Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Looking toward next year

After an entire season of looking ahead to next year, we now do the only thing left to do: look ahead toward next year. 

The expectations are high, both for us and the team. Will Herb Pope be the inside presence we've been desperately waiting for? Will I be able to maintain this furious blogging pace while assuring the same literary standard of excellence? Will Keon Lawrence be the same electric scorer that earned him the title of "Neon Pogo Stick." Will Dave ever successfully talk to a woman?

Yes, questions abound. And there are no certainties in life. But this much is clear: next year should be another wild ride. 

Why, you ask??

Oh, just a few reasons...

1) With Big Mel now poised to join the team, Dr. Roboto and Skin will be working around the clock to recruit a tailor skilled enough to create an XXXXXL jersey and matching shorts. And while you're at it, throw in a pair of blue leather driving mitts!

2) Now that Gonzo's been around for a couple years, the fan base is itching for some serious results. Nothing more fun than a little added pressure!

3) With our incoming triumvirate of transfers, what's the impact to our starting lineup? According to John Nash's game theory principles, is it possible that Keon, Harvey and Theodore all cancel each other out, opening the door for the Falcon to swoop in and claim what's rightfully his??

4) Now that the senior cheerleader of my dreams has graduated, who will fill the void? And what about flagman?

5) Last year's November trip meant a Puerto Rico vacation. Don't forget the suntan this time, Brett -- here we come, Alaska shootout!

6) With a number of high-profile Big East stars leaving for the NBDL, is the time poised for Seton Hall to regain its former glory?!?!? Onward Setonia!!!

Yes, it should be a wild, wild ride.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Seton Hall: An Extended Portrait

It was midnight. Dave and I were mentally and physically exhausted. We were standing on the corner of 33rd St and 8th Ave, shivering cold. Mike Davis was towering over a hot dog stand. Pete and Matt were chilling on the sidewalk(on?). Stix was hunched over by the Penn Station entrance, his face beaten and worn as a catcher's leathery mitt. 

After pretty much every single game, Gonzo says the same exact thing: "a scratch-and-claw, fight-all-the-way, grind-it-out, physically demanding, character-building, typical Big East battle." Well, on this night, it was true. 

Facing a tough Syracuse team, which would later knock off UConn in a truly epic contest, we gave it everything we had. Overcoming a double digit deficit, we actually managed to take the lead for a brief moment. Then, everything went Jerry Springer. 

Garcia got into a shoving match. Brandon "Jennie Finch" Walters  delivered a slider strike to the chest of the Orangemen's streaking Euro. Harvey gave Devendorf the old two-finger salute to the throat.

Amidst thousands of screaming Syracuse fans, the vast majority of whom appeared to be slightly inebriated, highly obnoxious, upper-middle class dentists and assorted trade professionals, we knew then the game was over. With a number of technicals assessed, our shorthanded squad of valiant warriors became even more depleted.  

But suddenly, a strange calm came over me. As Devendorf rained threes, his tattoos flexing with each arm extension, I realized something. This is why I love the Hall. It's not because they win. If I wanted a perennial winner, I'd root for UConn. It's because they fight. Every night. 

Our team seriously lacks discipline. We take bad shots, overall -- late in the game, early in the count, at the refs, at the opposing team. Constantly, we lose our temper, and lose control as a result. 

But not unlike the classic Shakespearean tragic hero, it's exactly this flaw that makes our team so heart-wrenchingly compelling. 

Dave and I have led a fairly comfortable existence. We've been lucky -- we were raised in a world that largely provided for us. Perhaps this explains in part our unending admiration for the sacrifice our players make on a routine basis, many of whom have had to fight their entire lives. It's their sacrifice that makes ours seem so trivial by comparison: the long drive to Cincinnati, the vacation days from work. 

Over the next few weeks and months, Dave and I will continue to post about the past season. We'll upload more photos from Kentucky... Forthcoming Facebook interviews with the Falcon... Who knows, maybe even another video? We'll look ahead to next year, and stay hot on the recruiting trail. And you can bet we'll be hosting a NIT "wishful thinking" dance party! 

