GAME: Missus fun and I were out and about this afternoon and stopped in as we sometimes do to this little bar and grill in the middle of east buttfuck that for some reason produces the most delicious
lobster rolls crab chowder you’ll ever taste. We sat down and ordered and having acclimated myself I heard over the jukebox blare of REO Speedwagon’s Greatest Hits something about coverage of the St John’s Georgetown game resuming after a commercial break: it turned out that we were sitting under a flat screen tuned to Fox Sports One. I thought for a second about asking them to change the channel but that far out in the country I don’t like to do anything other than overtip and so instead I called for the check and paid it in full and and we left, sans bisque. Had St John’s not defeated Georgetown 85-80 in the battle for 9th place at Madison Square Garden Saturday afternoon I would have been kicking myself, because the chowder is to die for. Since they did though and in a relatively thrilling fashion I’m happy to have forgone my lunch. Although this isn’t your vintage Georgetown team or even much of one – if John Thompson III were an apple he’d have fallen so far from the tree that you couldn’t tell what sort of fruit he was – if you’re an old school fan wins like this one and like the one over Syracuse are just a bit sweeter. Butler and Xavier might be St John’s current and threatening rivals but the mention of their name doesn’t produce the same sort of primitive visceral hatred that certain members of the old Big East do … So the game:
After a bit of back and forth and a Mullin time out St John’s took a commanding lead by virtue of a 17-point run midway through the first half that had everything to do with marvelous play by Federico Mussini, who hit back to back threes and scored 11 points in about five minutes. Just when they were on the verge of blowing things open – and after Mussini missed a technical free throw that opened the door – Georgetown went on a 17-point run of their own to take a one point lead into the half. St John’s could have folded then, or they could have folded in the first five minutes of the second half or they could have folded when Tariq Owens went to the locker room having rolled his ankle or they could have folded when Georgetown got within a basket on more than one occasion at game’s end. Instead they did not fold: credit their continuing growth and maturity; credit the home court advantage – they’ve now won four in a row at home; credit the presence of two hall of fame players on the sidelines. Credit whatever the hell you want. The fact is that St John’s has now won seven league games in one of the two or three best college basketball conferences in the country with what is approximately the least experienced team in the country – as opposed to the one game they won last year. I know that there are fans who were not happy with Mullin’s hiring and that those fans would rather St John’s lose than that their opinion of his hiring be proven wrong, but I think it’s pretty evident now that barring an unforeseen catastrophe next year – and no less an eminence than Seth Davis thinks St John’s prospects next year are rosy – those fans will have to learn to swallow. Or at least eat crow … Once again the referees were atrocious. They called 50 fouls in 40 minutes that resulted in 61 free throws that comprised 27 percent of the points scored. I might be able to overlook that, but what’s amazing about it is what they miss. In the first half Lovett was called for tripping a Georgetown player who was running down the court with his hand between Lovett’s legs: I’ve had third dates where I got less action. Ponds was called for a tripping foul by a referee running down the court with his back to the play. St John’s was denied a basket when a Georgetown player pulled the rim down and the ricochet sent the ball bounding into the stands: that one, the three guys whose job it is to see stuff just like that missed, whereas Mullin saw from 75 feet away. Which is the frustrating thing about it: the referees pretense that they are omniscient beings who notice every bump and jostle and stray hand would be a lot easier to believe if they didn’t miss the egregious obvious things, and they miss them every game. It’s not even vaguely an isolated event … I mentioned last time but will mention again: if you were to flip five bad losses this team had in the fall they’d be at about 18 wins and of their losses the worst would probably be Seton Hall on the road. They’d be a bubble NCAA team and at worst a lock for a favorable seed in the NIT. That doesn’t sound like much but a year and a half into a five year rebuild it really is … Two games left, a likely loss at Creighton and a give the points rematch versus Providence at home. Anyone who wouldn’t have signed up for that outcome in November is delusional.
