to bring peace to the middle east, but just when they reach Palestine things go awry and the two are separated: Snuggles gets lost in the desert and is raped and murdered by a tribe of Bedouins and Schlomo is deported to Auschwitz where he dies in the gas chambers. The working title is Kurds and Slay.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking fun, that was fascinating (and hilarious), but what does it have to do with basketball. And the answer is nothing. Because basketball is a sport and sports are stupid and you can write about them for so long before you become stupid too. What I’m trying to do here instead is explain what good writing is, and what it isn’t. And to that end I’m going to impart a very important rule to help you along the way. The rule is, when you write, don’t use too many commas. Because, when you use, too many commas, you sound like, a stuttering, fuck, with brain trauma, and reading your prose, is like watching, a three legged dog, try to climb the stairs: eventually you start rooting for the stairs. And rule two, try not to be too boring, and rule three, don’t go on too long, which last one I’m still working on.

Broken Heart

GAME: St John’s put a 35-point beating on Sacred Heart University Saturday afternoon at Carnesecca Arena. On the one hand it was a game you’d expect them to win by 35 but on the other the last two years happened, when they lost to Old Dominion and LIU and Incarnate Word and Fordham and NJIT, so I’d think that long-suffering St John’s fans would be wary of thinking too many teams gimmes.  But they’re not. Sacred Heart kept it close during the first half by virtue of some otherworldly three point shooting. After though what I presume was a rousing win-one-for-the-big-Indian halftime speech – Joe Lapchick’s statue was unveiled before the game – and some ingenious half time adjustments, St John’s put Sacred Heart away quickly and never looked back.

You’d think it’d be hard to say something negative after a game that St John’s won by 35, shot 55 percent from the floor, held their 6th opponent of the year under 61 points, were plus eight rebounds, had 15 steals, eight blocks, and forced 25 turnovers, but St John’s fans are nothing if not resilient, and so there was some grumbling this morning on various St John’s forums, the gist of which was sure they beat Sacred Heart by 35 but they’re supposed to beat Sacred Heart by 35 and now they have to move forward without Marcus Lovett, who twisted his ankle this week in practice. To which I say: last year the team was 2-5 after seven games, this year they’re 7-1 after eight. Last year they were 302nd in scoring defense at nearly 80 points a game and this year they’re 24th, at 60 ppg. That constitutes improvement by any standard. That a couple of the wins were over just the sort of cupcakes that Lou Carnesecca used to feast upon on his yearly trek to a first round NCAA tournament loss – e.g. the year they went to the final four the pre season comprised Lafayette, St Bonaventure, Fordham, Davidson, Rutgers, Niagara, and Old Dominion – well, last year this time they’d given up 80 points in a loss to Delaware State. So I’ll be happy with this. Because you can only beat the teams you play and you can only beat them one at a time. It’s like what Coach Lavs said after one of his signature wins over mighty Fordham: “Focus on the path of incremental progress, because that’s what ultimately positions a team to do something special come March. Focusing on growth doesn’t guarantee success, but it’s proved to be the most effective approach to enhance the percentages or probabilities of playing your best basketball in the postseason.” Percentages or probabilities, what a maroon … A two game west coast swing looms on the horizon. Assuming a split they’ll be about 8-2 going into Marco Baldi’s Superbowl and Christmas all rolled into one, aka Iona at MSG in the Holiday Festival. Anyone who wouldn’t have signed up for 9-2 after 11 games raise your hands. After someone reads this to you obviously, because you’re gym teacher stupid.

PLAYERS: In the absence of Marcus Lovett Shamorie Ponds handled most of the point guard duties and handled them quite well, finishing with 22 points and 7 rebounds. More importantly he looked to have gotten his swag back: he threw a behind the back pass that was so good that even dopey Amar Alibegowitz was able to finish on the break and then later a through the legs pass to Trimble for a three on another … Tariq Owens double doubled (12 points, 11 rebounds) and threw down a sport center top 10 dunk on a poorly thrown lob … Simon once again stuffed the stat sheet: 14 points, six assists, three steals and three rebounds  … Ahmed had 13 points on 5 of 7 from the floor: it’s amazing how good he looks when he lets the game come to him as opposed to how he usually plays … first vaguely good game by the wildly over estimated Marvin Clark, who finished with 14 points and seven rebounds … Yawke had 5 plus rebounds for the third time in four games, which doesn’t sound like much but at least he’s been looking interested lately. He also drew a couple of offensive fouls, which I don’t know if that’s much of a skill, but he’s good for a couple a game … Trimble played 22 minutes in Lovett’s absence and didn’t embarrass himself except a couple of time on defense … Alibegowitz wasn’t as awful as he might have been

NOTES: Sacred Heart is behind BU the second largest catholic university in New England, which perhaps explains why they’re on the schedule instead of say Yeshiva. The university was founded in 1963 so there’s not a lot about it to say. Famous alums include unfunny comedian Kevin Nealon, the actor John Ratzenberger (aka Cliff Klavin) and Lydia Hearst, a “fashion model, actress, and lifestyle blogger,” she being the daughter of Patricia “Tania” Hearst, which makes her heir to the 35 billion dollar fortune earned by her grandfather, the publisher William Randolph Hearst, the inspiration for Citizen Kane. Speaking of unfunny comedians, Hearst recently married the abominable Chris Hartwick …. Michael Rappaport showed up during the broadcast for an interminable appearance, about which I’m not going to say anything, because I like Michael Rappaport … Speaking of the gift that keeps on giving, it was discovered this week that a serial killer plaguing the Tampa area was formerly a member of the St John’s basketball team under – you guessed it – the repulsive Steve Lavin. It turning out that one of Lavin’s walk-ons savagely murdered more people than the late Charlie Manson should come as no surprise to anyone who’s followed his career, Coach Lavs being a bit of a sociopath himself. Obviously the fact that Lavin once mentored a player who turned out to be a mass murderer doesn’t make him equally guilty of the crime, but it does call into question his self serving some-things-are-more-important-than-winning mantra – and that’s leaving aside the fact that Lavin did very little in the way of winning. Because just like Mike Jarhead, a similarly sanctimonious nincompoop, Lavin prided himself on his role as a teacher and molder of men’s character. Jarvis wrote a book called skills for life and Lavin – when he’s not playing the role of halftime bobblehead – gives motivational speeches to groups of impressionable young men. No doubt that he mentored a mass murderer doesn’t come up in conversation. Relative to which – because I’m nothing but scrupulously fair – I’ve gone back looked at Lavin’s recruits, 17 of whom made it to campus. They are Dwayne Polee, Mo Harkless, Nurideen Lindsey, God’s Gift Gazunheit, Phil Greene, Amir Garrett, Dom Pointer, D’angelo Harrison, Jakarr Sampson, Jamal Branch, Chris Obekpa, Marco Bourgault, Christian Jones, Felix Balamou, Rysheed Jordan, Orlando Sanchez, Max Hooper, Amar Alimakeawish and Joey de la Rosa. You have in there two sociopaths – Jordan and Obekpa – one bona fide NBA player (Harkless, who fell into Lavin’s lap and got off it as soon as possible), two guys who had an NBA cup of coffee (Pointer and Sampson), a professional baseball player (Garrett), one great college player (Harrison), one charitably speaking average college player (PG 1V) and eleven mediocrities and nobodies (Polee, Lindsey, Gift, Branch, Bourgault, Jones, Balamou, Sanchez, Hooper, Alibegowtiz and de la Rosa). Which carry the one means that Lavin recruited twice as many attempted murderers as he did great college players; the same number of attempted murderers as players who were the best shooters he’s seen since Jason Kapono (Hooper and Bourgault); and as many transfers (7) as graduates, those seven graduates being only three fewer than the number of victims of Lavin’s serial killer. Say what you will about the Jarvae – and I have, both he and Lavin have me blocked on Twitter – at least his recruits confined themselves to petty thievery, drug dealing and sexual assault. So I think it fair that at least some of the stink rubs off on Lavin and especially because you know that if one of his walk-ons won a Nobel Prize Lavin would be standing in the front row with a big smile and shining eyes, clapping enthusiastically, and that afterwards he’d be available to the media. Whereas I don’t expect to see him at this kid’s trial as a character witness. The university otoh is another story. Serial killers come from all walks of life and social strata and any number of them were educated and some highly so. Ted Kaczynski the Unabomber graduated from Harvard and received a PhD from the University of Michigan; Ted Bundy – who kept the severed heads of his victims in his refrigerator – graduated from the University of Washington and later attended law school in Utah; the rapist slash murderer Michael Ross received a degree from Cornell; clown killer John Wayne Gacy graduated from Northwestern Business College; Dennis “BTK” Rader (BTK stands for bind torture kill) received an undergraduate degree in criminal justice from Wichita State; the Dating Game Killer – he appeared on the show during his spree – Rodney Alcala earned a degree in fine arts from UCLA and was attending NYU film school with another rapist – Roman Polanksi – when he was arrested for the sex slaying of an 8 year old California girl; former Oakland Raider and St Louis Cardinal Roger Rozier graduated from UC Berkeley before joining a black supremacist cult and murdering seven whites as part of an initiation ritual – turn about being fair play he was then himself murdered after testifying against the cult; Ed Kemper – who at 6’9″ 240 pounds could help St St John’s in the front court this year – was attending Santa Clara Community College when he murdered his mother and sodomized her severed head; Michael Swango MD murdered 60 plus patients after graduating from the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine; and Doctor Herman Webster Mudgett, aka HH Holmes, murdered god knows how many people in the specially constructed murder palace that he operated in Chicago during the world’s fair of 1893. Are you going to blame Harvard for Ted Kaczynski? I think not, no more than you’d blame the university for how godawful Barack Obama turned out.

