GAME: Usually when I sit down to write these gambols I’m in a pretty good mood – even on those morning when I’m not yet or still drunk. I’m about to talk about Saint John’s basketball, which is a very old and important part of my life, and I get to write, which I enjoy – or at least enjoy having done afterwards – and I get to make fun of Steve Lavin, who’s just the sort of gaseous bloated self-important buffoon that I revel in taking the piss out of. But there’s little joy in in funville this morning, not after Saint John’s was humiliated by Butler 85-62 in Indiana on Tuesday night. I wish I could say I was surprised, but as someone who figured Lavin out early on I’m not: I saw this sort of meltdown coming a mile away and at the risk of injuring myself patting me on the back have being writing about it in one form or another for a couple of months now. I knew it would happen, but I didn’t think it would happen now, not in early February, not when the small or baby steps the team has been taking up the mountain or incline would just be beginning to take effect or operation so that the players would be able to do something special or memorable in their senior or last year. For Lavin this could not have come at a worse time – and I’m not talking about while he’s looking to renegotiate his contract, which, good luck with that – but because this period between the Super Bowl and spring training is just the time when lazy sportswriters casting about for column fodder have nothing better to do than take pot shots at an otherwise irrelevant basketball program. Irrelevant because the season was effectively over after the Creighton loss. Oh sure, there are still Lavin lickspittles and toadies on various Saint John’s fan boards parsing their way to an NCAA six-seed: if they win the next eight and then make the finals of the BE tournament and Zzzzzz sorry I dozed off there for a moment: the way they go about it reminds me of those apocryphal stories of Hitler down in his bunker with Eva Braun pushing nonexistent panzer divisions across a map of Europe in 1945. There is no there there. And no doubt various dopes who predicted an Elite Eight appearance in November are probably this morning still counseling patience; I’d give odds that somewhere this morning someone has compared Lavin to Norm Roberts as proof that things aren’t so bad. Well I have news for those dummies: things are so bad. Last night the wheels came off. This was as appalling a performance as I can recall going back to the Notre Dame game a couple of years ago, a performance of which both the players and staff should feel ashamed. Say what you will about Roberts and his players, but they at least took their beatings like men, not like little punk bitches. The question is now: will Saint John’s be able to hold it together enough to avoid a cosmic meltdown. And the answer is: who knows. You’d like to think so. You’d like to think that alleged educator Steve “there’s more important things than winning” Lavin gives half a shit enough and knows half enough about human nature to right the sunken ship but he gives the impression that he’s more concerned about his dinner reservations than he is about almost anything else. So we’ll see … To the extent that the game deserves mention, I suppose I’ll mention it. Saint John’s came out flat, as they usually do on the road: they missed 10 of their first 12 shots and if it hadn’t been for sloppy play by Butler it would have been over a lot sooner than it was. Instead, Saint John’s hung around and managed to keep it respectable until halftime. The second half was another story and perhaps lost in the shuffle surrounding Obekpa’s ejection (about which more later) is that this was another in a long line of second half Saint John’s meltdowns – other than Providence SJU has been manhandled by teams after halftime going back half a dozen games. Butler guard Kevin Dunham noted that it was Butler’s intention to “come out in the second half and kind of punch them in the mouth,“ which is exactly what happened, which played into Steve Lavin’s second half strategy, which was to get punched in to mouth and throw in the towel. Saint John’s was down 15 when Pointer was given a technical for arguing that he had not fouled a three point shooter – in Pointer’s defense he was likely surprised because he’s complained about every foul that’s ever been called against him and has never been T’ed up once before – which resulted in 5 free throws and a 20 point lead Butler lead. In retrospect the technical might have been the best thing that could have happened. Not only did Butler stop playing with any intensity figuring the game was over, but the referees, who previously hadn’t been calling anything – the Obekpa assault happened right in front of one of them and he was going to let them play on until he saw blood spurting out of the gaping wound on the back of the BU player’s head – started calling everything, which resulted in clock stoppages and the sort of ugly herky jerky play at which Saint John’s excels. Saint John’s got it within eight before they ran out of gas and Butler closed it out with a whatever to nothing run, I can’t be arsed to check. It’s worth noting though that at game’s end Butler had their starters in and meanwhile Saint John’s ran out a line-up of Branch, Myles Stewart, Felix Balamou, Dom Pointer and was running isolations for Doughy De La Rosa down in the box. That it was only a 20 point loss in retrospect seems an act of charity … Lavin seem resigned after the game, saying only that he was disappointed and that it was time to move on and prepare for Creighton. You could tell he was starting to feel the heat though, as during the game his helmet of carefully coifed hair was slightly mussed. If by preparing for Creighton Lavin meant that he’s going to prepare his team to not further humiliate themselves and the university they represent, that would be a good start.
