Monday, January 03, 2005

Marquette vs. IPFW: I Think I'll Stay Home

As my the 4 or so of you who read this thing noted to me in the last few days, I've been bad about updating over the holiday season. While I have not given up watching basketball (see some of my other comments today), I've been busy doing things that I can't do when the work schedule is beating me down. My apartment is as clean as its ever been, and I'm slowly learning to cook more tantilizing meals. At the end of the day, though, I haven't had many interesting things to say about basketball in the last few days. So, last night I was ready to get back into the swing of things. After catching snippets of the Arizona-Arizona State game on TV (no comments, other than to say a) I have vastly underrated Channing Frye, and b) Arizona is perhaps the best collection of individual players in the country, but still not much of a team), I was about to head out to the Marquette game. However, I sort of lost my motivation, and thought I might spend a quiet night at home. I didn't want to give up on the Golden Eagles, though, so I decided to flip on the radio.

It turned out to be the perfect remedy for my recent lack of things to comment on. One of the best things about the state of Wisconsin is that we have some great radio crews to listen to during basketball season. The Badgers have Matt LePay and Mike Lucas. While I don't always love Lucas, LePay is the best in the business at calling a game. UWM, I haven't heard in awhile, but in the 1999-2000 media guide, a mulletted gentleman by the name of Bill Johnson is listed as their play-by-play man. Johnson is one of the most hilariously bad announcers that I've ever heard, after spotting him wearing a bright blue suit at high school sectionals a few years back, I can also attest that he's not much of a dresser (though, I doubt anyone sporting a mullet as late as 1999 would have much style). I'm not sure if UWM still allows him to do games, now that the Panthers are good, but he was something interesting to hear. UWGB's play-by-play man, John Maino co-hosts a daily radio show with one of my best friends, and I'm always told that he's a pretty nice guy, so I have to like him. But the crown jewel of announcers in Wisconsin is the Marquette tandem of Steve "The Homer" True and George Thompson. They're not legitimately good like LePay, and they're not painfully bad like Johnson, and I don't have any sort of second-hand connection to them as with Maino, but they've got something special going with their uniquely idiotic brand of radio.

So, what do you do when you can't think of anything entertaining to say about basketball? That's right, turn to True and Thompson, and let them say the fun things while you sit back and watch (or listen). After all, according to my pal The Franchise, Thompson is the man who commented during the television broadcast of the Marquette-Wisconsin game "Two things happen when you shoot the ball. Either it goes in, or it doesn't." I don't even need to enhance things like that. I think I heard that Thompson works for Briggs and Stratton when he's not calling games. Remind me not to buy any lawnmowers from there if this is the genius they have running things.

Thus, I sat down, played a little Dr. Mario on my old Nintendo, and took notes as the game went on. Here's how the night progressed, starting at 6pm:

6:00: AM 1130 goes on, along with setting Dr. Mario on Level 12.

6:02: Introductions are about to start, and Homer tells us that Marquette is playing a Indiana Purdue-Fort Wayne team whose mascot is "The Mastodons," and notes that after introductions, Thompson will tell us what a mastodon is. Ah, knowing Thompson, this should be good from the get-go.

6:05: Introductions are over, and the arena music changes from the standard U2 intro music to Archie Eversole's "We Ready," a contender for most popular basketball warm-up song of the year. Homer notes that Marcus Jackson won't start tonight, due a stinger in his right arm. Given the music plaing in the background, it seems somewhat ironic to me that, Jackson is, in fact, not ready.

6:09: George Thompson praises Chris Grimm's defense on IPFW's star big man, David Simon.

6:10: Homer describes the current play: "Simon goes right by Grimm and stuffs it!"

6:11: Thompson praises Grimm's "denial defense." George, you're quickly losing the ounce of credibility that you have.

6:15: Another dunk from IPFW. As the dunk occurs, Thompson notes that "He flushes with flavor!" Thompson continues to astound me. Next time I go to the bathroom, I think I'm going to sprinkle some Lawry's seasoning salt in the bowl, so that I, too, can "flush with flavor."

6:16: Homer and Thompson note that Steve Novak is a step slow on defense and needs to get quicker. I'm not sure what's more obvious, this comment, or that one that The Franchise told me about the two things that can happen when you shoot the ball.

6:17: Diener hits his second three-pointer. The game's been tight until now, but I sort of get the feeling that the boys are going to start to play, and put the Mastodons down.

6:24: Marcus Jackson makes a big play, and Homer refers to him as "The Sheriff," which I'm told by fellow fans is their favorite self-created nickname for a player on the team this year. And one can see why, as Homer continues on to note that now that he's in the game and "flashing his badge," Jackson will attempt to "patrol the lane." Phenomenal puns, men. Phenomenal.

6:26: Finally! Thompson's set to tell us what a mastodon is, after Homer forgot for a half-hour to ask him. His answer is mildly disappointing, but still Thompson-esque, as he notes that a mastodon is nothing more than and "old elephant," and that they come from the "dinosaur age." Somehow he also references a wooly mamouth. It was a pretty good dumb-guy explanation, but I would have liked to have heard a Fred Flintstone reference or two.

6:27: Asked how he thinks next week's Packer-Viking playoff football game will go, Thompson takes the Packers and predeicts and "old fashioned butt-whooping." I take a moment to reflect on the good old days, and how great it must have been to have been around for these old-style whoopings of butts.

