Good morning- today's post is a 'tape-delay' blog of last night's national championship between UNC and MSU. What that means is that the words were written live, during the game, but are being posted today during normal work hours. The blog of the first Yankee game is typed up and ready to go, but it will be tape-delayed until tomorrow. I promise that the content below contains all original thoughts and entries from last night, and aside from minor style edits, I haven't adjusted anything to make myself look like a genius. Enjoy.
9:03: Almost game time! Judging by the players' body language, the quality of the light at Ford Field, and astrological signs I spent the afternoon interpreting, I'm predicting an 89-72 Carolina victory and a Final Four MVP for Wayne Ellington.
Okay, I swear I'm done now. Onto the real tape-delay blog.
9:03: Almost game time! It’s an old-fashioned offense vs. defense donnybrook! Firepower versus Firewall! Jumpers vs. Thumpers! Pops vs. Stops! Launch vs. Staunch! Bustle vs. Muscle! Impel vs. Repel! Dynamos vs…Alamos? (I haven’t been with a woman in so long.)
9:09: Being interviewed by Tracy Wolfson in the hallway, Roy Williams looks calm and focused. He’s got his usual dapper southern preacher look going. A powder blue handkerchief pokes neatly from his coat pocket, and the meticulous hair part is in full effect. Credit to him for focusing on Tracy’s questions, and not her very visible cleavage. A real gentleman, this guy.
9:10: Clark Kellogg didn’t think he could be more excited than he already was, but then his excitement “ratcheted up two levels.” The quantitative scientific measure of one “level” is not made clear.
9:12: On a completely unrelated note, my roommate and I were just riffing on possible bizarre and unwanted apps for the iPhone. I suggested a rectal thermometer. “I think they already have that,” he says, completely serious.
9:13: Tom Izzo’s pregame speeches are a tour de force. He somehow always comes off like a feisty underdog leading a group of unlikely kids from a team that lost their first twenty games and is making an improbable run, instead of the guy who’s coached his team to more Final Fours in the past ten years than anyone in America. After the UConn win, my roommate hit on a hilarious idea for his bedroom wall décor- a painted portrait of Tom Izzo. I really hope he makes it happen.
9:15: UNC takes the floor. “I hope foul trouble doesn’t play a role,” says my roommate, who went to Kansas and roots for Missouri. He looks worried, and he’s dicing an onion with a gigantic knife. This could get strange. (This blog is now officially about my roommate, and not the game)
9:18: Prediction: UNC wins by something like 78-69. By the way, if you’re a gambler, take the under on this one. The +/- is 153. Also, put a hundred down on this prop bet: “At some point during the game, Clark Kellogg will compare the two teams using a ‘drive-thru versus sit-down restaurant’ metaphor, and nobody will know what the hell he’s talking about.”
9:19: Time for the starting lineups. Why does Jim Nantz announce these? Doesn’t Ford Field have a PA guy? I bet they do, and he’s really bitter somewhere, in his tiny room, sipping a cheap bottle of champagne, cutting his lip on the foil.
9:20: Against UConn, I thought the Spartans looked tense during the starting lineups, and extrapolated from said observation that UConn would start strong. I was right. Today, they seem less tight, but UNC looks positively ferocious. Hansbrough has his “tough” look on, which is hilarious and intimidating all at once. The man is a glorious paradox.
9:22: I vote for the nickname “Sweet Wayne” for Ellington. He’s smooth, always seems like he moves on an even keel, and can be dynamic without seeming rushed or forceful. I can picture him chilling out in a jazz club, playing back-up saxophone and just enjoying a serene, jazzy life. My other idea is “Cool Papa” Ellington.
9:24: God bless Larry Bird. At no point in this guy’s life has his hair or clothing looked anything but out of place. We look at old photographs and laugh at the odd styles of the era, but I think it’s worth remembering that he was probably never quite on top of the trends.
20:00: Tip-off time. HANSBROUGH IS ALREADY PISSED! He gets in a tangle for the ball and hits the deck hard for the first time. He springs up and looks juiced, like he just won a fight. Re-tip. (If you haven’t noticed, I’m now time-stamping by the game clock)
17:30: After Sweet Wayne makes a beautiful lefty scoop in the lane, Suton turns it over. If the Spartans aren’t careful with the ball, this game will get away from them fast. Hansbrough the Entertainer attempts another comical, gangly dunk and gets fouled.
16:30: The pace of this game favors UNC in a big way. Against Louisville and UConn, MSU took fast, transition teams and made them play a slower half-court game that didn’t suit their style. That’s the open secret to their success. Right now, the Carolina guards look like they won’t let that happen. Lawson is already wreaking havoc.
