Lurking in the Shadows
Didn’t plan to watch any hoops last night (though Cincinnati vs. UConn almost made me go back on that plan). Instead, I stopped off at the grocery store on the way home, picked up a half pound of salami, and readied myself to pop in an episode of The White Shadow on DVD. So for today, I took some notes on the entertaining and implausible happenings that mark the episode that I watched. That follows below, but since I can’t totally shut out real basketball for a night, here’s two quick notes on the five minutes of Gonzaga-Santa Clara that I caught before going to sleep:
1) The broadcast of the Gonzaga-Santa Clara game was absolutely bizarre. It was played at Santa Clara, and evidently Santa Clara’s arena doesn’t have anywhere reasonable for a television camera to sit. Instead of the typical long-shot from halfcourt for most of the action, the primary camera was located in a corner behind one of the baskets. Two other cameras were located closer to the floor, but seemingly way too close to the action to make any sense. I did a little checking into this, and it appears that Santa Clara renovated their facility in 2000. Did it not occur to them to set up access for a TV crew at that time? The way the game of college basketball has been going, they should have known that ESPN, or some other carrier, would want to shoot games there from time to time. That can only help the program. So why not set up a station at halfcourt where a network could set up a camera, instead of relegating ESPN to shooting from seats reminiscent of those that I sat in during my freshmen year of college when I couldn’t do better than snagging seats in a dark corner of the Wisconsin Fieldhouse.
2) Obviously I’ve always sort of been a fan of off-color cheers, and Santa Clara’s fans got a huge laugh out of me last night when Adam Morrison stepped to the foul line, and they began a chant of "Dirty Sanchez" that was easily audible on the broadcast. Easily one of the better taunts this year. And if you don’t know why this was funny, and you have a weak stomach, I would implore you NOT to Google this term. It’s a pretty obscene concept, but given Morrison’s current look, it’s actually a pretty hilarious chant.
Now on to the Shadow. A quick note to begin–the premise of the episode that I watched is that the team is going to play in a tournament in Las Vegas, and the team is plotting a scheme to make money at casino gambling during their down time. That’s all you need to know for now. My notes on the show:
1) We’ll start off with one of the things that I always loved about The White Shadow: the practice attire. As practice opens, we’re treated to a team that includes four players in sweatpants, and two players in cutoff denim shorts. I can’t believe that the times have changed so much that players actually routinely wore sweatpants to practice back in 1979. The only people that I’ve ever seen wear sweatpants on a basketball court are a couple of nerdy kids from the YMCA league that I played in as a kid. As for the cutoffs, I recognize that Carver High had plenty of poor kids there, but I still refuse to believe that Hayward wouldn’t have come up with a pair of athletic shorts. Even if his family lived in the projects.
2) Best part of this episode? The premise itself. At the very beginning of the episode, Coach Reeves informs his team that they’re going to a tournament in Las Vegas in one week. Somehow he manages to schedule an out-of-state tournament on one week’s notice, despite the fact that events like this take months to plan. Making this even more implausible is the fact that just a week or two earlier, as Coolidge alludes to at one point, the team had already gone to a far off tournament in San Jose where their plane almost crashed (probably my second favorite episode, by the way). The only team I’ve ever seen travel this much is Milwaukee King, and even they tend to plan these things out more than a week in advance.
And here’s the kicker–after scheduling a major out-of-state road trip with his team, Coach Reeves meets with Vice-Principal Buchanan to inform her of this plan. It’s at this point that we learn that Coach Reeves has neither informed the administration of this tournament, nor secured funding for the trip. It’s moves like this that make me understand Vice-Principal Buchanan’s dislike of Reeves.
3) There’s a great scene where the players are having lunch together and scheming about how to make money in Vegas. The only problem is, Coolidge ends up brow-beating everyone in the scene into giving him part of their lunch. I don’t know about anyone else, but if I had some guy constantly trying to get me to give up my apple, I probably wouldn’t be all that friendly with him. Perhaps the only plausible part of Coolidge’s food stealing ways was his pilfering of Goldstein’s cupcake, because let’s face it–Goldstein’s pretty much a tool.