Knights On Bald Mountain

Nowadays I rarely get mad enough during basketball games to scream at the television but I made an exception during St John’s 46-43 victory over Central Florida in the consolation bracket of the Advocare tournament Sunday afternoon. I screamed at Bashir Ahmed when he threw an ill-considered full court pass to Kassoum Yawke, who has a hard enough time catching the ball when you hand it to him. I screamed at Marvin Clark when he took the  ball end to end on a break instead of giving it up to one of the guards, and then  screamed at him again when he did it again. And I screamed at Justin Simon when he almost gave the game away by nearly turning the ball over at half court with a minute left. But mostly I screamed at the referees. Consider: UCF did not score a point in the first 10 minutes; they did not make a field goal until seven minutes were left in the first half, a half in which they managed four field goals total; they made a mere 14 field goals the entire game, had 15 shots blocked, turned the ball over 21 times and had their best player foul out three quarters of the way through the second half. And yet they came within a clam’s hair of winning by virtue of the the 14 of 23 free throws they made – good thing they sucked at FT shooting huh? –  in a seemingly unending parade to the line. And meanwhile St John’s didn’t shoot a free throw until there were 13 minutes left in the second half and ended up with a total of eight, half of those in the last five minutes. Things got so bad that at one point a referee collapsed, exhausted from the strain of whistling fouls against SJU. (Just kidding, he got head butted by one of UCF’s players, which resulted in a St John’s foul.) Being uncharacteristically sober it took me a bit to figure out what was going on, but then the light bulb went off: former dookie Johnny Dawkins was on the sidelines, that was why UCF was getting the benefit of every call. That was why for example Tarko Fall could grab a rebound under the basket, stumble halfway across the court and end up laying on his back near the sideline where he was awarded a time out: it wasn’t because he’s learned the secret of teleportation or because he’s the most supernaturally coordinated golem in the history of golems, it’s because his head coach attended the best Ivy league school in the ACC. It all became clear: St John’s was getting rogered, just like they got rogered in 1990, when dook shot 32 free throws to SJU’s 15 in a 4-point first round NCAA tournament loss, and just like they did in 1991, when dewk shot 28 free throws to SJ’s six. It wasn’t merely bad basketball, or blind and biased referees: it was part of a vast shadowy conspiracy of karmic forces that has existed for more than 50 years. In which case there’s nothing to do be done about it, so you might as well scream into the darkness. (Meanwhile in Pennsylvania, Villanova just played an entire game without committing a single foul. Last year when they didn’t commit a foul in a half against St John’s I called that loaves and fishes territory. No fouls in an entire game means Jay Wright has moved on to raising Lazarus from the dead). Which whining about the refs is not to say that SJ played well. They did not. They were putrid: they shot 25 percent from the floor and 7 for 27 from three and committed 22 turnovers. But I don’t care. In a four point game where 80 points were scored total UCF shot 400 percent as many FTs as SJ and scored a third of their points from the line: they made as many FTs as they did baskets. Some guy called C Brown on UCF took six shots that resulted in 13 free throws, and meanwhile Lovett, Ahmed and Ponds took 40 shots between them and got fouled twice. Not buying it, not at all. The refs were horseshit … About the previous three games there’s not a lot to say. SJ made a nice comeback against Oregon State, but Oregon State stinks so there’s not a lot of there there. The Missouri game was a bit of a disappointment, because they had them and let them go. Although the difference in the score at game’s end was eight the real difference was fourteen: 14 more FT’s for Missouri – they made eight more than SJ took – and they had 14 more rebounds than St John’s and they made 14 threes. That’s more fourteens than Roy Moore’s had. Still, six and one after seven games is about as good a start as any non-delusional fans – and there are a lot of you –  could expect, because even if they’d beaten MU they’d have had their heads handed to them by West Virginia. The big tournament take away for me is the defense, i.e., that they’re actually playing some. And that’s a big deal. Because if you play defense you can win games you shouldn’t, just like the one they won today … There’s five games left before the real ones begin: assume a loss to Arizona State and that they beat snot out of the the cream puffs (Sacred Heart and Iona); even if they lose a game they probably could win against Grand Canyon or St Joe’s, that’s nine wins, which is just about where you’d expect them to be in December: halfway to a favorable seed in the NIT.

NOTES: Advocare was sponsored by the sinking ship ESPN, meaning that I was spared the presence of the repulsive Steve Lavin and dimwitted Tarik Turner; the bad news is that I was subjected to unending streams of ill-informed nonsense by the conga line of failed coaches that ESPN foists off as alleged experts: Dan Dakich, Seth Greenburg, Dino Gaudio, Mark Adams and Bob Valvano have between them 1500 coaching losses, three NCAA tournament appearances, and the combined  charm of a convention of Albanian marriage brokers. The worst offender though this week was former SJU coach Fran Fraschilla, who noted during the game that we were watching bad basketball and “probably bad coaching” – which is a remarkable statement coming from someone whose own once promising career exploded more spectacularly than anyone not named Bobby Gonzalez. What Fran failed to note was the atrocious announcing: an indication of the kind of day Fran had was that when a Marcus Lovett jumper lodged itself between the rim and the backboard Fran went on a 30 second dissertation about how that shot was “an indication of the kind of night Shamorie Ponds is having.” In one short sentence he got the player wrong, and the time of day, and drew the wrong conclusion from what he’d just watched twice, but other than that made some fine points. On the bright side he didn’t pull his cock and balls out and start shaking them in anyone’s face, so there’s that … And finally the elephant in the room. Many of you have written over the past week, the gist of which was hey fun, what gives? Where’s my recap. The short answer is that I couldn’t be bothered and the longer one that it’s all part of the master plan: like Saint John’s in the first half of many of its games I’m starting slowly and conserving my energy for the second, when games are won. In point of fact Molloy was a glorified exhibition against a nursing college – Lou used to joke about playing the little sisters of the poor but it took Chris Mullin to actually pull it off. What was I supposed to write about? How to make jello? How to jerk off doctors in the linen closet? (Hint: use jello). I couldn’t have been less interested. Still, one astute poster in the interminable game thread at one well trafficked fan board – you’d think they were playing for the national championship the way these dopes analyze the excruciating minutia of every possession – termed the win “a disgrace,” evidently because SJ only won by 29, after having sat their two best players for the last 10 minutes of the second half. No doubt the same poster would have complained if Lovett and Ponds were in at the end, lest they get injured. Because some people are only happy when they’re unhappy.  Re the Advocare tournament, I wrote three recaps in three days during last year’s preseason tournament, after which I said to myself, self, if I’d known they were going to play three games in three days I’d have written one recap comprising all three games, which is exactly what I did this year, having this year cleverly looked at the schedule beforehand, as opposed to last year, when I was drunk. Not that I’m not drunk now obviously, but at least I looked at the schedule. And I actually did some research into the schools we played, just in case. The Oregon Beavers were a treasure trove, beaver being along with area 51, axe wound, baby cannon, badly packed kebab, beef curtains, broad faced chicken, clowns pocket, furburger, front-butt, meat curtains, minge, muff, Sarah’s saddlebag, sausage wallet, shame cave, smiling dolphin, stench trench, stink box, tinkleflower, tuna purse, twinkle cavern, Valarie’s stinkhole, yippee bog, and yogurt factory a synonym for the female private parts. It turns out that in days of old it was thought that venereal disease was spread by contact with the pubic hairs of prostitutes, who in turn shaved their nether regions and wore instead vaginal toupees, called merkins, made from beaver pelts. Today of course most women shave themselves bald as a matter of course, snow flake millennial males evidently being sexually aroused by the Barbie dolls with which they grew up playing. Me, I’ll take a hirsute 80’s porn bush any day of the week. De gustibus non disputandum est. And Missouri, the Tigers, was the alma mater of Tom Berenger, Sheryl Crow, Jon Hamm, Robert Loggia, Brad Pitt, George C. Scott, Tennesee Williams, Art Shamsky, and Ed Sanders, founder of the Fugs, whose The Family (The Story of Charles Manson’s Dune Buggy Attack Battalion) is the sine qua non of Manson porn, poor Charlie having shuffled off the mortal coil in a synchronistical bit of good fortune this past week. RIP Charlie.

Here’s Johnnies

Well that was fun, and by that I mean the 79-56 beat down St John’s put on Nebraska at Alumni Hall Thursday night. It wasn’t so much the margin of victory – they beat CCSU by more on Monday – but the way they went about it: dunks and blocks and behind the back passes and a couple through the legs and even one off the backboard. It was so much fun that the game featured prominently on Sportscenter – just after James Harden’s 40 whatever point night and just before a video tribute the NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton – introduced by “if you like dunks you’re going to love this” and with an exit line warning viewers to “keep an eye on Chris Mullin’s crew.” The team’s play was I thought just the right level of arrogant: they got up big and kept their foot on the other guy’s throat and swaggered a bit but weren’t cocky about it and if anything the fact that they didn’t look like they were trying to humiliate anyone made the humiliation more humiliating. It was like one of those cartoon fights where one guy holds the other guy off with a hand in his face while the other guy futilely windmills his arms.

Which degree of confidence is not necessarily a bad thing, assuming they don’t forget they’ve won 25 games over the past couple of year.

