It’s Super Bowl Week. I don’t give a shit. My sports fan quotient has dropped like a rock over the last few years. I think it started when Gary Anderson missed the field goal against the Falcons in ’98. Damn, was it that long ago? That was the kind of crushing disappointment that only the Vikes can dish up. We haven’t had cable TV for awhile now and around here you just can’t watch sports without cable. The Vikings are on broadcast, but football has become an interminable slog for me.
I have a real hard time getting into watching a game if I have no dog in the fight, I’m not a fan of either team. And local teams just haven’t inspired much enthusiasm of late. Being a Minnesota sports fan these days is enough to get you reaching for the SSRI’s. Damn the Gopher Men’s Hockey team is the fifth best college hockey team in the state! Men’s basketball at the U is redefining the word pathetic. The Gopher Women are doing ok, the hockey team is a dynasty, volleyball went to the final four and the basketball team has two of the most dynamic high scoring players they’ve seen.
The Gopher WBB team is the best sports entertainment bargain in town. I get two season tickets for $400 and get to watch sixteen competitive games at Williams Arena. I love the atmosphere at Williams Arena.
Going to a baseball game at Target Field is fun, but expensive.
But football? Watching steroid crazed behemoths stand around for three hours, interspersed with a hundred commercials, is perhaps the very essence of boredom. Oh, there is eleven minutes of actual action going on in that three hours. I guess if you’re a sadist you might get some enjoyment out of the fact that you’re watching young men doom themselves a downward spiral of dementia by repeatedly smashing their heads together it might be entertaining. And of course there are probably some who enjoy the grunting. But I guess I just don’t get it.
So while almost 200 million folks are watching the Super Bowl on Sunday, we will probably be at Costco avoiding the crowd.
Yesterday I said that today I would write about the dreaded “wintery mix,” but that will have to wait for another day, because last night I saw one of the greatest displays of basketball wizardry ever last night.
The Gopher Women were playing Illinois, who they’d beaten 106-75 earlier in Champaign. I was looking for another easy victory, but the Illini were fired up and out for revenge. They came out nailing threes and playing great defense, plus they were getting a big contribution from Alex Wittinger, a freshman forward from Delano, MN.
Their point guard, Kylie Simmons, was shooting the lights out as well as doing a great job of frustrating our super-star shooting guard Rachel Banham. Unfortunately for Kylie, she was forced to foul Rachel 3 times in the first half to keep her from blowing by her. But the home team was struggling and the visitors were thriving and that resulted in the Gophers being down by 16 at the half. Banham, who averages 24, had only 2 points at the break.
I really wasn’t particularly worried, I’ve seen this team make a lot of comebacks and when my nephew Scott, who was with me mentioned Banham’s lack of scoring I told him I’d seen her have poor first halves before and still score in the twenties.
They had a 13 run at the end of the third quarter to pull within one. And then Banham absolutely torched them in the fourth. She scored 18 in the quarter going 5 for 6 from the three point line. It was just an unbelievable display of shooting talent. She was hitting off screens, off the step-back move, creating her own opportunities. You could see it in her eyes, she was not going to let them lose. She finished up the game with three consecutive triples, the last of which put them ahead 80-77. The fans were on their feet for the last three minutes of the game.
If you love basketball and you haven’t seen this kid play, you owe it to yourself to get down to the barn for a game this year.
The Gopher Women’s Basketball team upset #20 Northwester 95-92 last night at Williams Arena. Lead by Rachel Banham’s 32 points and 4 steals, they took advantage of the Wildcat’s star Nia Coffey being forced to sit out most of the first half with foul trouble to build an eleven point lead at the half. Northwestern answered with 33 points in the third quarter to get back in the game, but the home team held on in the fourth, beating back the visitor’s charge and makin 7 or 8 free-throws down the stretch.
In the first half the played as well as they have all year, using their quickness, shooting and ball movement to counter a significant size disadvantage. Alina Starr helped the Gophers out-rebound the Cat’s 39-38 with strength and hustle, playing above her height against much taller players. But many in the stands were left unsure of how she pronounces her first name. It sounded like the announcer pronounced it “A-lay-na,” “Al-eye-na”, and “A-leen-a.” However you pronounce it, it means “plays hard” in hoop language. A mid-year transfer from Auburn last year, she just became eligible to play after first semester. She immediately became a starter and what a great addition to the team she’s been.