4) During the lunch conversation, while laying out his plan to raise money for gambling from their classmates, Thorpe poses the question "How many people go to this school." Hayward replies to him "I don’t know–a couple thousand." Maybe I had a little more school spirit than most, but I always had a ballpark idea of how many people went to my high school. I might have been off by 100 or so from time to time, but I was able to narrow it down within a thousand or so, unlike Hayward, who apparently wasn’t sure if 2000 or 3000 students attended his school.
5) As usual, one of my favorite characters, Phil, the team manager, appears in this episode. And as always (except for that time that someone drugged him at a party and he got all crazy), Phil doesn’t say a word. Of course, Phil’s kind of a nerd, so one has to wonder a few things. First, during a scene in the locker room where Thorpe announces how much money he’s collected for the team’s plan of making big money through Vegas gambling, Phil’s there. My question is why? Phil doesn’t end up going to the casino, none of the guys like him much, and letting him know the plan probably just risks having him run to the coach with the info. Secondly, who’s sharing a room with Phil in Vegas? The team, including the coach, who had his own room, is traveling 13, so someone had to bite the bullet and hang with the manager. Goldstein would probably be the obvious choice, since no one wanted to room with him, but it looks like he still ends up with a teammate, so who knows what happened.
6) For their ultimate gambling adventure, all of the boys get dressed up in either suits or sportcoats. Wouldn’t you need a garment bag of some sort to carry all of these dress clothes? And wouldn’t that be a tip off to the coach that you’re up to no good? I’m wondering how the coach missed this. Maybe the boys just did lots of ironing once they got to Ed’s Motel, but I doubt it.
7) The attempts to casino are excellent, as the team gets turned away at several places for being underage before finding a place that will let them in. I know the boys aren’t the brightest bunch out there, but if you’re going to try to get into a casino while you’re underage, are you walking up to the door in a pack of eight guys? Me neither. Surely one of the guys could have figured out that spacing out their entrances might help their cause. As it was, they looked like a pack of college freshmen looking for a house party. No way they get into a casino (other than the corrupt one that they ended up finding) like that.
8) Pretty much everyone loses at gambling, but the only guy that’s up really big for awhile is Salami, who’s having a great night at the poker table. Does it strike you as odd that perhaps the dumbest guy on the team is the guy who’s succeeding in the casino game that requires the most skill? Because I can’t quite figure that one out.
9) Reese and Hayward opt to play slot machines during their tour of the casino. After playing for awhile with no luck, Reese notes to Hayward that he wants to stop because his arm is getting really tired. Yeah, that makes sense–two well-conditioned high school athletes can’t take the rigors of pulling the arm on a slot machine. Maybe Coach Reeves needs to focus less on cardiovascular training and hit the weight room if that’s the case.
10) The day after the casino outing, the team gets walloped in their opening game of the tournament, largely because no one got more than three hours sleep. While I have no doubt that the casino outing was not good for stamina, the tiredness in the locker room at the half is hilariously oversold. Coolidge lays down on the bench and looks like he’s about to take a nap. I remember being 16, though, and even if I was tired, if I knew that all I had to get through was one hour-and-a-half basketball game before getting some rest, I think I could suck it up and stay alert. Stamina is an endless well at 16, or at least it was for me. Apparently it didn’t work that way for these guys, though.
11) Best part about this episode? I’m going to go with the fact that despite the team sneaking out of their hotel the first night to gamble illegally, having three guys sneak out the second night after being specifically told not to, and Goldstein failing to return a lost wallet with upwards of $6,000 in it until confronted by the coach, the only punishment doled out was a stern talking to by the coach (and well, if I know Coach Reeves, they probably also got 20 laps on Monday). Oh, and once the lost wallet was returned, the owner was so impressed that the money was returned to him, that he gave the boys a $520 reward–$87 more than they came with. So they actually profited from their misdeeds. Here’s guessing that the suspended Milwaukee King players from last week, who I doubt did anything nearly as severe as the Carver squad, wish that they had Ken Reeves as their coach instead of a guy who actually disciplines the team.
So that’s my basketball substitution for the night. The White Shadow, while not always a totally plausible show, is always sure to provide some entertainment.