For all the points they scored and the way they scored them they didn’t shoot particularly well – 40 percent from the field and 30 percent from three. What they did do well was rebound – they had 50 and were plus 11 – and pressure the ball in a way I don’t remember them doing in quite a while and when the pressure worked they got out and ran. Which is what I think the Mullin plan is supposed to be: defend, rebound and run the other guys out of the gym. The result last night was that Nebraska shot 28 percent from the field and turned the ball over 16 times. And that’s not to mention the ten shots St John’s blocked. That’s a lot of deficit to overcome and Nebraska is not the team to overcome it. Because they stink, which means there’s not a lot to take away here except to remember that this time last year St John’s was losing to Delaware State  and everyone was soiling their nappies and calling for the formation of a new search committee … Mullin was once again animated and engaged and managed things well. He got T’ed up early in the second half for they said on the telly smashing a water bottle, but they didn’t show the smashing on Fox and I couldn’t tell what he was upset about anyway.

PLAYERS: Ponds had 22 points, 7 rebounds and five assists but was oh for five from three. Threw a nifty alley oop to Ahmed on a break and one off the backboard to Simon … Simon had his second double in a row, 13 points, 12 rebounds, plus four steals and three blocks. Which is Dom Pointer as a senior production … Ahmed had 15 points and 5 rebounds and really only took one bad shot  …. When Tariq Owens entered the game the usually reliable Jim Spanarakle said that he’s a “senior” who can “play any position,” which no he’s not Jim, he’s not any of those things. Six points, six blocks, nine rebounds … Lovett finished with 14 in a team high 35 minutes … Clark had seven points and five rebounds, but fouled out in 25 minutes. Which makes nine fouls his last two games which does not bode well moving forward … Signs of life from Kassoum Yakwe, who had five rebounds in 15 minutes, after having just one the previous two games … Trimble didn’t play much and Alibegowitz not nearly at all. If that’t the rotation, that’s seven men, which is not ideal, but Villanova only goes eight deep and they’re pretty good

NOTES: I’ve written a a bunch about what a load of nothing Nebraska is relative to regular opponent Creighton so there’s no need to plow that dust bowl again. Nebraska the University though turns out to be not as much of an intellectual wasteland as you might think, boasting as alumni three Nobel laureates in science, Pulitzer Prize winner Willa Cather – who dressed like a man, referred to herself as Bill and lived for 39 years with a special friend called Edith – the great Johnny Carson – whose shit sanctimonious gasbags Jimmy Kimmel and Steven Colbert are not worthy to sniff;  inventor of the all-you-can-eat breakfast Warren Buffett; and not surprisingly a bunch of football players, although not as many notables as you’d think, the most recognizable being Roger Craig and Irving Fryar. Nebraska’s sports teams are called the Cornhuskers, corn being the state’s bumper crop and husking its past time, but they didn’t settle on that until adopting and discarding the Hawkeyes (oddly Iowa, now the Haweyes used to be the Cornhuskers), the Antelopes, the Old Gold Knights (save the coupons), the Bugeaters, the Tree Planters and the Mankilling Mastodons, which I don’t know why you’d pick huskers over any of those last couple. At basketball they’ve never been any great shakes, having made the NCAA tournament only seven times since 1897, which makes St John’s look like UCLA in comparison … Speaking of UCLA it wouldn’t be a recap if I didn’t shit on halftime analyst the repulsive Steve Lavin. Over the summer I spent an afternoon editing Lavin’s wikipedia page, which before I got to it sounded like Lavin had written it himself: it was a smorgasbord of half truths, lies, and damned lies and reading it you’d think Lavin was an accomplished and respected basketball mind, as opposed to a histrionic cunt of a sociopath who in his short career destroyed not one but two storied basketball programs. I mean, the article mentions “cancer” seven time – which is about as many times as cancer is mentioned in the article about cancer – and gives Lavin’s win loss record minus games he missed “due to Father’s passing.” Which Olympic level faggotry I set about correcting. For example, the article noted that

to which I added

The article then ejaculated said that

Which I changed to

This

became this

and this

became this

and this

this

and this

this

All of which you have to admit was pretty fair, except maybe this, which even I’l admit was gratuitous

Those edits lasted nearly six months, until they were reverted this past week. Which is a victory for post modernism, because only in a world where there are no standards can Lavin be considered a good basketball coach or even a good human being. One small consolation thought is that they didn’t quite revert all of my edits. They missed this one.

Which must be true, it’s on the interweb … Speaking of California Charlie Manson is apparently at death’s door. No doubt the St John’s family’s thoughts and prayers go out to Charlie and his … Finally for poster Desco, who complains every time I don’t post titties, here’s Carol Wayne, who walked off into the ocean in Mexico in 1985 and was never heard of again.

CCSUssudio

Back when I was in law school Joe Biden was running for president – this was before it came out that he was a serial plagiarist who cribbed speeches from everyone from Robert Kennedy to Sally Fields, they like  me, they really like me – and one evening he attended an event on campus, which was in New Hampshire and where his college room mate taught Evidence. At the end Joe answered questions from students that had previously been submitted on 3 x 5 index cards, this being before the internet. Being even back then a bit of a wag I asked “whether Senator Biden thought the American people so shallow that they would elect as president a man who combs the last few remaining strands of hair over his pate in a forlorn attempt to hide his baldness.”  (I had not then yet imagined President Donald Trump.) Joe didn’t answer my question but the expression on his face when he read it was priceless, and I’m reminded of it each time I see him and his fashionable plugs – for which I credit myself – on television, which I did yesterday morning when he appeared with the repulsive Matt Lauer as part of his Darn-I-wish-I’d run-for-president tour.  Joe didn’t run last time – no doubt he didn’t want to end up like Seth Rich and Vince Foster – and so instead he spends his days rehearsing a bald version of Hamlet: to be president or not to be, that is the question; I didn’t run, I wish I did, I might, I could win, the sight of which is enough to make me throw myself in the river atop Ophelia. Hey Joe where you going with that gun in your hand : make up your mind and run or don’t and may the best moron win but for god sake shut up about it. I mention all this because the original paragraph I wrote here, since excised, was my own version of Hamlet. Because when I woke up yesterday morning my nearly very first thought was, shit, there’s a basketball game tonight and  I have to write 2000 words about it and another 2000 words about Nebraska on Thursday, and so on, and so on, and so on. And it occurred to me that I’ve taken two of the few things in life I enjoy, writing and college basketball, and turned them into one thing that’s a chore: writing about college basketball. It’s as if I combined cigars and horse racing and ended up setting the barn on fire. Which is why I started this essay the way I did. But you know what? That sort of hand wringing is just not very interesting – even when I’m writing about it – and so I’ve told myself exactly what I told Joe. Write your stupid little blog or don’t, but pull your head out of your ass and stop being such a little bitch … To wit

About the game it’s once again too early to tell anything much except that the guards are really quite good: Simon had a double double and Ponds almost had one; Lovett scored 15 points, all in the second half. Ahmed (13 points, 3 rebounds) looked a little better but still forced it a bit. Owens had six points, five rebounds and two blocks, which is almost exactly what he had last game (5/6/2); if you asked me whether I’d take that all season I might say yes. Clark was a non factor with four fouls and Yakwe was once again a non factor and  really has no excuse for his behavior, except maybe he doesn’t like playing basketball. Brian Trimble Jr. can shoot a bit and isn’t shy about it. Alibegowitz didn’t come in the game until there were about five minutes left and I didn’t miss him; still there were 187 posts on various fan boards about what a great  center he’d make if he only was a completely different player, by which I mean a talented one who played center. Which he isn’t, he a stretch stinks. As a group they look to be a bit more committed to playing defense than they were last year – it’d be hard not to.  Still 21 is a lot of turnovers  to force and it may be that there are not so many blocks this year because the guards are occasionally stopping people from getting in the lane. Probably we’ll know more after Thursday. Nebraska stinks but they stink in the Big 10, which currently comprises 14 teams.

Speaking of plagiarism, here’s the game recap courtesy of Reuters

St. John’s rolls over Central Connecticut

St. John’s produced three extended scoring runs to pave the way for an 80-55 non-conference victory over Central Connecticut on Tuesday night at Carnesecca Arena in New York City.

Sophomore guard Shamorie Ponds led St. John’s (2-0) with 21 points and nine rebounds. Sophomore guard Marcus LoVett delivered all 15 of his points in the second half while Arizona transfer Justin Simon posted a career-high 12 points with 11 rebounds.

Junior center Deion Bute paced Central Connecticut (0-3) with 19 points and nine rebounds while senior forward Mustafa Jones added 13 points. That duo combined to hit 14 of 21 shots from the field, but their teammates canned just 6 of 27 (22 percent).

Central Connecticut lost its first two games by a combined five points at Hartford and Rutgers, but couldn’t cling as closely to St. John‘s.

The Red Storm subdued the Blue Devils with 9-0 and 11-0 runs in the first half, but saved their 16-0 knockout blow for the second half once Central Connecticut pulled within 12. The final spree featured multiple behind-the-back passes on fast breaks as St. John’s regained control.

St. John’s canned 8 of 14 3-pointers until junk time reduced its final showing to 9 of 21 from long range. The Red Storm forced the Blue Devils into 21 turnovers and won the rebound battle by nine.

Good grief but that’s some shit writing. You know why? Because it violates the number one rule of good writing: don’t try to be interesting. (Rule two is don’t use adverbs, badly. ) I don’t mean don’t write about interesting things or don’t be interesting when you write, I mean don’t try to make mundane things interesting by describing them using grandiose hackneyed language. If e.g. someone says something, say “he said,” not he declaimed or interposed or speculated or good forbid ejaculated. If someone scored, say they scored; they didn’t deliver; they didn’t can anything. Dominos delivers and  Chicken of the Sea cans and I occasionally ejaculate. There was no rebound battle, no final spree, no knockout blow. Nobody rolled over anybody and no one didn’t cling as closely to anything else, which is anyways redundant, because cling means “to hold on tightly,” so if you’re clinging your you’re close by definition. It’s atrocious writing and these dopes get paid to do it and I write like this for free. There’s something wrong with this business model.

