Out of the Friar

At first I wasn’t going to write about St John’s 94-72 loss to Ed Cooley’s diseased head on Thursday night at Carnesecca Arena. Not out of fatigue or disgust but more or less indifference: St John’s threw in a clunker of a second half – the worst half they’ve played this year and perhaps the only really bad one – and there’s not a lot of joy to be found in rehashing it. The loss dropped St John’s to 10-3 for the season and into a tie for second place in the Big East, one game behind #1 Villanova and #6 Xavier.

But what I was struck by and what I’m going to write about briefly – so if you’re looking for a normal recap look elsewhere – is the reaction to the loss and specifically the reaction of a certain type of fan: the type who reacts to every data point on the continuum as if it’s epiphanic, as opposed to mundane. And (royal) you know exactly what I’m talking about.

These are the fans who see only three kinds of games: must wins, cupcakes and guaranteed losses. These are the fans who were just 24 hours ago checking plane schedules to Nashville – Lunardi currently has St John’s playing there in March as an 11 seed – and using all the tricks they’ve learned coaching 3rd grade girl’s CYO basketball to devise a diabolical scheme to nullify the height advantage the Seminoles (that’s a racists name right there btw) should 7’4″ freshman Christ Koumadje come back from his foot injury. These same fans who this morning, after watching a bad half of basketball – and it was a bad half, no doubt: poor defense, poor shooting, poor decision making – are describing the game as a disaster (at first I thought a nail bomb had eviscerated the dance team at half time, whew) and humiliating and an embarrassment (they will no doubt this morning have mothballed their St John’s gear lest someone see them wearing it on the subway and be forced to cast themselves onto the third rail in shame)  and dashing off emails to university president doctor Conrado Gempesaw beseeching him to reach out to recently dismissed Louisville coach Rick Pitino to gauge his interest in returning to his hometown to save the day, their sources having assured them that Pitino would be interested and it can’t hurt that Mrs. Pitino still has family on Long Island, where she was born and raised, having never cared for the backwaters of Kentucky.

My own hope, such as it is, is that this game serves as a reminder to a young team that has been beating worse teams based purely on a differential in talent that when two teams of equal talent meet the one that works harder wins.

Anyway I’ve been trying to think up the perfect word to describe the behavior of this sort of fan. Mercurial comes pretty close but it doesn’t convey the right sense of emotional instability; infantile implies temporal immaturity, whereas most of these fans are grown men with jobs and homes and wives and children and grandchildren. The word I keep coming back to is faggotry hysteric: they are like middle aged Victorian women repairing to the fainting couch with smelling salts and complaining of undefined female troubles – something to with their uteruses probably, let’s face it nobody really understand what goes on down there – the only known cure for which is clitoral stimulation and a long lie down on the divan.

Now I know that most of you think I’m pretty smug and arrogant – and I am, and those are two of my more endearing qualities – but I’m also full of a degree of crippling self loathing and doubt that would leave most of you unable to get out of bed in the morning. I am at this point so cynical that I don’t even trust my own skepticism anymore and most of the time I don’t know what the hell I’m doing or why. And so it occurred to me, naturally, that maybe it’s me. Maybe I don’t understand what being a sport fan is supposed to be. I certainly don’t follow any sport besides college basketball. I can’t remember for example the last time I sat through an entire baseball game or watched an NBA game; I watch the Lions play on Thanksgiving unless Babes in Toyland is on and then I only flip over during commercials. But that’s really it. I’m not saying that’s good or bad or better or worse, I’m just saying I have other hobbies. Which is what these things are, hobbies. And so I thought sports – like other hobbies – was supposed to be enjoyable and entertaining, a distraction from the fact that we’ll all soon enough be dead in the cold cold ground, forgotten by our friends and families in boneyards overgrown with weeds and our remains being rendered to soil by worms and weevils.