The crowd got a first look at another transfer, although in street clothes, Bry Fernstrom, a 6’5″ post who was starting at Iowa State when she left the team mid-season. She will be eligible in time for the Big Ten season next year. Coach Marlene Stollings has another transfer in streets on the bench, Kanisha Bell who averaged 14.5 points a game as a starting point guard for Marquette and broke the school’s record for steals by a freshman. She was named to the Big East All-Freshman team. It looks like she’s the top candidate to fill the hole left by graduating senior Shayne Mullaney.
Interestingly all three of the transfers mentioned are Minnesota girls who, for whatever reason, transferred back to the U after Stollings took over the program last year. Kill the fatted calf baby, the prodigal daughters have returned!
This post was an experiment by the author, the point of which was to write a post without using the first person pronoun.
I know, I know. Oxymoronic construction. But if you’re into it, earlier this month there was an achievement of historical proportions in the Sinquefield Cup tournament played in St. Louis in late August through early September. By the way, St. Louis has become the center of American chess and is home to the World Chess Hall of Fame. Who knew?
A couple of weeks ago I had a disturbing realization. I can no longer ride a bike. I know, it’s something you’re never supposed to forget, and I’m sure I remember how to spin the twin gyroscopes and keep the contraption upright and moving forward, it’s just that I can’t. My right knee doesn’t bend far enough to push the pedals all the way around, I get stalled at the top of the stroke on that side. Well, I could if I raised the seat high enough, but that would put me in such and awkward position that if I tried to put a foot down when I stopped I’d be in danger of going over.
On Sunday, Reb and I attended the Golden Gophers Women’s Basketball game against ninth ranked Ohio State. The Gophers were coming off a disappointing loss to Wisconsin in which they played terribly. The girls put forth a tremendous team effort and pulled off a huge upset. On the way home from the game we stopped at the grocery store and ran into Sid Hartman, the StarTribune’s ancient sports columnist. I couldn’t resist asking him if he was going to write about the Gopher Women’s victory over Ohio State.
As you may know, I’m working on a garden renovation. It’s a work in progress. My vision is of a fairly primitive look, old rocks and bricks and the proper amount of kitschy gee gaws around. I’ve found that rocks are fairly expensive. So I’ve been making an effort to find free rocks. Those of you with a rural background might be saying, “Rocks? Aren’t those what farmers dig out of their fields and deposit in piles on the roadside? You pay for rocks?” But I’ve found Â that in a more urban setting the free market has put a rather high price on rocks.
Yesterday was a beautiful sunny, cool day so I decided I’d start my day with an endorphin blast, I grabbed my trekking poles and set off for a brisk walk. As I wound my way through the neighborhood, I came upon a pile of rocks stacked up Â near the street at the side of a corner lot. At a passing glance it looked like mostly useless rubble with a few good rocks. I rounded the corner and saw the owner out front working in her yard and talking to a neighbor. Not wanting to interrupt, I poled past with a neighborly hello, she returned my greeting with a bit of a smirk, I suppose that, in my flat cap, cruising along with the aid of ski poles, she found me an amusing character.
I proceeded up the Boone Avenue hill to 36th Street and then headed East to the first left turn, several blocks down, that put me on a road that wound back down hill to meet up with Boone again. The route took me past the rock pile neighbor once again, she was still out in the yard working so I stopped to exchange pleasantries. After the usual talk about the endless work of home ownership, I popped the question, “Are you planning on doing anything with those rocks piled over there?” She answered, in a defensive tone, that they were going to get rid of them soon, she must have thought I was going to complain about the eyesore. This being Minnesota it wouldn’t actually be a complaint, but a passive aggressive sideways hint that they’d been sitting out there for a long time. I assuaged her fears, “Can I take some of them?”
“Sure, take them all.”
“Well I probably won’t take them all.” I had no use for the broken concrete and other rubble.
“Help yourself, you can take all of it.”