Notes: Central Connecticut State University is in – wait for it – Central Connecticut. Turns out there’s not a lot of their they’re there there – CCSU’s most famous alumni in nearly 200 years is pretty boy actor Richard Grieco, the least successful member of 21 Jump Street. (The most successful member belongs to Johnny Depp.) The basketball team is coached by Uconn’s Donyell Marshall – not to be confused with Donnie Marshall’s terrifying eyebrows – the fourth pick in the nineteen I can’t be arsed to look it up NBA draft. Marshall spent 15 years in the league, where he played along side amongst others Chris Mullin. Last night however CCSU was coached by someone called Witkoskie, as Marshall  is currently suspended for slapping around one of his assistant coaches after practice. Besides having a coach whose name is impossible to spell or pronounce CCSU shares with the finest Ivy league school in the ACC, that’d be Dewk for those of you scoring at home, a sports mascot, similarly being called the blue devils. Considering those coincidences I’ve decided to help the dopes at Reuters by putting together a brief guide to telling the schools apart. Probably the easiest was is to note which coach had his tail cut off after being chased up the clock by the farmer’s wife: that would be the dook blue devils of the ACC, coached by Mike Schrewshrensky. A second way is to compare horseflesh. This for example is an ACC coed who was featured as “Cheerleader of the Week” by Sports Illustrated magazine.

Chubba Chubba. Hubba hubba.

As you can see, Dook girls are not terribly attractive, although I have it on good authority that they’re easy.

(Speaking of bad writing Sports Illustrated once wrote an entire article about verse penned by America’s then poet laureate, JJ Reddick

My life story is read in poetic stages
I was once weak-minded, now I’m courageous
The cause and effect of a thousand actions
The mathematical breakdown of micro-fractions
It’s difficult to fathom the coming of the rapture
What if I awoke in an empty pasture?

The answer is that if you awoke in an empty pasture it wouldn’t be empty, would it stupid, and also you’d risk being confused with a cow patty.

https://deadspin.com/5591005/americas-dumbest-student-athlete-jj-redick-duke-university)

This on the other hand is a random CCSU coed, not even a cheerleader

This is another one

So to recap.

Dook University:

Central Cameltoe State

To finish up, how about some shitty music about bad writing.

Po’ Boy

I’ve been dreading this moment since the horn sounded on March 9th of 2017, when St John’s was last seen dropping a 41-point squeaker to Villanova. Not the sounding of the horn that will herald the beginning of a new St John’s basketball season, one that will inevitably end in failure and disappointment. That I’m inured to. What I was dreading was the task of chronicling it. So much so in fact that for most of the summer I considered myself retired into casual fandom: that is, one who gets drunk, watches the game and gets progressively drunker and drunker until even lobster rolls sound appetizing. It wasn’t until mid Friday morning, when I trended briefly on Twitter – just below Roy Moore, the alleged ephebophile who will be the next senator from the great state of Mississippi and just above Louis CK, a serial Onanist – that I resigned myself to my fate: writing 60 thousand words about a basketball team that’ll make the NIT if everything goes well. Because 60 thousand is a lot of words, just about a novel: Lord of the Flies and As I Lay Dying come in under that and Nineteen Eighty-Four and Catcher in the Rye just above it. And really unless you’re a gaseous hack like David Foster Wallace or a blind lunatic like James Joyce that’s all you need. My own unfinished great American novel, a tale of Jewish gunfighter in the old west with a working title of A Man Called Chutzpah (although I’ve also considered The Oy!Klahoma Kid) clocks in around there, and if I put as much effort into that as I’m going to put into this I’d be short listed for a Booker Prize come October. But really, what’s a the value of a Nobel Prize in literature when weighed against the opportunity to rehash box scores and post pictures of titties on the internets for 200 readers. I think you’ll agree I made the right decision.

About the game there’s not a lot to say – it’s still early in the season as one genyious fanboy posted during the second half of St John’s first exhibition game a week ago – and besides at this point I can hardly tell one player from another. In  general they looked okay. The ball movement was there (17 assists on 25 made baskets) and there seemed to be a bit more effort on defense, although whether NOP shot 40 percent from the field and 30 percent from three because of St John’s defense or because they stink I can’t say. Lovett (23 points, 4 steals) and Ponds (12 points, 7 rebounds, six assists) looked as they are touted to be, one of the better back courts in the league and maybe the country. Clark and Simon looked like legitimate D1 players. Tariq Owens is still a twig but he had six rebounds in 20 minutes and made five of his six free throws and committed zero personal fouls and that’s not a misprint. Even Bryan Trimble looks like a player. The bad news is that the guys who’ll need to step up for St John’s to overachieve their way onto the tournament  bubble – Yawke, Ahmed and god help us Amar Alibagowich – did not look particularly sharp: Ahmed had four of SJ’s 11 turnovers, Yakwe had no points and no rebounds in eight minutes, and AA was worse than those two … For his part Mullin wore most of a suit and didn’t sit anywhere inappropriate and looked active and engaged. Which is good, because this is the year when things have to start getting better.

NOTES: I had a bit of a kerfuffle with Direct TV at the start of the game, which was supposed to be on but wasn’t. Credit them though, a quick call to a beddy beddy solly representative righted things, meaning I only missed the first 10 minutes or so. The bad news is that I had to watch in real time, meaning I had to sit through at least a dozen commercials for some weird cult called values dot com that featured John Lennon caterwauling his way through Imagine, which made me want to hang myself. I know it’s fashionable to think Lennon was the genius in the Beatles but at his worst he was just as treacly as McCartney and a pretentious hypocrite to boot: a faux socialist multimillionaire junkie who described himself as bigger than the Baby Jesus explaining how we could all live as one if only we had no possessions or gods, which lyrics he wrote on a $100,00 Steinway grand piano he could barely play in a chalet he rented in the south of France where he lived while his castle was being renovated. I also had to sit through the first appearance of Steve Lavin’s double chins during halftime. I don’t remember what was said but I’m sure it was stupid and self-aggrandizing and similarly shameless… New Orleans University is located in – wait for it – New Orleans, New Orleans being located in the Louisiana, home of former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke, who once won the Democratic Party vice presidential primary in the state of New Hampshire. (Look it up.) Famous alums include the lesbian Ellen DeGeneres; modern first collector and Emmy winner John Laroquette; former MLB players Wally Whitehurst, Jim Bullinger (one of five pitchers to have hit a home run on his first major league pitch) and Ellen’s favorite player Randy Bush, a two time World Series champion with the  Minnesota Twins; and the actor Billy Slaughter (no relation to Enos), who I’ve never heard of but who once appeared in a movie with Margot Robbie, the talented actress seen above …. New Orleans mascot is the privateers, privateers being a species of swashbuckling rapists that included such luminaries as Harvey Weinstein, Francis Drake, Captain Kidd (whose buried treasure I searched for futilely as a child during idyllic summers on Long Island’s north fork) and Jean Lafitte, an otherwise degenerate frog whose heroics in the battle of New Orleans in 1814 are as much responsible for existence of the United States as pretty much anyone. Still, he’s french, so fuck him. (Lavin’s a POS, check. Democrats are racist, check. The french suck, check.) Despite their recent entry into Division I the Privateers have arguably been as successful as St John’s over the past generation (five NCAA tournament appearances) and in their taste in head coaches as well: Butch Van Breda Koff, Tim Floyd, Tic Price, Monte Towe (all five foot seven of him) and Buzz Williams all coached there before moving on to better things, which used to be a show Louis CK produced, until yesterday, when it was discovered that he forced women to watch him pleasure himself. So having come full circle, imagine banging this for 20 years, you’d invite Mark David Chapman in for coffee:

 

The End

RECAP: I did something today that I rarely do: stayed sober. Just kidding, I’m faced. I didn’t watch St John’s lose to Villanova by a million or whatever it ended up being in the second round of the BET at MSG Thursday afternoon all the way through to the bitter end. In fact, I didn’t watch all the way through the first half. Because I saw what was coming and just wasn’t in the mood. I have it DVR’ed and maybe I’ll get to it some lazy afternoon but given the choice between watching that and watching the Georgetown game again, I’m watching the Georgetown game again. Because that was fun. Not having watched it I can’t really comment but let me ask my readers one question: is it really possible that Villanova committed seven fucking fouls the entire game? That they played an entire half without committing a single foul, without a single stray hand grazing a shooter’s or a body meeting a body coming through the rye? Because that’s loaves and fishes territory right there; that’s the baby Jesus casting demons into swine. I realize that Jay Wright is a classy fashion icon who runs his championship basketball program the right way and without a whisper of scandal and everybody loves him – I don’t love him, I think he’s a fucking cunt – but has He really transmogrified into a living god right before our eyes like fucking Caligula? Seven personal fouls? Dick Vitale would call more fouls than that if he refereed a dook game and he only has one eye and besides which he’d be hard pressed to blow the whistle, what with Shrewshrensky’s cock and balls buried in his throat. I watched 15 minutes this afternoon and saw Bashir Ahmed get fouled seven times on one drive to the basket. Seven fouls in the entire game? Give me a fucking break … And fuck Georgetown too while we’re at it, but at least Wednesday night we finally got the satisfaction of seeing Chris Mullin bounce a John Thompson team out of a tournament, even if it was 30 years too late and in a play in game in the BET and the wrong John Thompson was coaching. There’s your silver lining right there: St John’s won its first BET game since 2011, when they beat Rutgers in a game they should have lost, in a game that was so poorly officiated that Jim Burr and that stupid drunk Tim Higgins – the two worst referees in the history of college basketball – whose routine incompetence was the stuff of legend – were suspended for being complete and utter shitbrains without the vaguest understanding of the rules of basketball. So there’s that: we’re off the BET schneid. Onward and upward … I know what you’re thinking, you’re thinking fun, what’s with all the angst, you’re usually so even tempered and fair minded, the season didn’t end as well as it might have but things could have been much worse, so why do you seem so angry. And the answer is I don’t know. Frankly I’m ecstatic that I don’t have to write any more of these stupid things, because I’m sick of it; and the end of the basketball season means that spring is in the air, which might not mean a lot to you pussies who live on Long Island but for manly men like me who live upstate and chop their own wood that’s a big fucking deal; and now that this stupid basketball season is over not only am I one season closer to the sweet relief that death will bring but I’m one year closer to St John’s possibly not sucking as much as they’ve sucked my entire adult life. So I don’t know. As the kid’s say, it is what it is.