Understand, I don’t think my hobbies are good and yours are bad: I have this moronic blog; I play in a wildly unsuccessful band that sells records almost exclusively to angst ridden pock marked teens in the former East Germany; I bet my hard earned money on dumb four legged animals ridden around in circles by South American midgets; I write long absurdist letters to local government functionaries, insulting them personally and ridiculing their job performance; and I drink, I drink a lot. These things are, all of them, quite stupid. (Note, the, commas.) But the difference between me and a certain type of sports fan seems to be that I enjoy my hobbies. Whereas you (royal) seem to be happy only when you’re miserable. You imagine the worst so that when the worst occurs – and it always does in college basketball, only one team finishes the season with a winning streak that matters – you’re prepared for it. And I think that’s sad.

For your sake I’m looking forward to the day when this program is not so hapless that you are condemned to forever look for a black lining in every silver cloud. A day where disaster doesn’t loom around every corner, where the sky isn’t continually falling on the ship which isn’t forever sinking. Not because I begrudge you your hobbies or the way you go about them or your opinions or your thoughts, but because what it will say about the state of the program, which, unfortunately, I love. (Because it’s all about me.) Nova fans, Creighton fans, Xavier fans, and dare I say dewk fans, Kansas fans, Kentucky fans, they don’t see every unremarkable event as the equivalent of the Titanic careening into a looming volcanic iceberg infected with the bubonic plague. They see blips on the horizon: every once in a while a fluffy cloud briefly obscures an otherwise beautiful sunrise. That is what I wish for you this holiday season: that if you can’t always enjoy the result you can at least learn to love the process.

Feliz Navidad.

===

Dear Ms. M________

On Monday December 26 I came to the E___ G________ town offices to pay my property taxes. Normally I wouldn’t venture near your offices but I was hoping to take advantage of the tax write-off before the new IRS code goes into effect on January 1. When I arrived a patron was already at the window and so I maintained a respectful distance – lest I invade that taxpayer’s privacy – busying myself reading the very interesting notices on the bulletin board facing your office. Only when he left and my turn came did I approach the counter. While I was there a second patron entered. Being it turned out known to you this patron was immediately directed to the counter, where he and you and your staff engaged in a loud, boisterous and excruciatingly boring conversation about who knew whom and whose sister went to school with whose uncle and whose nephews knew whose daughters and where everyone’s respective family vacationed in Florida. This was none of it of the slightest interest to me, the person in the midst of writing the town a check for nearly $ 5000. It occurred to me to ask how large a check I would have to write to get someone’s undivided attention for the five minutes I was going to be there, but I didn’t: that would have been rude.

But that’s not why I’m writing. I’m writing because while I was at the counter my check book out was out and my tax bill was on display, meaning that should he have had a mind to your loud mouthed buddy could have been privy to inter alia my name, my checking account information, my phone number, my address, the assessed value of my home, my tax account number and my tax liability – which amount he commented on, when you mentioned the specific amount I owed aloud, this was when you refused to accept a check for .21 cents more than my tax bill, which amount I had rounded up, and made me write another one, because accepting the first one would have entailed you making a change to your tax ledger, which change you would have found an inconvenience, earning as you do only $125,000 a year, and being subjected to such rigorous tasks as filing and alphabetizing – all of which information I suspect your office has a duty to keep confidential. Which duty you in my opinion breached.

If this is your standard operating procedure – entailing as it does the willy-nilly display of taxpayer information to the public – it might be something you want to reconsider. The public library more carefully safeguards the titles of the books I check out than seemingly does your office the details of my personal financial affairs. And I pay the library in dimes.