PLAYERS: D’Angelo Harrison scored his 2000th career point. He deserves better than this. This is the third or fourth game in a row now that he’s been curiously passive on offense. It can only be that he’s hurt worse than he’s letting on … Pointer had 19 points and kept them in it early with a variety of circus shots that went in despite the laws of physics. He attempted to replicate the absurd three pointer he made at the end of the of the first half versus Providence by taking a similarly ridiculous shot, except this one was an air ball. Pointer took a dook-esque dive under the basket with not a player within 5 feet of him in an attempt to draw a foul and for which he is being roundly mocked this morning on the internet, which mocking is roundly deserved. I mean, get a load of this
… I was surprised to see that Jordan took 21 shots – it didn’t seem to me like it was that many or that he was forcing it any more than usual, except late. Anyway, most of them didn’t go in. He finished with 17 points to go along with 4 rebounds and 4 assists … Funfave Felix Balamou got a bunch of run in the second half and scored several garbage points around the rim. Ever the optimist Lavin pointed to Balamou’s play as proof that things were moving in the right direction … Phil Greene air-balled two lay ups on his way to a 6 point performance. LOL at Phil Greene, he stinks … Things were so bad that even Chris Jones got in the game after both Joey DLR and Amir Amirovickovich got burned on multiple possessions by some lumbering doofus who was slightly less lead footed than are they. Jones immediately got a put back, his first basket since the Long Beach game in December, which no doubt cheered the hearts of Saint John’s fans who were as late as last November touting Jones as a replacement for NBA forward Jakarr Sampson, who they deemed a cancer and for whom they blame last year’s dismal performance. Who will they blame for last night I wonder … Which brings us to Chris Obekpa, whose ridiculous antics – his inappropriate grinning, his stupid shorts, his Princess Leia hairdo, his flexing and woofing , his chippy play – I’ve been chronicling in this space for some time now. At the risk of giving myself yet another reach around so soon after the one I gave myself in the first paragraph, which can lead to chafing and aggravate the prostate, it was just last game where I noted that Obekpa’s increasingly bizarre behavior made him difficult to not dislike and suggested than someone give him a swift kick in the ass. Evidently no one did. Last night eight minutes in Obekpa stalked a defenseless Butler player down the court and viciously elbowed him in the back of the head, sending him to the locker room with a possible concussion. Obekpa was rightfully ejected – he should have been arrested, and possibly deported, but I guess that wasn’t an option. One wonders whether Coach Eye-roll will finally take measures to rein in Obekpa’s behavior, which has been out of control for some time now. Let me quote myself, from the Fordham recap:
This is not the first time Obekpa has demonstrated immature and untoward behavior on the court and I am hopeful that Coach Lavin recognizes that Obekpa has anger issues and suspends him for his own good for the rest of the season so that he can seek counseling without the distraction of basketball because some things are more important than winning. Ha, just kidding of course, Lavin is coaching for a contract extension, he wouldn’t suspend Obekpa if they found a couple of nun’s heads rolling around in the back seat of a car he stole from a crippled Gulf War veteran …
If I wasn’t used to being right all the time I might even be embarrassed.
NOTES: I stopped even taking notes during the game last night it was so bad and was going to skip this section altogether but am for some reason this morning reminded of the prolific serial killer Carl Panzram, pictured above. At this point I no longer question these digressions so let’s where this leads, if anywhere. Panzram was born in Minnesota in 1890 and sent to a work farm at an early age as an incorrigible youth, where in an attempt at rehabilitation he was beaten and sodomized for several years. These attempts failed and he burned the reformatory to the ground. He was committed to a second reformatory where further attempts at rehabilitation were similarly unavailing. None of this worked out too well for Panzram, but it was even worse for the 1000 men Panzram admitted to raping after he was released and even worser for the 25 he admitted to murdering. After drifting about for several years Panzram joined the army, which didn’t much affect his criminal lifestyle and he was eventually sent to Leavenworth by virtue of an order of future President William Howard Taft, then Secretary of War. Panzram promptly escaped from prison and made his way to NY, where he burgled Taft’s house; he used the proceeds from the robbery to buy a yacht, onto which he lured unsuspecting sailors, who he robbed, raped and murdered. He dumped the bodies near Execution Point in Long Island Sound, so named for the practice by British revolutionary war authorities of chaining suspected traitors to the rocks at low tide and leaving them to drown at high. Soon growing bored with cavorting thusly Panzram travelled to Africa, where he continued his killing spree. He was arrested after his return to the states while in the midst of plotting to kill the entire population of NYC by poisoning the water supply. Panzram was convicted of various crimes and sentenced to prison, where he promptly beat an inmate to death for “bothering” him, and was thereafter sentenced to be hanged. For all these things, Panzram said in his journals “I am not in the least bit sorry. I wish the entire human race had one neck and I had my hands around it.” (Panzram’s writings, published in the book Killer: A Journal of Murder, are remarkable for their lucidity and the beauty of his prose. And that’s not even sarcasm. It is remarkable writing and not just for the juxtaposition of what he’s saying with how he’s saying it.) Incorrigible to the end Panzram, spat in the face of his executioner and it is his last words of which I was thinking of when I started this paragraph: “Hurry up you Hoosier bastard, I could have killed a dozen men while you’ve been screwing around,” Hoosier being the official demonym for residents of the state of Indiana, where last night’s massacre took place. That is I suppose a thin reed upon which to hang 500 words, but it’s more than last night’s game deserves.