 
PLAYERS: Seeing that this is the last recap of the year – and perhaps forever – rather than rehashing the box score I thought I’d hand out some season grades. These are on a true curve: someone gets an A and someone gets and F and most of them cluster around the mean.

Ponds A / Lovett A minus: really a toss up as to whether Ponds or Lovett gets the full A because there’s no significant difference between them statistically. The tipping point for me is Ponds’ age, because he’s a true freshman. And what a freshmen: as good as any I have ever seen at St John’s and that includes the current head coach, who might not have been quite as Mullinesque as he was had he had to play with these stiffs as opposed to David Russell, Billy Goodwin and Kevin Williams. But I wouldn’t argue with anyone who flipped them. They already comprise one of the more memorable back courts in Saint John’s history – joining Utley and Williams; Moses and Mullin; Harvey and Porter; Barkley and Bootsy; Hardy and Kennedy – and have a chance over the next year or two to be one of the more memorable back courts in college basketball. Because they can both handle and they can both shoot and they both have wonderful court instincts. If I were a praying man and thought that the baby Jesus cared about sports I’d pray for their health and well being. Rumors circulating on St John’s fan boards – where rumors circulate with more regularity and velocity than around the knitting circle at Del Boca Vista – have Lovett leaving after this year to play somewhere for money. That wouldn’t be the best thing that ever happened to the program but it’s not an insurmountable setback. And Lovett doesn’t look like someone who’s going to take a step forward, at least on the offensive end, where he’s pretty much fully formed, so to that extent he has no reason to return.

A lot of people have questioned the pair’s effort and especially their defensive effort or more precisely their lack thereof. One fan board genius went so far for example as to complain that despite his having led the Big East in steals – as a freshmen – Ponds was not as good a defender as Gary Payton. Note to that genius: almost no one was as good a defender as Gary Payton, who was perhaps the greatest two way guard in the history of organized basketball. Among the players who were not as good as former NBA defensive player of the year Gary Payton was a freshmen at the University of Oregon who coincidentally was also called Gary Payton. Ponds isn’t even as good a defender as Gene Lawrence, much less Shariff Fordham, who was about as lock down a defender as I can remember.

The fact is that few freshmen are good defenders, because those freshmen who receive high Division One scholarships are so far advanced beyond their high school counterparts that they don’t have to be be good or even adequate defenders to be successful; and even when they play against players who are as advanced as they are in all star games and the like noone cares if they play defense or not. The biggest thing that freshmen players have to learn is that they need to bring it every night – on both sides of the ball. That’s why continuity of personnel and a balanced roster are so important: because upperclassmen who presumably have already learned that lesson can reinforce that message by word and deed. That’s not to excuse their lapses – I have been recently accused of being a Mullin sycophant, although not by someone who knows what the word sycophant means – which are often and obvious. Rather it’s to offer an explanation as to why what you see happening on the court is happening. There’s an old saw of which musicians are fond: How do you get to Carnegie Hall? You practice, because musical greatness is 99 percent perspiration and one percent inspiration. Personally I don’t think that’s true, I think it’s about eighty twenty, but the point holds. The entire foundation of pedagogy is that students learn and improve through repetitive exposure to accumulated wisdom. Yes there are prodigies – like for example Mozart or Chris Mullin – who are launched from the womb with gifts from their creator, but the majority of the population that achieves excellence achieves it through hard work and experience. Beyond all the difficulties that leaving the nest includes, college freshmen have not had the opportunity for exposure to accumulated wisdom. We none of us had that opportunity when we were freshmen lo those many years ago. Which is why patience is in order, because if there was video of you doing homework in your dorm freshmen year, it wouldn’t be flattering.

Ahmed – B minus: certainly Ahmed has some shortcomings in his game but 13 and 6 is pretty solid production from a first year player or for that matter anyone. Assuming a normal progression if next year he has a couple more makes versus a couple fewer misses and has a few more assists and a few fewer turnovers, he’s a second or third team all BE player. There’s certainly precedent for second year improvement among JUCOs – James Scott, Dwight Hardy, and Justin Brownlee off the top of my head – although that’s not a guarantee of success. But the one thing you cannot fault BA for – and you can fault him for a bunch of things – is his effort: he often is the only player on the court who looks like it bothers him that his team is getting its brain kicked in when his team is getting its brain kicked in. And let me tell you one more thing that gnaws at me: the niggling [sic] suspicion that if he was a white kid from Palermo the Red and White crowd would already have started a Kickstarter campaign to build him a staute in front of Carnesecca Arena.

Owens – C plus: If he had even a little bit of an offensive game he’d be a solid B, but he doesn’t: his jump shot is haphazard, his handle is suspect and those other things he throws at the basket are risible. (My suggestion? Sky hook baby!) And considering that he doesn’t his other production (5 rebounds, 2 blocks) is underwhelming. He does bring it every night though, at least until he fouls out, which he does on the reg. And let us be frank: he needs food. Make this guy a sandwich. Give him a milk shake. If you see him on campus give him some of your french fries. If Olive Oyl was this skinny even Bluto wouldn’t want to fuck her and he spent his entire life on a ship surrounded by beguiling cabin boys.

Williams – C plus: If he were being graded versus expectations he’d have gotten an A plus, because no one expected anything from him and he played some big minutes to the extent that there are big minutes on a 13 win team. Good rebounder, solid defender, and a deft touch around the basket – he and Owens were the only players with shooting percentages > 50 percent. I don’t know anything about his eligibility but if he has any then I’d welcome him back despite the fact that he’s seemingly made of tissue paper.

Mussini – C: Probably deserved a C plus but I reduced his grade because I’m racists aginst Italians. In his last half dozen games or so he seem to have found his niche a bit – emphasis on a bit – as an offensive spark off the bench. No one will ever confuse him for Vinnie Barbarino Johnson but he is what he is. Still can’t guard anyone and is limited by his stature and his lack of athleticism but at least looks like he’s trying. Speaking of upperclassmen he will next year be a junior and to the extent that he has absorbed the atmosphere and the culture for that reason alone I hope he returns.

Yakwe – C: This might be generous considering how he played at the begnning of the year when he looked like a wasted scholarship but he seems to have recently turned a bit of a corner, even if its not evident in the box score. By which I mean that he has for the past month or so has been catching the ball and sometimes finishing, which is a welcome change from the beginning of the season when he spent most of his time fumbling the ball out of bounds. Not a bad defender, especially considering that he’s playing the five with a three’s body, but he needs to learn to rebound. One of the Jucos I didn’t mention earlier was Walter Berry; when you watch Walter Berry rebound in traffic you could superimpose a bubble over his head saying “This is mine.” I don’t mean to compare Yakwe to Berry – because that would be as stupid as comparing Shamorie Ponds to Gary Payton – but if with his athleticism Yakwe had Berry’s greed he’d be immeasurably better off. Yakwe is kind of behind the eight ball having not played basketball until relatively recently, but it’s hard to question those who question the effort of someone who can touch the basket with his nose who has won three jump balls in two years: either he doesn’t undertand the importanmce of jump balls or he doesn’t care about the outcome of the jump. Neither conclusion is flattering. Still, if he were a stock I’d be buying: he can only get better.

Ellison – C minus:  Malik Ellison is one of the dumbest players I’ve ever seen who’s had the privilege of donning a St John’s uniform and I’m old enough to have suffered through Kyle Cuffe and Donald Emmanuel. That’s the bad news. The good news is that I was thinking the other day about other dumb St John’s players (no I don’t think I’m wasting my life thanks for asking) and one of them sort of reminded me of Ellison: he was athletic and had good size and looked like he should have been better than he was and was clueless for three years: Dom Pointer. Yes, Pointer was more gifted physically than Ellison and was more highly regarded coming out of high school but the point is that they were both dumb as rocks and sometimes the light just goes on, no matter how dim the bulb. Like Missini he’s an upperclassmen and if my theory about upperclassmen holds his scholarship is better spent on him than on some dopey freshmen who’ll need two years to learn the lessons Ellison might have learned in three. The bottom line is that no one coming into this program is going to be better than Ellison is having been in it for two years, because this is not Kentucky and the worst thing that can happen is that we’ll have to sufffer through another couple of years of him stinking off the bench. Because the two transfers have to be better than him and if they aren’t St John’s is screwed anyway. As an aside one thing I notice is that Pervis is never in attendance, so to the extent that this is the son of a former number one wasted draft pick it’s not doing anyone any favors.