Your pal

S____

Something About Mary

GAME: St John’s ended its preseason schedule Wednesday afternoon with a 77-73 over the trademark rival St. Joseph’s Hawks at Mohegan Sun Resort and Casino. It was an ugly game of the sort in which St John’s seems to thrive, one wherein their peculiar composition – they are oddly sized and freakishly athletic – can overwhelm less talented opponents. It’s somewhat ironic that at least part of Mullin’s system – Mullin being perhaps the most elegant player ever to grace a St John’s uniform – is designed to create chaos, although to paraphrase José Saramago perhaps this chaos is order I haven’t yet deciphered. In any event this was another game they could have lost and that last year they would have lost and the heartening thing about it is that they won not because of their basketball prowess but because of their mindset. At the risk of using a hack phrase that I’d condemn if used by someone else, they refused to lose …

Usually when I look at the box score after the game – some people believe that there’s nothing to be learned from box scores and statistics, that their eyewitness observations trump facts and numbers: those people are idiots – it reinforces my impressions of what I’ve just seen. Yesterday though was an anomaly. I thought for example that St Joe’s had shot the ball pretty well and especially from three: they did not. Both teams shot around 40 percent from the floor and 30 percent from three (St Joe’s at 27 percent was actually slightly worse than St John’s at 31). Neither did I notice the free throw disparity. I actually thought St John’s was getting hosed by an awful crew of officials – and the refs were awful, even the usually obsequious Tim Welsh noticed: he said “the officials have been a little sleepy,” compared the officiating to last weekend’s Steeler-Pat game and noted that “the refs were “getting worse as the game progresses” – whereas St John’s shot 28 free throws to St Joe’s 10, a disparity which like last game’s would have annoyed me were St John’s on the other end of it, although like last game you can’t expect to take a bunch of free throws if your offense consists of chucking up off balance threes. I thought that St Joe’s moved the ball well and that St John’s didn’t particularly, but St John’s had more assists that St Joe’s, who only had 13 on 29 made baskets. Despite giving up 73 points – they’ve only allowed 70 points four times this season – I thought the defense was again pretty good; the numbers at least bare that out, St Joe’s having turned the ball over 20 times … The win puts St John’s at 10-2 with only one OOC game remaining – a likely loss to the hated dewk blue devils. Only a delusional fan would be displeased: two losses to teams with two losses between them – one of those in the top five and the other receiving votes in the coaches poll – and most of those on neutral courts. It could be much worse and has been and will be once again and in the meanwhile I’m happy to enjoy it while it lasts. Ten and two, 15th in the country in RPI, 24th in strength of schedule, 30th in points allowed per game is pretty good, and despite things not being perfect – and they’re not, any idiot can see that, which is what makes the constant drumbeat of doom pounded by alleged fans so tiresome, comprising as it does the tedious restatement of obvious facts without a scintilla of wit or insight – I’m happy. Because you can’t lose the national championship in December. You have to wait for March for that. So I’m biding my disappointment lest it spurt out prematurely: being older now it takes me a while to be disappointed a second time.

PLAYERS: Ponds had another off night: 28 points, seven rebounds, four assists and two steals … I predicted last time that Tariq Owens (seven points, seven rebounds, five blocks) would triple double sooner or later. Justin Simon nearly beat him to it: 11 points, 11 rebounds, 9 assists … Ahmed had 16 points including a couple three diabolical moves to the basket and five rebounds … Clark was once again in foul trouble: eight points and three rebounds … Yawke (4 points) had some nice aggressive moves around the basket but zero rebounds (out of 84 possible) in 20 minutes seems technically impossible. It’s almost like he’s trying to not rebound because if he stood on the court with his hands in the air randomness suggests one would land there as a matter of course … Trimble was four of seven from three in his first two games and 4 of 24 (16 percent) since, including one of five last night. The good news is that he can’t be that bad, I shoot better than that … Alibeowitz DNP … Personally I’m loving this short rotation, it requires much less typing

NOTES: St Joseph’s University in Philadelphia is named for Joseph, the putative father of the baby Jesus, and allegedly a descendant of David and Solomon. If catholic lore is to be believed – and of course it is – Joseph was 90 when he married Mary, his second wife, who later conceived, his age perhaps explaining why Mary remained a virgin throughout the ordeal

