Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Father's Day, Hoops Style

The following article isn't specifically about Gannon hoops, but I think any basketball fan (especially fathers) can relate. Plus, I can't help but think the final line refers to the Mercyhurst Lakers.

A Game To Grow Into

by Chris Ballard, Sports Illustrated

The other day I was at home, flipping back and forth between a Lakers game and a North Carolina game, when my 2 ½-year-old daughter came sprinting into the room. She slid to a halt, looked at the TV and, as if announcing the winning lottery ticket, proclaimed, "Daddy watching basketball!"

"That's right," I said. "Daddy likes basketball a lot."

She cocked her head. "Why?"

"Well," I said ... and then pondered what to say. Do I talk about watching the game or playing it? About college or the NBA? Should I use props—as any parent knows, props kill with two-year-olds—or just hand her a copy of A Sense of Where You Are, John McPhee's profile of the young Bill Bradley, and tell her to get back to me in 10 years?

Or maybe I should start by telling her what it's like to fall in love with the game, as I did when I was only a few years older than she is. I could tell her about Nerf hoops, and growing up a fan of the sad-sack Warriors, and how, to a six-year-old, Julius Erving seemed more Afro-adorned god than man.
I could describe the hoop outside my parents' house, the one at the end of the narrow, slanted concrete path with a bulging hedge that, if used correctly, acted as a double-teaming defender. I could talk about shooting by moonlight, when the ball becomes a ghost hissing through the air, and about the day that all those figure-eight drills paid off and that dusty piece of leather went from stranger to friend, something to be directed, not contained.

Or I could focus on why I love the game now. I could talk about underhand scoop shots that rise like helium balloons, and the way college kids swarm the court—as if a dam had burst 60 rows up—after an upset win over a ranked team. I could tell her about nine seconds left, the floor spread and the arena roaring like a 747 as Kobe Bryant holds the ball at the top of the key, about to break thousands of hearts. I could describe how being in the bleachers at Cameron Indoor Stadium feels like surfing a tsunami and how, after a lifetime of pulling out a little pump fake to the right before shooting a jump hook, my father still does it every time he plays, not because it works (though it sometimes does) but because it's like catching up with an old friend. I could explain how March Madness has the power to propel men off bar stools as if from ejector seats and make them perform windmill high fives while yelling, "PITTT-SNOGGGGGLE!!!" And I could confess that I've spent an hour talking to someone at a dinner party and never made a true connection like the one that comes from running a seamless give-and-go with a stranger during a pickup game.

I could warn her that, sure, there are flaws in the NBA game—like thud-thudding isolation plays, and guys who can hit their heads on the rim but can't dribble lefthanded, and Timberwolves versus Clippers in late January—but all it takes to make me forget them is to watch Steve Nash make a one-handed lefty push pass through a forest of arms.

I could describe seeing a play on the highlights Saturday night, then seeing it again Sunday afternoon at the playground; or I could tell her how Ray Allen squares up on his jump shot so perfectly that, were he on sand, he would spring up and, upon returning to earth, land precisely in his footprints.

I could hold forth on reverse layups with so much spin that, when the ball hits the backboard, it shoots sideways as if yanked on a leash, and on the Nooooo! ... Yesssss! shot, and on the way bench guys stick out their arms to hold each other back, as if saving one another from oncoming traffic, because the last play was just too damn exciting.

I could tell her how the pick-and-roll might be the oldest play in the book, or even the only play in the book, and teams still can't stop it, and go on about the value of listening to Hubie Brown teach the game. ("Now you ask, What does that mean, teach the game? Uh-kay, I'm going to tell you....") And I could tell her how one day I'll sit her down to watch an old Princeton game so she can see the most beautiful play in sports, a perfectly executed backdoor cut.

I could tell her all these things, but she wouldn't understand, at least not right now. Props wouldn't help, either; even if I had Elmo running the half-court trap on our living-room rug, it would be lost on her. After all, basketball's a game you have to grow into, and with luck you'll never grow out of it.