Alibegovic – D:  If I were grading his last two games he’d get a C minus but it’s a long semester and attendance counts. For those of you scoring at home, Chris Jones who might have had his minutes otherwise averaged 10 and seven at UNLV. That would probably not have made any difference in any of the games recently but there were a couple of preseason games where an inside presence might have mattered and instead of an inside presence we had Alibeogwitz. All of which being said he better come back next year because otherwise we’ll have wasted three years on this moron and all we’d have gotten from Lavin’s recruiting trips to the Riviera is an extra Lavin chin.

Freudenberg – F: Probably an incomplete would be fairer but if I were fairer you couldn’t be reading this. Also, if not his grandfather some other of his progenitors were probably Nazis and the Nazis were even worse than Donald Trump.

Mullin- C plus: no less an authoirty than Ed Cooley’s diseased head said that Mullin should be the BE coach of the year. I think that’s a bit of a stretch – Doug McDermott’s father should always be the BE coach of the year, because he’s the best coach in the league – but there’s no denying the strides St John’s has made in two years. Mullin has collected the most talented roster since Norm Roberts juniors – Kennedy, Horne, Burrell, Hardy, Brownlee, plus NCAA scoring leader Quincy Roberts and former #1 NYC player Malik Boothe – and has a couple of highly regarded transfers in the wings; he won eight games in one of the better basketball conferences in college basketball – which the haters might poo poo, but the haters were in December wondering whether St John’s was going to win three more games all year; he has transformed himself from a seemingly disinterested observer sitting on the scorer’s table to an active and engaged head coach firmly in control of his team and his program and who seems willing to kick John Thompson three’s ass if it come to it; and his in game decisions while not always what they might have been were for the most part understandable. Certainly there are things on the negative side: the final record is not what anyone might have wished due mainly to some early season disasters; there were times when the team came out flat or didn’t show up at all; and the defense is a real problem. But on the whole, in what is essentially year one of a five year rebuild – because only the delusional think last year counts – with a team comprising six first year players, things might have been much much worse.

But there is no question that next year is the big year. Last year was a step forward: St John’s rid itself of that fraud Steve Lavin, hired the greatest player in its history as head coach and brought in a stellar recruiting class. This year was a step forward: the team nearly doubled its win in total and outperformed expectations in conference. But next year is where the rubber meets the road: barring some catastrophic personnel defections St John’s is poised to improve on its record and to do so they must demonstrate that their coach is imparting to them wisdom in a way that they are able to absorb. Essentially they must be at a minimum a bubble team: they have to win 18 games plus or minus and they have to be midpack in the BE at around 10 wins plus or minus and they must be an NCAA caliber team, even if they end up in the NIT. The last several coaches have faltered at this point in their tenures: Norm failed to take the next step in his year four, as did Lavin; Jarhead’s wheels came off after Fran’s recruits graduated and if not for the fact that Marcus Hatten was a supernatural being he would have been exposed much earlier than he was. They won’t fire Mullin next year if he shits the bed – and I am such a fan that I wouldn’t be surprised that if he shits the bed he does so elegantly and that his ordure smells delightful – but next year is the year he has to show results. Because the honeymoon is over. There’s blood on the sheets: now is the time for my bride to make me a sandwich. And it better be fucking delicious.

NOTES: So that’s that. All in all it wasn’t a bad year but it wasn’t a good one either. To the extent that I didn’t think it would be, I’m vindicated. To the extent that I hoped it might be, I’m disappointed. To the extent that I expect to live until next fall, I’m hopeful. (I told my dentist at my last bi-annual cleaning that according to actuarial tables every time we meet I’m two percent closer to the grave than I was the last time we did. If he had not laughed I would have found a new dentist.) Anyway, basketball’s over, the Derby trail looms and after that the great sports desert, because fuck baseball. Perhaps we’ll see each other next year. Perhaps we won’t. Que sera sera.

This Space Available


St John’s lost to Ed Cooley’s diseased head Saturday afternoon 86-75 and thus endeth the St John’s regular season. In toto it was about what I expected – and unless you’re irrational it should be about what you expected as well, from a team nine months removed from an abysmal eight-win season and comprising nine underclassmen and five first year players and a coaching staff still searching for its sea legs. If you expected more than that then you’re more optimistic than am I, but then most people are more optimistic than I am: as an infant I distinctly remember thinking that my mother’s breasts were half empty. Just kidding, she didn’t breast feed me, that bitch. Oh dear, this turned ugly quickly. Probably I should start again but I’m not going to and fuck her anyway. So yes, the season: 13 wins is a bit fewer than I thought – I figured 15 or so – but as I noted two weeks ago if you flipped a couple of the atrocious losses – Delaware and Penn State primarily – this would be about a .500 team and a low NIT seed;  if you flipped five or so games that the November team lost that the February team might not this would be a bubble team. Consider: if you look back at the OOC conference schedule three of the losses look none too bad in retrospect:

Road loss to 23-7 Minnesota, a projected 6 seed
Road loss to 19-11 Michigan State, a projected 8 seed
Road loss to 23-7 VCU , a projected 9 seed

And two of the losses are understandable, if you eschew the ‘we should beat them because we are St John’s’ mentality

Road loss to 19-10 ODU
Road loss to 21-12 LIU

That’s five not too bad losses. In addition to those, seven losses were to ranked BE ranked teams: Villanova, Xavier and Creighton twice, and Butler once. Which makes carry the one 12 understandable losses of 18. Of the remainder of the league games today’s home loss to Providence – a bubble team on a winning streak – was arguably the worst. And on the other side of the coin are some good wins: at Syracuse, a projected 10 seed; home versus #13 Butler; at Providence; home versus Marquette, a projected 11 seed; and home versus Seton Hall, a projected 10 seed.

I’m no pollyanna but to me this represents real progress and especially considering the starting point. Next year of course is where the rubber meets the road: assuming no defections St John’s will have one of the top back courts in the country, finally some upperclassmen (even if they’re not very good), some well needed reinforcements in the form of Clark and Simon and hopefully a big body grad transfer and a staff that has had enough time to figure out the competition and the process. I am a Chris Mullin fan but absent extraordinary circumstances if they win 13 game next year I’ll be leading the chorus calling for his head: because St John’s has taken two steps forward. If they take a step back they might as well dismantle the basketball program and I’ll start a blog about curling, eh? But I don’t think they will. I think next year they take another step forward because as I’ve maintained all along, Chris Mullin has never failed at basketball before and he didn’t come to St John’s to start failing now …  To the extent that today’s game deserves discussion – and it doesn’t – St John’s shot 37 percent from the floor and 17 percent from three and were minus 11 rebounding and turned the ball over 14 times. I suspect that they know that today’s game didn’t matter in the grand scheme of things or at least that’s what I told myself. The defense was appalling – I keep refreshing ESPN’s page so I could post a capture of the shot chart because Providence’s offense comprised an unending line of uncontested lay ups, but because ESPN sucks balls you’ll have to take my word for it: Providence’s offense comprised an unending line of uncontested lay ups. Usually I don’t have a lot of patience for fans who think that the outcome of the game would have been different had St John’s only employed the triangle and two or the box and one or the pentagram and none but today I don’t see where any harm might have come from switching to a zone to have seen whether it might thwarted the conga line of lay-ups that the man to man rewarded PU with but whatever. The only thing St John’s didn’t suck at was free throw shooting and the officials were so appalling that even that is tainted by association: both teams were in the bonus halfway into the first half; John Gaffney and company called 52 fouls in 40 minutes that resulted in 67 free throws. Note to stupid John Gaffney: if I wanted to spend my afternoon listening to people blow things I’d hang around in the Port Authority bus terminal men’s room. Fuck you and your fucking whistle.

PLAYERS: Left to my own devices I’d have given the game ball to Bashir Ahmed: he had 17 points and seven rebounds and three blocks and for most of the game looked like the only player on the court who gave a fuck about what was happening. But Shamorie Ponds scored 29 points and passed the great tattooed negro D’Angelo Harrison to become the top freshman scorer in St John’s history so I gave it to him instead. We are you and I fortunate that Ponds is not two inches taller and 20 pounds heavier because if he was he’d be a lottery pick … Lovett had 12 points but most of them were when the game was over . Did not start the second half for some reason and did not look happy about it to the extent that I’m expert at facial expressions and body language. Embarrassed a PU player by bouncing the ball off his ass on an inbounds play for a basket … Ellison scored no points in 23 minutes which seems impossible unless you are familiar with his body of work. Those of you who had the under relative to his throwing yet another stupid lazy pass that was intercepted leading to a lay in for the bad guys, pay the man on the way out … Federico “Crunch time” Missini hit a three in the second half to cut PU’s lead to 17 or something but was otherwise oh fer the game … Yakwe once again was less horrible than he has been most of the rest of the year … Alibagofsandwiches played minutes that were not as offensive than his usual minutes, which makes three games a row … Darien Williams fouled out in nine minutes, barely defeating Tariq Owens, who fouled out in ten.

NOTES: Besides being the worst point guard in recent St John’s history, Tarik Turner talks too much. Please to be shutting the fuck up Tarik. But to Tarik’s credit he was no where near as appalling as booth mate Alex Faust, whose self written biography describes himself as “the voice of Northeastern University men’s basketball,” which is not what I want written on my tombstone, which is going to read ARE WE THERE YET in all caps. Because you’re all well educated you’ll know that the original Faust sold his soul to the devil in exchange for worldly riches, which I assume Alex Faust might have because he’s on TVG despite being dumb as a fucking rock.