I’m the queerest young fellow that ever you heard.
My mother’s a Jew,
my father’s a bird.
If ever you think I amn’t divine
you’ll have to drink water that I’ve turned from wine

Despite behavior that would have disqualified him from serving as senator from the great state of Alabama, Pope Pius IX declared Joseph patron of the universal church, in which position he still serves … St Joe’s and John’s share some obvious parallels: they’re both Catholic institutions, albeit the Joes are Jesuits – the superior form – and the John’s Vincentian; they share an identical acronym, which the Joes usurped based upon their slightly preeminent founding; both were formerly basketball powers; and even their mascots are the same: both are birds, although the Johns are for some reason named after a weather pattern … St Joseph’s alumni include former NJ governor William T. Cahill; hall of famer Jack Ramsey, who coached inter alia Wilt Chamberlain, Chet Walker, Billy Cunnigham, Hal Greer, Bob McAdoo, the terrifying Maurice Lucas, Bill Walton, Clyde Drexler, Ernie DiGregorio, and Reggie Miller; coach Paul Westhead; 2004 Naismith College Player of the Year Jameer Nelson; sportscaster Jack Whitiker; fun fave Joe Queenan; and Vince Papale, inspiration for Disney movie Invincible … I received a bit of push back after my last recap, a correspondent complaining about a joke I’d made. What could it have been I thought? The tasteless reference to the alleged rape of poor Rose McGowan? The tasteless Parkinson’s joke? The joke at the expense of ugly old Ruth Gordon? The one about Jim Valvano having cancer? Ed Cooley’s diseased head? A Scotsman being disemboweled? The various racial epitaphs? No. Evidently that poster is fine with racism, misogyny and mindless mean spiritedness. What set off this reader was my alleged comparison of “a color commentator’s performance to the murder of her mother by her father … waaaay beyond the pale. Completely tasteless and unnecessary.” Well. In the first place, this guy must be new, because being offensive is my stock in trade. In the second, only a very uncareful writer (or reader) would think that that was the comparison I made: I compared the color commentator’s performance to the murderer’s performance, both of which were shoddy: not even I could have gotten that dope acquitted. The last time I got this sort of push back is when disgusted with Steve Lavin’s constant references to his dead father I wrote a bit of a monkeyshine about digging up Cap, reanimating his corpse and murdering him, which led to a secret vote to have me banned from a website on which that particular drollery had not even been posted.

In fairness to myself I made the same joke about my own parents and in fairness to my family my sister laughed, she also having the sense of humor my correspondent lacks … Finally a happy birthday to Frank Zappa, born this day in 1940. He died lo these many years ago in 1993, which is why he is not celebrating his 77th birthday today, by which death contemporary music is much impoverished.

Gael Force

St John’s defeated Iona 69-59 Saturday afternoon at Madison Square Garden in a moribund renewal of what for some reason is still called the Holiday Festival. Brian Custer referred to the two schools as rivals, an odd choice of word considering that they haven’t played since 1995, the last game being one of the losses that precipitated Brian Mahoney being run out of town on a rail. And it’s not only the temporal dislocation that belies that characterization; these teams are not rivals because the disparity in talent between the Big East and the MAAC is just so vast, even between the bottom of the Big East and the top of the MAAC. I mean sure, every once in a while a MAAC team is going to jump up and beat somebody and maybe every once in a while there’s going to be MAAC team that has a surprising year, but that’s the exception. I live upstate in close proximity to Siena College, one of the better MAAC programs; they’re ubiquitous in the local news and the games are televised and even I go to one every once in a while. And the thing is, when two MAAC teams play there’s a parity in their awfulness that disguises how bad the basketball really is. It’s only when you see them play an actual D1 school that the shoddiness of their effort becomes apparent. And that might be especially true this year: MAAC teams are a combined 44-67; only one team, the mighty Rider Broncs, has a winning record. Which means bottom line that even though the game was tied at halftime the outcome was never really in doubt. Play the game 100 times and St John’s wins 99, because Iona is awful.

