St John’s defeated DePaul 77-76 in Chicago – or as Pete Gillen would say and did, several times, the Windy City! Chicago! Illinois! – Wednesday night, their fourth straight victory and second in a row on the road. (I thought that last factoid might have been something but they won three in a row on the road last December, @ Tulane, Syracuse and DePaul, so never mind.) Despite winning four in a row they’re still in last place, but assuming that DePaul loses to Seton Hall in New Jersey on Saturday SJU will leap into ninth. Excelsior … For most of it this didn’t look like a win. DePaul would spurt ahead, St John’s would nearly catch them but not quite and then DePaul would spurt ahead again
And in fact DePaul was up four 69-65 with four and a half minutes left when Ponds’ six points and an assist keyed a 10-2 run that put it away for the good guys … Last time I mentioned snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Case in point last night when a DePaul three at the buzzer made those who’d given the points losers: DePaul went off plus one and a half. I don’t bet college basketball much but when I do I eschew statistical analysis and advanced analytics (I don’t understand math) and instead base my selection on two factors: which team has the more powerful mascot (Demons > weather) and which color is more appealing (blue > red). Those of you who gave the points might want to take that to the bank next time: weather > eagles and red > yellow … St John’s won last night despite the presence of the appalling Pat Driscoll, the worst referee in college basketball. And in fact Driscoll gave them I thought a bit of a gift on a questionable charge that Tariq Owens drew late, which sure looked to me like a block. And I suspect it would have looked to Driscoll like a block if St John’s had been playing Villanova or Xavier …. Ponds continued his unconscious streak: 26 points on 10 for 18 from the floor plus ten assists. The main beneficiary of the latter was Marvin Clark, who had a career high 24 points and six rebounds. He’s averaging six of those a game over his last four, which not coincidentally corresponds to SJ’s winning streak. Simon had 16 points, three rebounds and three assists, which considering how he’s been playing lately seems a tad disappointing. Stiff defense by Tariq Owens held some Eastern European lummox called Marin Maric to a double double, although to his credit Owens made what turned out to be the game winning free throw. Bashir Ahmed had as many turnovers as points and once again Trimble didn’t embarrass himself. And someone called Kassoum Yakwe played two minutes to little effect, he must be a walk on because I vaguely remember his name but don’t recall seeing it in the box score recently …. The play by play guy was someone called Carter Blackburn, which sounds like the name of a character in a Tom Wolfe novel and Pete Gillen, who sounded like an idiot. Gillen babbled incessantly and mostly incoherently, to the point where missus fun wondered whether he was “all coked up.” I told her no, he probably just had an extra bottle of wine at dinner considering the late start. He repeated ad nauseum that Chicago! is called the Windy City! and is in Illinois! and that Sharmorie Ponds played for Thomas Jefferson High! in Brooklyn! New York! and there was for my taste way too much Glory Days talk about his erstwhile coaching career, the upshot of which is that teams he coached – Xavier, Providence and Virginia – tended to achieve better results after he left than while he was there. Most egregiously Gillen does not seem to understand the concept of time. With four minutes left in the first half he said that there was “Plenty of time left in this contest.” Okay, fair enough. Twenty four minutes later, with 34 seconds left in the game he said that there’s “Still a long way to go,” which seems longer than plenty of time, and then with less than three seconds left he said there’s “2.8 seconds, still an eternity,” which an eternity is certainly longer than either of those. If you took him at his word you’d think the game was getting longer as more and more time ticked off the clock and in fact now that it’s been over for 12 hours it still might be going on.
In an odd confluence game day was both Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday – odd because the former holiday celebrates carnality and concupiscence and the latter repentance and mortification of the flesh. Valentine’s day is named for Valentinus, a Christian priest decapitated by the Emperor Claudius in the third century, which separation of skull and torso allegedly occurred on February 14th. (This explains why the giving of head is a traditional Valentine’s Day gift.) That a 2000 year old decapitation came to be associated with modern romance is also odd, but associated it is: traditionally February 14th features exchanges of gifts between lovers and especially flowers, which makes a perverse sort of sense, as bouquets of flowers, being themselves an aggregation of severed sexual organs, are delivered to females by males castrated by monogamy and Hallmark. Ash Wednesday on the other hand marks the beginning of Lent, a period of atonement in which the Catholic faithful emulate the deprivations suffered by the Baby Jesus during his 40-day sojourn in the desert, from which he emerged triumphant, having three times resisted Lucifer’s entreaties, foreshadowing Peter’s failure to do likewise after the crucifixion. In the Catholic tradition the faithful mark the Lenten period by forgoing sensual pleasures, which eschewment is meant to cleanse the spirit in anticipation of the resurrection. I’m a bit fallen away now – in the same way that Oprah is a bit fat – but Lent was a big deal in our household growing up. My father for example gave up smoking for 40 days – he smoked every Sunday though, because during Lent the Sundays don’t count – and promptly resumed Easter morning.
(Pater was a Lucky Strike man.
No doubt my mother gave up something as well, although with her you could never be sure, because she was something of a duplicitous bitch. As youngsters my siblings and I too we were encouraged to give up childish pleasures, at first candy and sweets and cookies and later as we got older masturbation and Southern Comfort. Either way Lenten Sundays were sticky affairs in my parents house growing up.
Not for nothing but there are some St John’s fans whose souls could use a little cleansing this holy season. A few suggestions. If you’re one of those guys I see sitting in the stands sitting on your hands in Alumni hall whose pendulous man tits are dangerously close to bursting through your thread-worn red and white sweaters, consider giving up donuts. If you’re one of those chronic malcontents who sign on daily to St John’s fan forums and whine incessantly and tediously about every little thing that pops into your tiny little brains, maybe give up whining like little bitches. If you’re one of those people who insists on putting mayonnaise on lobster, consider eschewing mayonnaise and try a nice Bearnaise sauce instead. If you’re a plagiarist, consider writing your own jokes, and failing that, hang yourself. And if you’re a cunt, maybe consider not being a cunt. Me, I’m going to give up vodka, starting …. April Fool’s Day