6:28: Referring to a player getting tied up in traffic, Thompson comments that "You can't rollerskate in a buffalo heard." Seriously, is the guy coming up with these things off the top of his head? Has it ever occurred to anyone to even attempt to rollerskate in a buffalo heard? Is Niv Berkowitz wearing skates tonight? Isn't the opposing team's mascot a mastodon, not a buffalo? I haven't been so perplexed since someone let Jerry Glanville call NFL games in the early 1990s. And I love it.

6:34: Diener drives...and let's just say he's an All-American. Even on the radio I can tell this guy is amazing.

6:35: Steve Novak hits a 3-pointer, and Thompson exclaims "It's all about the Benjamins!" Huh? Did the MAAC Fund just get $100 for that shot? Does someone give Novak cash everytime he hits a shot? Is Kid Rock in the house (and if so, is he buying a round of beer for his entire section?)? What the hell are you talking about George?

6:35 (later): Oh, that explains it. Thompson continues, and about 20 seconds later I realize that he and Homer have given Novak the nickname "Money." For guys that are creative in just about every other aspect of calling the game, their nickname creations are surprisingly uncreative.

6:36: Marquette has, by now, gone on a stellar run and is up by a fair amount.
Homer traces the run back to Marcus Jackson entering the game, when he "made the town safe again" and began "protecting the women and children." The sheriff puns are back in full effect, and one cannot help but wonder, given Steve Novak's driving ability if he is who Homer is referring to when he talks about "women and children."

6:40: I briefly break from the game, as an aquaintance from my college days calls me out of the blue to see if I'd like to get together next week for a drink and to catch up. I tell her that this time of year, my schedule pretty much revolves around what basketball game I'm going to watch. As my brother noted when I mentioned my planned road trip to Indianapolis to watch UWGB play Butler next weekend, it's very possible that I may never find a wife.

6:41: Travis Diener misses a foul shot, which I suppose proves that he is actually a human being, and not just some cyborg trained to play basketball.

6:54: During the halftime show, Homer and George interview Father Wild, the University President. They ask him about his thoughts on "The Sheriff." Wild, thankfully, is sharp enough to know what they're talking about, but reserved enough not to make any comments like "Well, the Sheriff has really locked up David Simon this half, and I'm hoping he's in the locker room throwing away the key right now." Though, the fact that I came up with that line with almost no thought makes me think that I should apply for a color job when George Thompson retires.

7:05: IPFW makes a small run to open the half, and Thompson is not pleased that Marquette has briefly let up. He comments that "Marquette has to continue to prosecute the Mastodons," and quickly becomes the first color commentator that I have ever heard compare the play of a basketball team to something that I learned about in my criminal procedure class. I wonder exactly what the Golden Eagles would have to do in order for it to constitute "prosecuting" the other team. I guess the comment, though somewhat confusing in its meaning, is okay.
After all--this is George Thompson. Normally I'd expect for him to call for Marquette to "persecute" the opposing team.

7:16: Marquette has now gone on a run, and about IPFW, Thompson says "When they're sinking, you've got to throw them an anchor." On its face, this seems like a decent enough comment--Thompson wants Marquette to show no mercy and put its opponent away. But then upon reflection it occurred to me that if a boat was sinking, and you threw it an anchor, not much would change. Assuming that the captain of the sinking boat could catch the anchor and attach it to the boat, once the anchor dropped, it wouldn't really make the ship sink any faster. Rather, it would just keep the boat in the same general area as it sinks. Anchors don't really make boats sink. If they did, no one would keep them aboard. This is why I love Thompson--his inability to precisely explain things provides great food for thought.

7:21: Mike Kinsella enters the game, his first since November, as an injury has kept him out of action. Marquette now appears to officially be at full strength.

7:32: The Saz's trivia question tonight is something about a former Marquette player who led his team in rebounding. Thompson reads the four choices to Homer, and upon coming to the third choice, Amal McCaskill, stops and refers to McCaskill as "The First Sheriff." So, this "Sheriff" thing with Marcus Jackson isn't just an uncreative nickname--it's a recycled uncreative nickname. I kind of feel bad for Jackson at this point, as he has never really had his own identity. He replaced an excellent center also named Jackson (indeed, I've accidentally referred to him this year as Robert more times than I want to admit), and now his stupid radio nickname is revealed to also be a hand-me-down. Meanwhile, he's pulling in more rebounds than the rest of his teammates combined.

7:48: Homer sees a no-look pass and refers to it as a "Hydraulic shoehorn no-look pass." I'm not sure what type of image that's supposed to evoke, but I assume that it was a difficult pass to throw. Frankly, I'm just bewidered that it was Homer, and not Thompson who made this remark.

7:55: The post-game show is underway and our broadcasters name Marcus Jackson the player of the game, with George Thompson commenting that "he restored law and order under the hoop," and officially making the 74th "The Sheriff" reference of the evening. I am, however, wondering if the outcome of the game means that IPFW has finally been prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

And from there, not much else interesting happened. As for my evening, I'm mildly glad that I stayed away from the game and saved the $8 I would have spent on parking. Along the way, I got to use my new electric wok, play some old-school video games, and hear two of my favorite radio announcers. The Homer and George may not be the best at calling a game, but they do their own thing as well any anyone can.


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