Lent Me Your Ears

 

RECAP: I’ve been sitting here staring at a blank page for a bit now thinking about whether I have anything to say about St John’s 82-68 loss to the Creighton Blue Jays on the last Tuesday in February and the answer is no, because the game was from beginning to end lackluster: neither team played particularly well but neither was so atrocious as to be noteworthy; none of the performances were particularly compelling – some guy on Creighton nearly triple doubled and it was barely noticeable; and except for a brief appearance by Wally Szcerbiak’s terrifying eyebrows at halftime the broadcast was to charitable mundane. But one thing I’ve learned over the years about staring at the blank page is that it’s a waste of time: you don’t get paid until you’ve finished typing and you can’t finish typing until you start, this paragraph being an object lesson: it’s not very good but it’s good enough and now there’s only 1200 words to go

St John’s was down 11-0 five minutes in and it looked like it was going to be a very long night but they regrouped after a Mullin time out and got to within two points about five minutes later. Unfortunately the half lasted another eight minutes during which time Creighton outscored St John’s by 11, which was about all she wrote. St John’s got within five midway through the second half behind eight straight points from Malik Ellison but a rapid regression to bad shots, dumb turnovers and atrocious free throw shooting ended any hopes of an upset … St John’s shot 40 percent from the floor, 25 percent from three and were 8-17 from the free throw line – where meanwhile Creighton was 18-22, which if you add their 18 makes to St John’s nine misses that’s a lot to overcome for as team that’s having a hard time finding the basket; add to that that St John’s was minus 11 on the boards and turned the ball over 15 times and that they only lost by 14 seems almost like something of a victory. It’s not a victory obviously, moral or otherwise, but no one in their right mind would have expected St John’s to win in Omaha on Senior Night and had they lost by 30 and given up a hundred no one would have been surprised and at this point in the season and the process you have to take your silver lining where you find it … One game left versus Providence at the Garden and if all goes well the regular season will end with another bad loss for the Friars that send them and Ed Cooley’s diseased head to the NIT. As things stand now and I don’t think it can change St John’s gets Georgetown in the first round of the BET and then if they manage to not bollix that gift up Villanova, but silver lining again it’s better to lose to the number three team in the country in the feature game on national television than it is to Xavier or whoever in front of 17 people Friday afternoon.

PLAYERS: Malik Ellison had a career minute and a half midway through the second half: he scored eight straight points during a brief flurry where St John’s cut the lead to five. Unfortunately in the other 24 minutes he played Malik scored one point and committed four fouls and three turnovers … Ponds had 16 points and six steals and if he’s not the BE rookie of the year then something’s very very wrong because he’s as polished as any St John’s freshmen I can recall and that includes the current head coach … A dull effort from Lovett: eight points, four rebounds, three assists and oh fer from three … Mussini had nine points and five rebounds in 24 minutes but missed a three after Ellison’s flurry that put the kibosh on St John’s chances. Yes, that was a gratuitous shot, I do it on purpose … Don’t look now but Amar Alibagwitz put together his second strong effort in a row: he made a three, euro-stepped to the basket without travelling and threw a nifty back door pass that resulted in a layup by Heydrich Freudenburch – the German’s 11th basket of the year – a series of events so incongruous as to comprise evidence for intelligent design. Plus he had six rebounds. Plus he’s from Italy! Be still my heart … On the other side of the coin is Bashir Ahmed, who had his second poor effort in a row: three for 11 from the floor and four turnovers, although to his credit seven rebounds and a couple of blocks … Yakwe (seven points, two rebounds) once again caught the ball and finished with authority. Considering how bad he looked early in the season – and there were a couple of times where I thought to give up on him – he seems to have found himself. It’s not showing up in the box score but if he were a stock I’d be buying … Williams had six points and five rebounds in 16 minutes. I don’t know if anyone other than me noticed – certainly the otherwise omniscient referees didn’t – but after a made Creighton basket he inbounded the ball without coming close to having either foot out of bounds. Not a big deal in the grand scheme of things but emblematic of the sort of boneheaded mistakes I would be happy to see not repeated next year, when things get real

 
NOTES: Good ole missus fun had the line of the night when she heard Pete Gillen’s mellifluous voice during the pregame: “He sounds like some moron from Queens” she said. I set her right of course, informing her that (a) he’s some moron from Brooklyn and (b) that he’s not a moron, he’s just the sort of X and O guru that Chris Mullin needs beside him on the bench to help him understand basketball. (Funny we don’t hear so much about the need for an X and O guru anymore.) Gillen’s booth mate was called Carter Blackburn, which sounds the name of the long lost father of Krystle Carrington’s evil twin’s secret love child on Dynasty but who is in fact a graduate of Syracuse University whose claim to fame is calling Little League games on ESPN … Predictably I got a couple of emails after Saturday’s post complaining that I was complaining about complaints and that therefore I was by my own reasoning a cunt. (They didn’t say cunt, I just said that because missus fun found my use of the word offensive so I had to say it again.) To those correspondents I say: if you needed a syllogism to prove that I’m a cunt you must be new here … There’s now just one game left in the season and as the end draws near I feel like a skinny Kenyan within sight of the finish line in the NY marathon. Assuming a normal distribution of wins and losses there’s just a couple of these things left for us to slog through – yes us, you and I, we’re in this together – and then blessedly the season will end, depending of course on what happens on the Ides, March 15th, which is the day the CBI bids come out. I’d say if I’m Mullin I accept that bid except that if I were Mullin he’d have drank himself out of the NBA in 1987 and today he’d be working at UPS with Lenny Cooke and due to the butterfly effect St John’s coach John Calipari would this year be seeking to defend his third straight national championship. Thanks AA. But yes, take the bid: the more they play together this year the better they’ll play together next year and anyway you can’t use lack of experience as an excuse for failure and then eschew opportunities for experience … So anyway, as usually happens this far into the season I’ve exhausted pretty much everything there is to say and have my head so far up my own ass that not having anything to write about becomes something to write about. For this recap I investigated a couple of things, all of which came to naught. Today for example would have been February 29th if it were a leap year, which might have been a topic, but it’s not a leap year and anyway the Wikipedia page about leap year is so dry that I mistook it for my first wife’s vagina. I mean look at this:

“The Republican calendar’s intercalary month was inserted on the first or second day after the Terminalia (a. d. VII Kal. Mar., February 23). The remaining days of Februarius were dropped. This intercalary month, named Intercalaris or Mercedonius, contained 27 days.”

Jesus shoot me. But all was not lost: that leap year was not happening meant that March came in like a lion one day sooner that it might have otherwise. The bad news is that the origin of the idiom March comes in like a lion and out like a lamb is as deadly dull as explications of leap year. To the extent that anyone knows it seems that the constellation Leo (the Lion) is descending the sky as the constellation Aries (the Ram) is ascending. Personally I thought it had to do with the weather, because the beginning of March is cold and the end less so. So there’s no there there. Today is also Mardi Gras (literally Fat Tuesday), the day before Ash Wednesday, which marks the period in the Christian calendar before Easter – the 40 days are meant to simulate the 40 days Jesus spent wandering the desert culminating in His temptation by Lucifer. Which might be something except I already did that, in 2015. (No, I don’t think I’m wasting my life, thanks for asking.) The only interesting thing I read today about Fat Tuesday is that it’s celebrated around the world by the eating of pancakes: evidently the tradition started because fasting necessitated that the Christian faithful use up their butter and other perishables before beginning their period of abstemiousness. This might have tied in nicely to the essay I wrote a couple of week’s ago about Canucklehead fascination with maple syrup and had the season been two or three weeks longer I might have had to produce 1000 words about that but it’s not, so I didn’t. Consider us lucky.

Michael Graham, Crackers

GAME: Missus fun and I were out and about this afternoon and stopped in as we sometimes do to this little bar and grill in the middle of east buttfuck that for some reason produces the most delicious lobster rolls crab chowder you’ll ever taste. We sat down and ordered and having acclimated myself I heard over the jukebox blare of REO Speedwagon’s Greatest Hits something about coverage of the St John’s Georgetown game resuming after a commercial break: it turned out that we were sitting under a flat screen tuned to Fox Sports One. I thought for a second about asking them to change the channel but that far out in the country I don’t like to do anything other than overtip and so instead I called for the check and paid it in full and and we left, sans bisque. Had St John’s not defeated Georgetown 85-80 in the battle for 9th place at Madison Square Garden Saturday afternoon I would have been kicking myself, because the chowder is to die for. Since they did though and in a relatively thrilling fashion I’m happy to have forgone my lunch. Although this isn’t your vintage Georgetown team or even much of one – if John Thompson III were an apple he’d have fallen so far from the tree that you couldn’t tell what sort of fruit he was – if you’re an old school fan wins like this one and like the one over Syracuse are just a bit sweeter. Butler and Xavier might be St John’s current and threatening rivals but the mention of their name doesn’t produce the same sort of primitive visceral hatred that certain members of the old Big East do … So the game:

 