 

As the picture shows, St John’s won and pretty easily and this despite the fact that they played down to their opposition. Neither team shot the ball well (34 vs 37 percent); St John’s missed all 12 of its threes (you’d think that was impossible) but Iona, incredibly, ended up being worse: they made only 10 of 32, which accounted for more than half their points. That’s about how many threes dook takes a game and Dook has a system designed for that and the players to execute it. I haven’t seen much of Iona but they seem to have neither. The good news for St John’s is that once again won the game on the defensive end: they held another opponent under 61 points (that’s eight of ten for those of you scoring at home), forced 16 turnovers (although forced might be generous, at least a couple were Iona gifts) and blocked 10 shots. If St John’s was on the short end of a similar free throw disparity (they took 27 to Iona’s ten) I might have whined about it, but considering where and how Iona shot the ball it’s not worth mentioning, and especially since Iona shot only 50 percent from the free throw line … St John’s sits at 9-2, their two losses coming to ASU and MU, who’ve lost two games between them. With an RPI of 20 it’s conceivable that they receive some votes in the AP poll this week, which would be a remarkable thing, considering where they started a couple of short years ago. I don’t think they’re a top 25 team by any stretch, but they might be in the top 50 and some idiots have been voting for Georgetown so anything’s possible. I’d credit the staff but having been assured that Mullin and Mitch Richmond don’t know too much about basketball it must just be luck. It’s a shame Mike Rice or some similar basketball Tesla isn’t on the bench to help them out, this sleeping giant of a program might go places.

PLAYERS: Everyone’s favorite whipping boy Bashir Ahmed doubled doubled and had zero turnovers, leading one fan board genius to lament that he “shudders every time Ahmed touches the ball.” I suggest that poster get himself checked for Parkinson’s, because Ahmed played pretty well, especially at the beginning of the game, before Mullin sat him for a long stretch in the first half for some reason: I think it might have been so that Justin Simon could pick up a three fouls. In one remarkable sequence Ahmed had five straight offensive rebounds – albeit they were all of his own misses – and has 30 rebounds over his past three games. I know fans like to bitch about his turnovers and general blockheadedness but what I worry about is his FT shooting, which I guarantee will come back to bite St John’s in the ass at some point this year. You can’t play his game and shoot 50 percent from the line, but he does. You’d think a player who’s as interested as he is in scoring would want to pick up the free ones … Owens had 12 points, six blocks, and six rebounds and made six of six free throws. Sooner or later he’s going to triple double. Hopefully sooner … Justin Simon had 15 points, seven rebounds and four steals before fouling out. He was for some reason trending on twitter (usually when I see someone trending on Twitter I assume they’re dead or that they’ve raped Rose McGowan), this despite the enormous fucking the Steelers got from the referees in the late NFL. Simon was trending above even Tom Brady in the rankings. I’m not a Steeler fan by any stretch – I don’t follow professional football, I’m a Detroit Lions fan – but come on, that was a ridiculous call … Ponds had 16 points, five rebounds, and four steals. He did however miss a bunch more threes: he’s shooting 20 percent for the year – that’s Phil Greene territory – and is 5 of his last 29. On the bright side imagine what sort of numbers he’s going to put up when he stops playing with his head up his ass … Clark a quiet 12 and five, Yakwe played only 15 minutes, Trimble once again serviceable in ML’s absence and Alibegowitz remains a bad Steve Lavin joke