So instead I decided on the simplest explanation. "Daddy likes basketball," I said, "because it makes him happy." I paused. "Especially when the Lakers lose."


  1. "WHAT'S A LAKER?" :) ha ha ha

    Happy early Father's Day all! Hope everyone has a great one, esp. you Jim!

  2. Jim - great posting! my wife still doesn't get 'it'! oh well. this blog is great.

    anyhow, i just saw the mens schedule. why such a weak start? 2 games against urbana? the women have a much 'stronger' schedule. i know the men will be rebuilding this year but powder-puff opponents new help at large buds in the ncaa tourney.

    any word on JUCO's heading to Erie? nothing on the psac website?

  3. yeah. i really hope the classic and cup have stronger competition than they have in years past.

    also, i'm getting nauseous with urbana, lake erie, etc. why aren't they playing the teams that think we suck - North Central teams, etc. I guess its all about $$$$$$.

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  5. nope the classic and cup are weak again (well so it looks) with a few exceptions. Classic is Edinboro, Lake Erie and Bowie State. Obviously GU won't play Boro first round. Bowie State could be tough, but most likely not. P Cup is Ferris State, Seton Hill and Taylor, IN (NAIA team). Ferris could be tough depending on how Gannon shapes up, GU usually holds Seton hill down, and seriously if we lost to a NAIA team, just end the season after the Cup.

    Reilly had two possibly recruits in town this past weekend, 1 JUCO and 1 freshman. Both guards... 6'5 and 6'6 shooting guards (obviously 6'6 kid would be a "swing man" but it naturally a guard). Downfall, one's from Texas and one's from Florida, so I have an itch telling me they may choose "warmer weather" school over Gannon. Would be nice to get the heighth though.

    They have to play Urbana twice they have the "home and away" agreement. Home and away last year, home and away this year. Also, Urbana is an independent school seeking conference entrance... so I believe many PSAC schools play them.

    Also, this is purely rumor, word had it a D1 transfer from West Coast was here "visiting". He'd be, I believe, a sophomore this year. Not sure on stats, thought they said 6'6 or 6'7 forward/center. Not sure about that though.

    But all in all, from what I've heard, Coach is going more with youth than JUCOs. A lot of freshmen, and some are rumored to start (i.e. PG Filmore "Mook" Buddles)

  6. Also, women have stronger schedule because 1) they don't host a tournament, 2) Coach has connections to get into these other tournaments (plus they want Gannon women because they've been much more consistent the past few years over GU men) and 3) Men's team can only play 28 games (I believe we're playing 27) whereas Women can play like 30-32 games (I think they're playing 30), so they have more room for the teams.

    Also note, Gannon Women are going AWAY to play good teams... We have to bring teams here.. no one wants to come to Erie, PA in November or December.

  7. Gannon women are playing 30 games because they have three games in Alaska -- games in Alaska don't count toward the 27-game limit. Everyone is limited to 27 games.

  8. What's so weak about the GM Classic? People, Lake Erie and Urbana aren't big names, but THEY ARE DIVISION II TEAMS! They're D-II newbies, but they still count. LEC is the closest D-II school to Erie.

    Playing LEC and Urbana count just as much as playing PSAC teams. And they are in-region games because the two schools are in bordering states.

    The biggest problem is that many Divsion II schools play 20-22 league games and have no room on the schedule to play independent games. North Central schools.

    The schedule contains 27 games -- 25 or 26 (depending on whether they play Taylor) against D-II teams. Not bad. I'm gratified to see Ferris State on the schedule -- maybe the GLIAC is lightening up.

    What do you want? Bring back Youngstown State and Stubenville? Deal with the reality.

  9. Ha...I didn't mean to rile you up like that.

    I'm referring to the non-conf. schedule as weak because these teams are not in-region teams (CCAA or WVIAC). I'd rather see teams GU could see later in regionals playing in the non-conf. schedule than LEC/Urbana/Tiffin who have been recent bottom-feeders as new DII teams, even though they are new (or recent) additions to the GLIAC. To play a bunch of teams with below (or far below) .500 records does bode a competitive image, if nothing else.