After a bit of back and forth and a Mullin time out St John’s took a commanding lead by virtue of a 17-point run midway through the first half that had everything to do with marvelous play by Federico Mussini, who hit back to back threes and scored 11 points in about five minutes. Just when they were on the verge of blowing things open – and after Mussini missed a technical free throw that opened the door – Georgetown went on a 17-point run of their own to take a one point lead into the half. St John’s could have folded then, or they could have folded in the first five minutes of the second half or they could have folded when Tariq Owens went to the locker room having rolled his ankle or they could have folded when Georgetown got within a basket on more than one occasion at game’s end. Instead they did not fold: credit their continuing growth and maturity; credit the home court advantage – they’ve now won four in a row at home; credit the presence of two hall of fame players on the sidelines. Credit whatever the hell you want. The fact is that St John’s has now won seven league games in one of the two or three best college basketball conferences in the country with what is approximately the least experienced team in the country – as opposed to the one game they won last year. I know that there are fans who were not happy with Mullin’s hiring and that those fans would rather St John’s lose than that their opinion of his hiring be proven wrong, but I think it’s pretty evident now that barring an unforeseen catastrophe next year – and no less an eminence than Seth Davis thinks St John’s prospects next year are rosy – those fans will have to learn to swallow. Or at least eat crow … Once again the referees were atrocious. They called 50 fouls in 40 minutes that resulted in 61 free throws that comprised 27 percent of the points scored. I might be able to overlook that, but what’s amazing about it is what they miss. In the first half Lovett was called for tripping a Georgetown player who was running down the court with his hand between Lovett’s legs: I’ve had third dates where I got less action. Ponds was called for a tripping foul by a referee running down the court with his back to the play. St John’s was denied a basket when a Georgetown player pulled the rim down and the ricochet sent the ball bounding into the stands: that one, the three guys whose job it is to see stuff just like that missed, whereas Mullin saw from 75 feet away. Which is the frustrating thing about it: the referees pretense that they are omniscient beings who notice every bump and jostle and stray hand would be a lot easier to believe if they didn’t miss the egregious obvious things, and they miss them every game. It’s not even vaguely an isolated event … I mentioned last time but will mention again: if you were to flip five bad losses this team had in the fall they’d be at about 18 wins and of their losses the worst would probably be Seton Hall on the road. They’d be a bubble NCAA team and at worst a lock for a favorable seed in the NIT. That doesn’t sound like much but a year and a half into a five year rebuild it really is … Two games left, a likely loss at Creighton and a give the points rematch versus Providence at home. Anyone who wouldn’t have signed up for that outcome in November is delusional.

PLAYERS: Despite the fact that Shamorie Pons

led all scorers with 24 points on 10 for 15 shooting I was all set to award the game ball to Federico Mussini – until he threw the ball away on an inbounds play under the basket with about a minute to go, at which point I was ready to ship him back to Palermo in stowage. Since they won that boneheaded play will fade into the annals of boneheadedry and we will instead choose to remember that Mussini scored 16 points on six shots in 22 minutes, including 11 points during St John’s 17-0 first half run … I spent the week defending Bashir Ahmed from all comers and he rewarded me by playing the worst first half he’s played since junior college. Thanks Bashir. He did though finish with 16 points and five rebounds, which is about what he’s been averaging since the first of the year and he had a huge block on a three in the corner to seal the victory … Lovett had 11 points and four assists but sat most of the second half late. He did though hit four huge free throws with under a minute left … Alibegovitch was pressed into service when Owens (four points, three blocks) rolled an ankle after a block under the basket. Before Owens injury AA had been his usual moribund self: he had a Lovett pass bounce off his chest on a two on one breakaway and airballed a finger roll, which you wouldn’t even think was possible. After Owens got hurt though something strange happened: Alibegowitch played competently. He provided yeoman’s defense against the terrifying Jesse Govan and with about two minutes left miraculously stole the ball and dunked it at the other end to give St John’s an eight point lead … Williams had six rebounds in 15 minutes … Yakwe had four fouls in 10 minutes and was not a factor. He does though seem to have stopped fumbling the ball every time it’s thrown to him, which is something of a positive, because sometimes catching the ball is the hardest part … I seem to have no notes about Malik Ellison except that he made four free throws late and the box score says he had six points, six rebounds and two assists but my impression is that he stunk for most of the game and might have done less damage had he been wearing black. If you disagree, email me at MalikEllisonIsNotBraindead@theweaselsdotcom

NOTES: Dopey Steve Lavin showed up in the studio at halftime sporting a weak imitation Don Johnson stubble that’s presumably designed to camouflage his rapidly multiplying chins. Note to dopey Steve Lavin: it’s not working. He rewarded devotees of his Norm Crosby-esque commentary by noting that Villanova is “surgical in taking care of the basketball in terms of ball security” … After some hulking Georgetown player was T’ed up for shouldering Darien Williams under the basket after a hard foul Donny Marshall said that that neither John Thompson nor his son would approved of that sort of rough play because “that’s not their kind of basketball.” That will come as a surprise to anyone who watched John Thompson the elder coach, because his teams comprised the dirtiest collection of thugs that ever donned a basketball uniform that did not say DOC on the back. He gave a scholarship to Michael Graham for god sake … I received a bit of push back via email this week about my characterization of a “well-known well-respected” poster as a “misanthrope.” One well-meaning poster even suggested that I delete that reference, which obviously is not happening. In the first place it was an anonymous reference to a screen name disguising the well-known poster’s identity, so no harm could come of it; in the second all 200 people who were going to read it already had by the time it would have been deleted; in the third the only reason this blog exists is so that I can say whatever I want without the sort of petty censorship to which I am routinely subjected in other venues; and finally consider the source, by which I mean me, who readers should take seriously at their own risk. But lest I had missed the point I went so far as to ask missus fun (before the chowder) if she thought I was out of line – and she spends half the time we spend in public kicking me under the table and the other half shooting me disapproving glances – and she said no, that she thought the term misanthrope something of a compliment, which is essentially what I said to my email correspondents: that one of the few things I find to like and admire about other people is their willingness to dislike people arbitrarily. My misgivings to the extent that I had any were that I used the wrong word – I should have said pessimist, because I meant to convey that there’s a sentiment common among long-suffering St John’s fans that something tragic is always around the corner: just this year there are rumors of half a dozen disgruntled players transferring – Lovett, Ponds, Yakwe and Ellison are unhappy; Missini, Alibagadounts and Freudenbeugh are in over their heads and have already booked flights back to the euro leagues; Chris Mullin’s house is on the market; and Mitch Richmond has one foot out the door and will be followed closely by Matt A. My own take on the sad sack St John’s basketball program is that things are bad enough without imagining abstract scenarios in which the sky is falling on the caving in roof. That was all I meant to say and to the extent that I said something else I misspoke. Frankly the word I worried about using when I used it was “ossified,” which is old time slang for inebriated, but since no one had a problem with that one I guess it’s fair to conclude that the misanthrope to whom I referred is a drunkard.

This week’s exchanges though got me to thinking about the nature of this project and the interactions that arise from it. Because let us be clear: although this is for you free entertainment, it’s not free for me. It costs me money to host this website and it costs me time and energy to write 30 sidesplitting essays a year and that doesn’t even take into account my bar tab. Complaining about it – and you would’t believe what people think to complain about – is like complaining about the quality of the cheese they give out as free samples at the grocery story: not only is it rude, but it’s not going to have any effect on the quality of the cheese, it’s just going to make the person handing out the cheese think you’re a cunt. Pro tip: if you don’t like cheese, don’t eat cheese. You’ll be happier and healthier for it. Trust me, I’m not thin-skinned and that’s not what this is about: there’s nothing the individual among you who despises me the most could think to say about me on your most miserable day that would not pale in comparison to the self-loathing I feel when I’m in a relatively good mood. And neither am I afraid of disagreement: there’s nothing I enjoy more than sharp elbows thrown in the marketplace of ideas. But to round the circle: why do you follow St John’s basketball if following St John’s basketball makes you anxious and depressed and prone to flights of fancy comprising phantasmagorical scenarios where tragedy strikes the program and sport you profess to love? If you don’t like eating cheese, why are you eating it? If you don’t like reading this, why are reading it? If the answer is because you like complaining about things that you think make you happy, then you need professional help and medication. Me, I like complaining, but only because I hate everything.

Regarding the emails I get, they’re essentially of two types. First there’s fan mail, which believe it or not I get occasionally: people taking time out of their busy lives to say that they enjoy what I write and to encourage it. This is at least rational. It’s like saying thanks for the fellatio after a professionally done blow job: it expresses consideration for the time and effort it’s taken the practitioner to perfect her art and to encourage her to practice it more often. Which equals more blow jobs. Which makes perfect sense.

What doesn’t make sense are the the malcontents. First there are people who write to say that they don’t enjoy reading my writing. One guy for example wrote a couple of months ago and said something to the effect that he read a couple of my pieces and that they didn’t hold his interest and that he wouldn’t be reading anymore and that I’m not as funny as I think I am. My initial response – besides how do you know how funny I think I am – was okay thanks, that makes you one of the seven and a half billion people on the planet who don’t read my blog. But why stop there? Why not tell me what movies you don’t watch and what books you don’t read and what restaurants you don’t frequent. I know it’s meant as an insult, but it’s a strange sort of insult: someone I didn’t know writing to inform me that he will no longer be doing something I didn’t know he was. Which on a scale of one to ten is somewhere short of devastating.

The other complaint is people fact-checking the jokes. Hey fun, you transcribed the score of the Marquette game or hey fun you said Michigan but it was really Michigan State. The only rational answer to which is: shut up. Why did the chicken cross the highway. Well in the first place it wasn’t a highway, a highway is a main road that connects two municipalities, what the chicken crossed was a boulevard and anyway it wasn’t a chicken it was a rooster. Zzzz. The fact is that jokes are not true or false, they’re funny or not funny. When Don Rickles calls someone a hockey puck you should either laugh or not laugh: if you complain that the insult is not true because hockey pucks are small rubber projectiles used in a sport played on ice with sticks whereas human being are not made of rubber, then either you’re at the wrong show or you don’t own a Fleshlight. Either way, you’re wasting your time, and mine.