PLAYERS: Despite the fact that Shamorie Pons
led all scorers with 24 points on 10 for 15 shooting I was all set to award the game ball to Federico Mussini – until he threw the ball away on an inbounds play under the basket with about a minute to go, at which point I was ready to ship him back to Palermo in stowage. Since they won that boneheaded play will fade into the annals of boneheadedry and we will instead choose to remember that Mussini scored 16 points on six shots in 22 minutes, including 11 points during St John’s 17-0 first half run … I spent the week defending Bashir Ahmed from all comers and he rewarded me by playing the worst first half he’s played since junior college. Thanks Bashir. He did though finish with 16 points and five rebounds, which is about what he’s been averaging since the first of the year and he had a huge block on a three in the corner to seal the victory … Lovett had 11 points and four assists but sat most of the second half late. He did though hit four huge free throws with under a minute left … Alibegovitch was pressed into service when Owens (four points, three blocks) rolled an ankle after a block under the basket. Before Owens injury AA had been his usual moribund self: he had a Lovett pass bounce off his chest on a two on one breakaway and airballed a finger roll, which you wouldn’t even think was possible. After Owens got hurt though something strange happened: Alibegowitch played competently. He provided yeoman’s defense against the terrifying Jesse Govan and with about two minutes left miraculously stole the ball and dunked it at the other end to give St John’s an eight point lead … Williams had six rebounds in 15 minutes … Yakwe had four fouls in 10 minutes and was not a factor. He does though seem to have stopped fumbling the ball every time it’s thrown to him, which is something of a positive, because sometimes catching the ball is the hardest part … I seem to have no notes about Malik Ellison except that he made four free throws late and the box score says he had six points, six rebounds and two assists but my impression is that he stunk for most of the game and might have done less damage had he been wearing black. If you disagree, email me at MalikEllisonIsNotBraindead@theweaselsdotcom
NOTES: Dopey Steve Lavin showed up in the studio at halftime sporting a weak imitation Don Johnson stubble that’s presumably designed to camouflage his rapidly multiplying chins. Note to dopey Steve Lavin: it’s not working. He rewarded devotees of his Norm Crosby-esque commentary by noting that Villanova is “surgical in taking care of the basketball in terms of ball security” … After some hulking Georgetown player was T’ed up for shouldering Darien Williams under the basket after a hard foul Donny Marshall said that that neither John Thompson nor his son would approved of that sort of rough play because “that’s not their kind of basketball.” That will come as a surprise to anyone who watched John Thompson the elder coach, because his teams comprised the dirtiest collection of thugs that ever donned a basketball uniform that did not say DOC on the back. He gave a scholarship to Michael Graham for god sake … I received a bit of push back via email this week about my characterization of a “well-known well-respected” poster as a “misanthrope.” One well-meaning poster even suggested that I delete that reference, which obviously is not happening. In the first place it was an anonymous reference to a screen name disguising the well-known poster’s identity, so no harm could come of it; in the second all 200 people who were going to read it already had by the time it would have been deleted; in the third the only reason this blog exists is so that I can say whatever I want without the sort of petty censorship to which I am routinely subjected in other venues; and finally consider the source, by which I mean me, who readers should take seriously at their own risk. But lest I had missed the point I went so far as to ask missus fun (before the chowder) if she thought I was out of line – and she spends half the time we spend in public kicking me under the table and the other half shooting me disapproving glances – and she said no, that she thought the term misanthrope something of a compliment, which is essentially what I said to my email correspondents: that one of the few things I find to like and admire about other people is their willingness to dislike people arbitrarily. My misgivings to the extent that I had any were that I used the wrong word – I should have said pessimist, because I meant to convey that there’s a sentiment common among long-suffering St John’s fans that something tragic is always around the corner: just this year there are rumors of half a dozen disgruntled players transferring – Lovett, Ponds, Yakwe and Ellison are unhappy; Missini, Alibagadounts and Freudenbeugh are in over their heads and have already booked flights back to the euro leagues; Chris Mullin’s house is on the market; and Mitch Richmond has one foot out the door and will be followed closely by Matt A. My own take on the sad sack St John’s basketball program is that things are bad enough without imagining abstract scenarios in which the sky is falling on the caving in roof. That was all I meant to say and to the extent that I said something else I misspoke. Frankly the word I worried about using when I used it was “ossified,” which is old time slang for inebriated, but since no one had a problem with that one I guess it’s fair to conclude that the misanthrope to whom I referred is a drunkard.