NOTES: Speaking of Brian Mahoney and rivalries it occurred to me the other day what a deleterious effect another Bronx school – Manhattan College – has had on St John’s basketball: Mahoney coached there and later Fran Fraschilla and Barry Rohrssen. You’d be hard to name someone not named Harrington who’s done more damage to the program than those three guys … I’m often amazed when I sit down to write these things where the day takes me. In my notes I have scrawled something about colormoron Sarah Kustok: she said 45 seconds into the game that something was happening  “so far,” which is like saying during the opening credits that you really enjoyed the movie. So I looked up this Sarah person and it turns out her father murdered her mother a couple of years ago. Evidently he shot his sleeping wife in the head with the gun he bought her as an anniversary present (better I suppose that a vacuum cleaner) and then claimed she committed suicide. Much like his daughter does with game commentary however he botched the job – he waited several hours to call the police during which time he cleaned the scene and fired the remaining bullets into the chiffarobe  – he said he didn’t trust himself not to join his wife, not being able to live without her, but obviously as a way to explain the powder residue on his hands – and so now sits in the penitentiary … For a prestigious roman catholic university founded in 1940 by the Congregation of Christian Brothers, Iona College (acceptance rate: 87 percent) has a pretty shitty on-line presence. Their wikipedia page is a scant 18 inches long, a full half of that taken up by descriptions of their various residence halls: they must have some nice bathrooms. That might have something to do with the paucity of achievement by Iona alums, the most notable of whom are hall of fame basketball player Richie Guerin; the actor Bud Cort, famous for rogering Ruth Gordon in “Harold and Maude”

(Gordon wasn’t much to look at when she was younger: along with her husband Garson Kanin she was half of one of the more hideous couples in Hollywood history

I can’t imagine banging the desiccated version); American Pie composer Don McLean, who on and off attended nearly every university on the east coast of the US, including night school at Iona; and John Gilchrist, AKA Mikey in the get Mikey to eat it he’ll eat anything commercials for Life cereal that were ubiquitous when fun was watching cartoons on Saturday morning. I mean off the top of my head I can name three men named Gail, all of whom are more well known than those Gaels: Gail Goodrich, Gale Sayers, and Gayle Gordon, all three of whom, oddly, (note the proper use of the comma) spell their names differently. The Gaels basketball wiki is no better: it fails to mention Jim “Big C” Valvano, who coached there for five years in the 70s before fleeing to North Carolina State, or Jeff Ruland, who attended Iona under Valvano and later coached there after a 13-year NBA career. (Other coaches include habitual drunkard Tim Welsh, rat faced Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard, and Pat Kennedy, the one who wasn’t married to Peter Lawford.) Iona’s current coach is Tim Cluess, one of four Cluess brothers to have played basketball at St John’s under Lou Carnesecca. After a remarkable career as a LI high school coach Cluess moved on to the college ranks, where he’s amassed a 265-105 record, including 11 straight years of more than 20 wins. Why he’s still at Iona is anyone’s guess, considering that any number arguably less successful MAAC coaches – Paul Hewitt, Louis Orr, Fran McCaffery, Steve Lappas, Fran Fraschilla, Bobby Gonzalez, Kennedy, Welsh, Willard, Kevin Bannon, and Ed Cooley’s diseased head – have moved on to greater D1 things. Cluess’s name comes up whenever there’s an opening at SJU, and frankly we could do worse and have … Iona’s sports team are called the Gails Gaels, Gael being a reference to fierce medieval blue faced Scottish warriors of the sort portrayed by Mel Gibson in Braveheart, which in this case have morphed into belligerent Hibernians spoiling for a drunken St Patrick’s Day fight.

The great Gaels of Ireland
the men that God made mad
all their wars are merry
all their songs are sad

which is almost a Dennis Leary song but not quite (it’s GK Chesterton), if for no other reason that it’s not stolen from Bill Hicks. In these politically correct times it’s a perverse sort of white privilege that allows for pejorative references to primitive Caucasian savages – Fighting Irish, Gaels, Vikings, Hilltoppers, Cornhuskers – to pass unremarked upon, whereas references to primitive non white savages requires cultural flagellation and government intrusion. I suppose they’ll come a day when all men are judged by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin, when put upon micks and sheep shaggers and frogs and wogs and lint heads are accorded the same respect as are Warriors, Braves, Indians, and Blackhawks. Until then remember: white lives matter.

 

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.