Tuesday Night Hodgepodge
Last night was a bit of a letdown due to the holidays. I was excited a few days ago when one of my friends asked me if I wanted to check out a high school game (usually it’s me doing the hard work of convincing someone to see a bunch of high school kids play basketball), but ultimately realized that I had too many chores to complete prior to Christmas to head out and watch hoops. Fortunately, I had my television, as well as a Marquette radio broadcast to keep me company as I wrapped Christmas gifts and prepared edible holiday treats in anticipation of the 25th of December. Here are some observations about the things that I saw and heard (and a few that I didn’t) on my night of trying to take in some basketball along with my holiday cheer:
1) As I was headed to the grocery store to buy more poppy seeds for a holiday creation, I was particularly pleased to flip on the Marquette radio pre-game show and hear George Thompson, the longtime former Marquette radio color commentator, filling in with his old partner Steve “The Homer” True last night. Thompson’s propensity for ridiculous comments and generally sounding like a fool always made for interesting radio. Much as I enjoy Jim McIlvaine and the occasional drop-in by Tony Smith, there’s nothing quite like sitting around wondering what the heck is going to come out of George Thompson’s mouth. So it was nice to have him back.
2) Thompson, also a former star player at Marquette, conspicuously disappeared from broadcasts a few years back shortly after his retired number was briefly given to then-freshman Lazar Hayward. I recall Tom Crean lamely trying to talk his way out of this miscue at the time by claiming that Marquette doesn’t retire numbers, it retires jerseys. This would have been a much more believable excuse if a) Marquette had previously made a practice of handing out other numbers from players honored with retired jerseys, and b) Marquette hadn’t additionally retired the numbers 77 and 11 in honor of Al McGuire and the Apollo 11 crew, respectively. Last time I looked, neither Al McGuire nor the Apollo 11 crew wore jerseys. In any event, while there has never been any public confirmation of a rift, it would appear to the casual observer that Marquette has mended fences with Thompson, and that’s good for everyone. Particularly fans who want to listen to a broadcast where they’ll ask themselves multiple times “Did I really just hear someone say that?”
3) In the pre-game, Thompson did not disappoint in terms of ridiculousness, noting that he was looking forward to watching Vander Blue, and inexplicably referring to Blue as “Monsieur Bleu” in a terrible French accent. I still have no idea of what was going through his head on that one, however, I particularly appreciated the quip, as the recipe that I was preparing last night required mass quantities of blue cheese. So I sort of felt like George was directing the broadcast at me.
4) I'm not sure if I should praise Steve "Homer" True's repeated mentions that Mississippi State guard D'Angelo Jackson was from Milwaukee and starred at Milwaukee Pius during high school, or complain that he kept repeating this fact so much. Either way, it was interesting to find out that Jackson had ended up at Mississippi State. Given that he had bounced around from Creighton, to UW-Green Bay and then a junior college before landing at MSVU, I had sort of lost track of Jackson until last night.
5) In addition to listening to the Marquette game on the radio, I took some time out to watch the start of the Ohio State-UNC-Asheville game on TV. My particular desire to watch this game was twofold (aside from just wanting to see a good team play). First, I had not yet gotten an extended look at OSU freshman Jared Sullinger, who has been putting up mind-boggling numbers. Seeing as Kyrie Irving is presumably out for the year now, it seemed it would behoove me to see the new top freshman in the country. Sullinger did not disappoint. Second, I also wanted to get a look at fellow OSU freshman DeShaun Thomas, who I had the good fortune of seeing at the Indiana State High School Championships two years ago, when he was just a junior (in one of the two great events from the past two years that I somehow neglected to write about). I’ll never forget walking into Conseco Fieldhouse and having a friend note “we might want to watch this guy,” after noticing Thomas’s averages of 36 ppg and 16 rpg in the game program.
6) During last night’s OSU game, I briefly reflected on the amusing fact that David Lighty has been at OSU since the magical season of Greg Oden and Mike Conley. It occurred to me last night that someday Lighty (after his own pro career, of course) will be able to tell his grandkids that he played with the best freshman in OSU history. I find it amusing that if you’d told anyone in 2006 that Lighty would be referring to someone other than Greg Oden when potentially making this statement, they’d have looked at you as if you were insane.
7) Since I’m hopping around on topics, I suppose that I should make some comment about the Connecticut women’s team breaking the record for longest winning streak last night, winning their 89th game and unseating John Wooden’s UCLA squads of the early 1970s. I congratulate the Huskies. I don’t care how much of a talent advantage you have–winning 89 in a row of anything is a ridiculous accomplishment. But while I congratulate you and respect what you’re doing, I frankly don’t care much about it. I’ve tried to get into women’s hoops, and it has simply never worked out. As a college freshman, I recall feverishly trying to talk my dorm-mates into getting season tickets to the women’s games at Wisconsin. My main argument? Who could turn down season tickets to anything if they were only $26? I found no takers. Nor would anyone go to a single game with me. A big part of my love of sports is its ability to give me an easy way to socialize with others. And the fact that I can find more takers to watch a Thursday night division three game at Carroll University during a snow storm than I can to attend a single college women’s game with me tells me all that I need to know about the value of women's basketball in my life.
8) I saw nothing of the game, but heard later in the evening that in high school action, Menomonee Falls dropped to 5-5 after a loss to a perennially strong Brookfield Central team last night. Mark me down as unsurprised by the Indians’ struggles to date–it’s something that I’ve been anticipating since the summer. While many will undoubtedly look at Menomonee Falls’ underwhelming start to the year as proof that top recruit J.P. Tokoto may not be all that he’s cracked up to be, nothing could be further from the truth. Falls was overrated to start the year, not because of Tokoto (who is still awesome), but because of the expectations set up by their outstanding team last season. People tend to be blinded by the shine from Tokoto’s star power and forget that Menomonee Falls graduated a remarkable senior class last year. Talented forward Jonathan Phillips took inside pressure off of Tokoto, and the backcourt was dominated by three solid guards who also excelled in other sports and therefore knew what it was like to compete for state championships. It’s rare that a school has a senior class that just happens to be full of winners, but Falls had such a class last year. That’s a bigger deal than most people typically realize. Falls actually does have plenty of talent this year, but it’s tough to replace the intangibles that last year’s seniors brought to the table. So if you want to blame someone for Menomonee Falls starting this year a bit overrated, don’t blame J.P. Tokoto–blame the guys that graduated last year. They'd have had a great team even without their young superstar teammate, and they’re the ones that really created these expectations.
And with that last rant over, I wish everyone a happy holidays. I’m more than likely out until after Christmas, unless something huge happens. Here’s looking forward to conference play after Christmas!