15:24: First tv timeout. After a pretty three by Ellington and a gorgeous baseline turnaround by Psycho T, Carolina’s up ten. Can’t emphasize enough how well this pace bodes for the Heels. They’re even looking tough on the boards, the one area where MSU seemed to have a slight edge. More bad news for MSU: Hansbrough is 100% fully aware of the moment. His eyes are like the high beams on a car. Nobody will escape their glow.
14:09: Six minutes in, I’m officially ready to crown the Tar Heels. Give 'em the trophy. It’s not just that they’re dominating early; they’re completely outclassing the Spartans in a way that makes a significant comeback seem impossible. Suton’s going to have to break out some kind of Bosnian code of revenge, because violence is the only way MSU makes a run. And yes, I’m ready to look like a complete idiot, Billy Packer style, if I’m wrong.
13:41: I should have mentioned that foul trouble is the other way for Carolina to lose the lead. Green just picked up two quick, and from where I sit, both looked like BS.
13:16: Kellogg starts the excuse-making process, pointing to Michigan State’s inexperience. Can you really call a team inexperienced once they’ve reached the championship? They’ve already played an entire Final Four game in the same stadium. Shouldn’t the nerves and newness be exorcised at this point? Why are announcers so hesitant to say that one team is unequivocally better?
11:41: 24-11 at the timeout. Michigan State kinda seemed like they were making a run for a while, but it was more like maintaining the status quo. You gotta feel bad for Bobby Frasor. He bricked a three, committed two bad fouls, and botched a rebound that led to an easy Suton lay-in. Among everyone on the court, he seems a bit out of his element. And now he probably won’t get much more PT.
11:16: Deon Thompson is having a huge game. Who would’ve thought the tough Michigan State squad who won by grinding it out in the last two rounds would look this weak? The phrase ‘out of sorts’ doesn’t really do the situation justice. They can’t even penetrate the interior. They keep settling for contested threes and awkward jumpers.
10:20: Our first improbable Hansbrough leaner of the day! You know the one, where he draws contact and shoots from his hip. Other than Sam Young’s amazing headfake, it's my favorite move in college basketball and the perfect microcosm for the ‘Hansbrough’ character we all know and love. Spastic, ungainly, comic, and oddly effective.
9:45: UNC is on pace to score 128 points. What was Izzo’s game plan tonight? Was it to slow the Tar Heels down, and it just isn’t working? Why are they shooting so early on every possession?
7:33: Lawson isn’t the difference in the game, because he doesn’t have to be, but it’s hard not to admire the guy even when the rest of the team is kicking ass. His offense speaks for itself, but he’s completely shutting Lucas down on the defensive end. On the last play before the under-8 timeout, he anticipated Lucas’ patented spin move, shimmied with him into the lane, and effortlessly wrested the ball for a steal. UNC by 20.
6:40: Timeout after a beautiful three-off-the-pick for Cool Papa Ellington. 43-20, UNC. This one is officially out of hand. After hearing endless hype about Michigan State’s defense (“the best in the country”), UNC is about to put up more than 50, possibly way more, in a single half. I think that says a lot about this team. In the preseason, everyone wanted to anoint the Tar Heels champions, but they slipped off the peak after some bumps in the road. It looks like first instincts were on the mark.
3:43: Another three from Ellington, and a jumper from Hansbrough. Jay, my roommate’s friend, just came over. He runs a poker game at his apartment where I lose a minimum of ten dollars every week. He just told us that he really enjoys the State Farm commercial where the ice cream vendor gives kids popsicles without a stick. I don’t know how to respond. I’ve just lost so much respect for him.
3:43: Speaking of commercials, I’m so ready to stop seeing the same five ads over and over and over. That’s the silver lining to March Madness ending. Especially the ‘Buffalo Wild Wings’ monstrosities. There’s something really offensive to me about a a group of guys in a bar who are having such a good time that they’d rather have some photographer sabotage their team, seconds from victory, just so they can stay longer and hang out. Fuck those guys, am I right? Come on! Doesn't anyone even care?
HALFTIME: 55-34 UNC. I called this one at the 14-minute mark. I want that known. Izzo better pull out his miracle speech here. Jay is now giggling at the “I Like Square Butts” Burger King commercial. When it ends, he and my roommate both give two thumbs up. Good Lord.
There are two exceptions to my March Madness commercial fatigue. The first is the Direct TV board room ads, featuring some of the cast from the Christopher Guest movies. Second, and I might have to qualify this as a guilty pleasure, is the Coke/Coke Zero commercials with the two disgruntled Coke brand managers. They’re like sad little Don Quixotes, devoted to a hopeless mission.