This week’s exchanges though got me to thinking about the nature of this project and the interactions that arise from it. Because let us be clear: although this is for you free entertainment, it’s not free for me. It costs me money to host this website and it costs me time and energy to write 30 sidesplitting essays a year and that doesn’t even take into account my bar tab. Complaining about it – and you would’t believe what people think to complain about – is like complaining about the quality of the cheese they give out as free samples at the grocery story: not only is it rude, but it’s not going to have any effect on the quality of the cheese, it’s just going to make the person handing out the cheese think you’re a cunt. Pro tip: if you don’t like cheese, don’t eat cheese. You’ll be happier and healthier for it. Trust me, I’m not thin-skinned and that’s not what this is about: there’s nothing the individual among you who despises me the most could think to say about me on your most miserable day that would not pale in comparison to the self-loathing I feel when I’m in a relatively good mood. And neither am I afraid of disagreement: there’s nothing I enjoy more than sharp elbows thrown in the marketplace of ideas. But to round the circle: why do you follow St John’s basketball if following St John’s basketball makes you anxious and depressed and prone to flights of fancy comprising phantasmagorical scenarios where tragedy strikes the program and sport you profess to love? If you don’t like eating cheese, why are you eating it? If you don’t like reading this, why are reading it? If the answer is because you like complaining about things that you think make you happy, then you need professional help and medication. Me, I like complaining, but only because I hate everything.
Regarding the emails I get, they’re essentially of two types. First there’s fan mail, which believe it or not I get occasionally: people taking time out of their busy lives to say that they enjoy what I write and to encourage it. This is at least rational. It’s like saying thanks for the fellatio after a professionally done blow job: it expresses consideration for the time and effort it’s taken the practitioner to perfect her art and to encourage her to practice it more often. Which equals more blow jobs. Which makes perfect sense.
What doesn’t make sense are the the malcontents. First there are people who write to say that they don’t enjoy reading my writing. One guy for example wrote a couple of months ago and said something to the effect that he read a couple of my pieces and that they didn’t hold his interest and that he wouldn’t be reading anymore and that I’m not as funny as I think I am. My initial response – besides how do you know how funny I think I am – was okay thanks, that makes you one of the seven and a half billion people on the planet who don’t read my blog. But why stop there? Why not tell me what movies you don’t watch and what books you don’t read and what restaurants you don’t frequent. I know it’s meant as an insult, but it’s a strange sort of insult: someone I didn’t know writing to inform me that he will no longer be doing something I didn’t know he was. Which on a scale of one to ten is somewhere short of devastating.
The other complaint is people fact-checking the jokes. Hey fun, you transcribed the score of the Marquette game or hey fun you said Michigan but it was really Michigan State. The only rational answer to which is: shut up. Why did the chicken cross the highway. Well in the first place it wasn’t a highway, a highway is a main road that connects two municipalities, what the chicken crossed was a boulevard and anyway it wasn’t a chicken it was a rooster. Zzzz. The fact is that jokes are not true or false, they’re funny or not funny. When Don Rickles calls someone a hockey puck you should either laugh or not laugh: if you complain that the insult is not true because hockey pucks are small rubber projectiles used in a sport played on ice with sticks whereas human being are not made of rubber, then either you’re at the wrong show or you don’t own a Fleshlight. Either way, you’re wasting your time, and mine.