    Sure, the PSAC has some great competition, but it'd be great to go back to late 90s/early 00s when teams like Charleston, KWC, NKU are coming in for holiday tourneys, not NAIA or recent switches from NAIA/DIII, or our apparent newest Porreco Cup rival Bowie State.

    That being said, it's nice that there are more DII teams, rather than DIII/NAIA additions to the non-conf. It's nice to help out local newbies to the DII.

    And yes, I was surprised and glad to see Ferris State. It seems like GU has made some arrangement w/ the administrators there, no? Both women's and men's teams will play FSU.

    Perhaps when you see the team play 2 times a year, at most, it's nice to see stronger competition than Urbana/LEC. But obviously I/we can deal.

    Also, LEC is the closest D-II school to Gannon? Are you referring to schools outside of the PSAC?

  10. golden - according to the NCAA Basketball Handbook, Division II Men are allowed no more than 28 games and Division II Womens are allowed no more than 30 games. And it says nothing about games in Alaska "not counting". It does say any games "out of the country" do not count as they are considered "exhibition" even if they are mid-season. The only tournament on the schedule that could be considered "not counted" would be Disney because that is considered an "exclusive" tourney, which the book says sometimes do not count against regular season games. Also, who cares if Lake Erie and Urbana are Division II?! I think Behrend and Allegany would put up a better fight than LE and URB. Watching those games last year may have been the most unethused and bored I've ever been during a Gannon game. I love Gannon games (men and women) and I love to see blowouts here and there... but those games were just ridiculous. It was like we should've killed them, but held back to be nice. I would've rather watched Salem International Women play Hilbert College Women.

    ohmadlibs - i agree with you. The non-conference schedule is very weak. I hear many saying that they are going for a "weak" non-conf schedule because it's a "young" and "new" team... but here's a thought... this young and new team needs to be tested early or else it's going to be "HELLLOOO" when it comes to PSAC time. We play Daemen (whoopppiieee!) once and Urbana twice in a one month's span. And in the Cup we have the chance of playing Ferris State (who I'm expecting us NOT to play 1st round) and/or Seton Hill (who I'm assuming we won't play 1st round) and/or Taylor (NAIA; I'm assuming we will play 1st round). That's 29-30 of January... 3 days later Kutztown. Yah... not a good pre-Kutztown tourney.

  11. and can I also note that 1) I agree that we should play everyone in the conference twice and EVERY GAME SHOULD COUNT... even if we have to get rid of the Classic or Cup. I'd rather play a bad to sub-par Lock Haven team twice, then play Lake Erie three times and Urbana twice.

    but 2) this rumor of everyone making playoffs?! Are you serious?! Is this YMCA-ran now? You have regular season for a reason... to determine who is making playoffs and who just didn't cut it. If PSAC goes that route... I lobby for the NCAA DI tourney to have 650 teams and start in March and end somewhere in July.

  12. you guys make some great points!

    i am happy to hear that coach may be going with youth over juco's. my concern as a booster is 'what are these kids going to do for GANNON in the future?' (ie - the 'florida' experiment failed with the football program. no one stayed and/or graduated. nothing but headaches for the administration). are these kids actually graduating? going to class?? i have no idea. Goldcamp my be the exception to the rule but juco's have always had baggage (i realize Goldcamp is not a juco). i bet that jim knows and i bet he also knows the total number of juco's and transfers from the glory days of the late 80's & early 90's.

    as for the schedule, i don't know the specifics like you guys but i LOVE college basketball (second only to football). there is nothing better than seeing UNC play the likes of UNCONN or MSU or Texas in Nov / Dec. it would be great if GU could play Virginia Union or Grand Valley or Findley in the early part of the season. classs plays class and GANNON is CLASS! win or lose, CLASS!

    btw, all you commentators make this blog GREAT!