“Thanks, I probably won’t take all of them though.”
“Yah, go ahead and take whatever you want.”
So I went home, showered, had lunch, got some work done and then jumped in the car to pick up what I thought was a few rocks. When I backed up to the pile and examined it more closely I realized it was a treasure hoard. There were nice sized field stones, flat limestone steppers, and old bricks, all the perfect accessories for the eccentric old couple garden. Since I was thinking that there were only a few rocks to move, I hadn’t really come prepared to work, I was wearing loafers, no socks and clothing that I didn’t really want to get filthy. I piled the back of the car with as many rocks as I thought it could haul and headed home. I changed clothes, donned appropriate footwear, grabbed my wheelbarrow and, in four trips unloaded the rocks in the back of the garden.
As I was working on the first load I got the feeling I’d just fleeced the rubes. I’m sure that if they had advertised on Craig’s List with the stipulation that the purchaser would have to take the bad with the good, they could have had it hauled away for free, or even made a few bucks on it. I started to worry about her husband coming home and pitching a fit that she’d given all the good stuff away. I decided that if anything was said I’d tell them they could certainly have them back, but they’d have to come get them. I started imagining all sorts of scenarios in which my rocky windfall would evaporate. For all I knew I was dealing with an insanely jealous husband who would come home and beat me to death with a paver for playing in his rock bed. I remembered that she had mentioned that hubby was in the Naval Reserve, so I thought that I could build some rapport by wearing an old ARMY t-shirt I had. Not that I was ever in the Army, but I have relatives. I could almost say I come from a military family.
Mrs. Rock House came out to the pile as I was loading up my second trip. She was probably even more convinced that I was a goof ball, since I had exchanged my cap for my Panama hat. So here’s this skinny, sweaty old guy hefting rocks into his station wagon wearing a very practical, but not exactly fashionable hat. She still seemed perfectly happy to get rid of whatever I wanted to take. She asked if I was interested in bricks, “We’ve got tons of bricks in the garage.” It seems as if she and hubby were recently married and that he is a retired Navy lifer who’s never owned a home. She said she told him now that he owned a home there would be no more trips and vacations, just working on the house. I knew then that I had nothing to fear concerning him wanting to keep the rocks. I realized she was completely in charge, she’d found someone who was used to having a commanding officer and was more than willing to fill that role.
So I got free rocks, met a neighbor and got way more endorphins than I had bargained for at the start of my walk. Rebecca informed my that I had enough rocks now and I wouldn’t be going back to get the bricks in the garage.
On Saturday night we attended the annual Mardi Gras Party at the Beckers. Any party at the Beckers is a great party and the Mardi Gras Party is the greatest of the great. I could have gotten the award for the lamest costume, Becky found me a sport coat that had a pattern of target logos all over it. The novelty of the fabric was one thing, but I wasn’t actually costumed as anything. Multi-targeted warhead? The host’s two older daughters pulled an good prank. They’re not twins, but they do look somewhat alike. One was dressed in a ball gown and the other had a wedding dress on, one was wearing flats and the other really tall heels. I noticed that they had done their hair exactly the same, but thought nothing of it. Midway through the party they switched costumes and I’m not sure anyone noticed. Â The youngest daughter’s husband entertained on the piano, including accompanying her on some of Â her songs that she’s preparing for her role in Guys and Dolls.
I’ve been obsessing about painting in Photoshop. I’m trying to upgrade my skill level with the Wacom, I’ve been drawing heads and figures and trying to color them, without much success. I’ve had some success scanning some of my pencil drawings and giving them simple color treatments, which is what I was most interested in doing with the tablet, so I can use them to get a little more visual interest here at HA. After all, as long as I have an published editorial illustrator in the office I might as well throw him some work. That, along with the drawing at left segues nicely into the next random topic.
I’ve been working out at the gym pretty consistently since I bolted the 9 to 5. I worked my way to the point that I think I’m in better condition than before the knee disaster. Motivation is a challenge for most of us who try to keep to a workout schedule and we have to find it where we can. One the things that brings me back to the gym is the people watching. I know it’s mean spirited to make fun of people, and God knows that I probably look as goofy as the next, but there are some folks who’s appearance is so odd that I just have to share it. If you recognize yourself here, I apologize. On the other hand if you don’t want people to make fun of you, try not to be so frickin’ weird.