My roommate reveals that he loves how Capri pants look on a woman. I feel like I’m learning so much about him tonight. And now that I’ve learned it, I have to move.
The UNC signsters are really taking advantage of the Danny Green/Michigan-State-wears-green connection. I’ve seen “The only green that matters is Danny Green!” and the horribly uncreative, “Go Green…Danny Green!”
My roommate just accused Larry Bird of ‘playing the simpleton,’ as though it were a brilliant persona hatched by a sophisticated actor. CBS asked Bird about the title game between he and Magic. He gave a nice answer, but ended with “it’s too bad we didn’t win, but you just have to move on.” Uhh…I think that should have happened already, Larry. But if there’s anyone who thinks back on a 40-year old game with regret more often than he should, it's Larry Bird, right?
20:00: I am so, so sick of hearing that Michigan State is somehow carrying the hopes of Detroit on their back. What the hell difference does it make to the poor bastards out in the streets if the Spartans win a title? Does anyone think the homeless and struggling are more than remotely aware of the tournament? This is a completely manufactured story line that has no basis in reality. I make this sentiment known in the room, and meet immediate opposition.
Roommate: I think your pessimism is the real problem.
Jay: This could even create jobs.
Me: What kind of jobs?
(Long pause, while Jay grins like a man who knows he’s wrong)
Jay: They’ll be selling a lot of t-shirts…
Jay: All that extra parking…
I have no idea what “extra parking” means, but it’s a good example of a timeless phenomenon. When someone knows they’re stumped, and are struggling to come up with a bullshit answer, the next thing out of their mouth is almost always hysterical. When I was in fifth grade, my mom was quizzing me for a social studies test I had to take the next day. Eventually, the topic of hunter/gatherers came up, I missed an answer, and in exasperation she asked me a stunningly obvious question: ‘Come on, where does meat come from?’ And for some reason, probably a combination of fatigue and momentary brain lapse, I couldn’t reason that meat came, of course, from dead animals. I struggled for anything, and pulled down this piece of genius from the ether: “It grows in fields.” My mother’s horrified look is still etched in my brain.
14:55: Michigan State looks better defensively, but you already get the feeling it’s too little, too late. After a short run, UNC extends the lead back to 20. During the break, they play that Guitar Hero commercial with all the coaches. Seeing Coach K in his boxers is so fucking disturbing.
13:31: The strangest part of this game is UNC’s complete dominance on the boards. Michigan State has out-rebounded almost everyone this year, and now they can barely get a defensive board, much less offensive.
11:47: The second half is full of mini-surges by the Spartans, but they can’t break the 15-point barrier. After a huge three by Green to stem the momentum, the lead’s back to 19. Kalin Lucas is now completely out of control. The Spartans have an unbelievable 19 turnovers.
8:30: Allen misses a wide open three for MSU, and we collectively identify this moment as the point when MSU no longer has a chance. They needed that one bad. A minute later, the lead is back to 19.
7:33: My roomate, after watching a Miller Lite commercial about their brewing process: “There’s some real question marks there.” When the game begins, he’s thrilled about Michigan State’s full court press. “Alright Izzo! It’s about time! You either put in the white kids or you make this work!”
3:51: Psycho T takes a charge and looks like a kid on Christmas morning. Lawson follows with a gorgeous drive, and the celebration is on.
2:36: MSU is done fouling. Jim Nantz waxes melodramatic about the Spartan effort. “They really tried to spread some sunshine on the state”…“They were trying to find a way to make so many people happy.” As a tiny act of defiance for this gushing, I refuse to watch ‘One Shining Moment’ tonight.
2:17: Bobby Frasor makes a lay-up, and his dad is thrilled. Nice moment. “Sharing the sugar, we call it,” says Kellogg. Everyone’s befuddled.
1:30: CBS shows the clip of Obama playing basketball with Carolina, and for the first time I notice that his t-shirt is tucked into his windpants. Are we 100% sure he’s not a middle-aged white guy who hangs out with my dad?
1:03: Hansbrough is taken out of the game, and gives delirious bear hugs to everyone on the bench. I said it yesterday, and I’ll say it again: I love the guy. He’s had one of the greatest college careers ever, and I’m happy for him. Duke fans who resent this title need to stop brooding and chill out.
GAME OVER: That’s it! 89-72. Apologies to anyone who took my advice about the over/under bet. Sweet Wayne is the Final Four MVP, Hansbrough looks like he might cry, and Lawson has the air of a guy who legitimately never doubted the outcome, and is slightly puzzled at everyone’s excitement. Roy Williams now has a title with his own recruits. Tip of the cap, Tar Heels- great team, great year. I just hope you enjoyed it, because you will never beat Duke University again in your entire lives.
(Sinister music, lights dim)