I’ll start with the guy pictured. Older gent, probably around my age. Long stringy hair that doesn’t look like it’s been washed this century, held in place by a headband that probably was white in the Twentieth Century. He looks trim and fit, it seems like he’s there working out most times I am. Other than the hair, from the knees up he looks pretty normal, in an 80’s kind of way. But the thing that puts him over the top in the weirdness category is the fact that he always wears knee high brown dress socks and brown street shoes. I have to look away every time I see him to keep from laughing out loud.
Another guy, much younger, isn’t so much weird as he is scary.Â He’s always there, working the free weights. His arms are bigger than my thighs. I guess that’s not saying much, so much bigger is a better description. Yesterday while I was pumping some paltry weight on a machine, I watched as he strapped what had to be 50 pounds to his waste and knocked off about 20 pull-ups. I don’t think I can do one pull-up, even if I was in moon gravity.
Then there’s a guy who looks a little bit like John Belushi. He has shoulder length hair that he usually has tied up on top of his head some way. But this week I saw him with it down. He had it in a classic flip, like every girl in my ’67 high school year book. Think pretty hair on a jowly, pasty complected, five o’clock shadowed, scowling, hairy man. Another case where I have to practice smirk avoidance.
There is another man who it would be cruel to make fun of since he’s obviously overcoming some real challenges. But, being the mean bastard that I am… He has a hugely developed upper body, just massive. This barrel is supported by extremely short legs for it’s size. And one of those legs doesn’t work very well, he walks with a cane and it looks painful. He was wearing one of those wrestling style sleeveless t-shirts. One of his very hairy breasts had popped out, which was a disturbing sight. He passed me in the weight room as I was climbing into the crunch machine for my final set for the day. He sat down on the Cybex arm press machine and as he began to lift he let out a sound that I can only compare to the roar of Â lions and tigers at the zoo, moaning at their captivity. Or maybe it was like the sounds I made while trying to take my first dump after surgery and a week of powerful narcotics. Whatever you compare it to, it was really loud and really frightening.
I don’t feel bad at all about ridiculing this last victim, because frankly he’s one of those guys that makes you dislike them almost at first glance. He’s about my age, very fit, very trim and has a silvery brush cut, like a sergeant in a comic book. When he’s in the weight room he speeds from machine to machine, lifting heavy weights too fast, looking gruff and impatient with anyone who gets in the way of his routine. He might as well have a sign that says “compulsive narcissistic asshole.” That’s opposed to me, I’m a compulsive narcissistic nice guy. He always wears one of those jerseys that you used to see in the eighties, the sleeves cut off and the jersey itself cut off, exposing his belly. And maybe I’d do the same thing if I had a six-pack at sixty. But I noticed last week that protruding from the front and back of his shorts are the edges of what looks like some kind of absorbent pad. I’m sorry but please don’t share things like that with the public. When I look away from him, it’s not to keep from laughing.
Big sports day today. Starting off with a trip down to Williams Arena to watch the women’s basketball team take on Michigan State. I’ve subleasing one season ticket for a few years now, great seat, eight row just past mid-court opposite the benches on the same side as the Gopher bench. The raised floor at Williams arena gives those seats a fabulous angle on the action. Pretty close to player eye level. It’s a great place to be sitting when the Gophers are playing a sideline trap as well. Â I really enjoy watching teams that play good aggressive defense and that’s the signature of a Pam Borton coached team. I love to see it when they turn up the pressure and the other team gets those rattled looks on their faces as the shot clock runs down. Or start trying to run there offense too fast and throw it out of bounds. They like to create turnovers and score off them, they do a really nice job in transition with Kiara Buford, China Antoine and Brittany McCoy leading the way, blazingly fast, excellent ball handlers and passers. Half court offense, another story. It’s always an adventure, but it helps if the other team makes the mistake of not double teaming Ashley Ellis-Milan, which rhymes with Ashley’s always smilin’.