But as we celebrate this team, and everything they've overachieved, let's not forget the importance of a critical eye. To learn from this season, and grow as a team, we must learn from our mistakes.

By most measures, Gonzo has had a good season. He is a better coach than he was last year, and he continues to get the most of out his players. Given the limitations of his roster, most of which fall on him, he has responded triumphantly. However, there is one player with which I do question his judgement.

Perhaps no player on our team has had to fight more in his life than Mike Davis. And while he struggled mightily on the court for the vast majority of the season, battling a severe case of stone mitts, it was frequently frustrating to watch as Gonzo would pull him from the game after only a few seconds of game-time. (In one particularly uncomfortable moment against Syracuse, Gonzo sent Mike to the scorer's table, only to call him back to the bench.)

At the beginning of this season, most everyone agreed that Mike would be the key. Now, we have a number of high-profile transfers coming. But I would argue that Mike is still critical to our future success.

If you're listening Mike, I know you must be discouraged. But all I can say is this: Keep fighting. Keep working hard. Keep battling. 

Because if you keep fighting every day, and maybe cut down a little on the hot dogs, you'll become the player we all know you can be. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Channeling Mason, Hall Beats USF

In the same arena where Anthony Mason once played with messages shaved into his head, our gritty Hall team advanced tonight with a strong victory. With Stix and Hazell both rocking the Arsenio "Hall" look, with a few subtle grill-lines above the ears, our team fought hard to hold on to this one. Jordan and Eugene played strong at the point, and Dave did an admirable job filling in for flagman. (The school would have payed for him to come, but the flag would have been an extra ticket on the PATH.)

All in all, great win. Maybe enough to secure an NIT bid? Now, we get ready for tomorrow night's battle with the Cuse...

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Hall Escapes Fifth Third With a Win

Dave and I expect the very best from our players. We want them to give 110% every time. 

On this particular day, however, 110% would not be enough. Given that it was senior day on Cincinnati's home floor, we would need at the very least 5/3 effort, or 166.67%. (Go ahead, check my math, Pete!!)

Yes, that's correct. It took overtime, but our team battled and battled to leave Ohio's famous Fifth Third Arena with a win. Now, it wasn't easy, and even getting to the game proved a challenge. 

After sleeping through our alarm, Dave and I had to high-tail it out of Kentucky. Stopping by Sonic for a little fast food on the way, along with a quick thirty second reenactment of our favorite "reality-style" commercials, we pulled into the arena parking lot just in time. 

You can only imagine our exhilaration when we picked up our tickets at Will Call to find we would be sitting on the floor directly behind the bench!! Yes, there is a God! 

I can say with some certainty we were a part of the team today. When Paul Gause ran out of bounds, chasing a loose ball, Dave was there to give him a high-five. When John Garcia tossed his dirty sweat rag during a time-out, I was there to catch it in my expectant mitts. 

The game was a classic thriller, with a number of blown lay-ups later redeemed with clutch free throws. And while Dave and I were drastically outnumbered, there were a couple other Hall fans in attendance, most notably Sister Stix. Let's just say it's genetic!

For those of you who couldn't make it to arena, here a couple things you might have missed:

- Pistol Pete stands up and claps all the time. So much so that the UC student section would actually scream "Sit down Pete!!" Falcon, if they're calling your name, you must be doing something right!!

- After Stix missed a critical open lay-up at the start of overtime, Coach Bobby G very calmly and soothingly screamed in a earth-shattering voice "RELAX!!!!" Psychology students, this is what we might call a textbook case of the double bind.

- Although the crowd got very noisy towards the end, it was actually a pretty poor showing. Lots of empty seats.

- Nunu missed a couple of shots driving the hoop when it was very clear he was fouled. (From where we were sitting, we could hear the slaps.) Just showin' Eu some love...

All in all, a lot of heart. Okay, well soon our roadtrip adventure will draw to a close, as we prepare for a Big East tourney matchup with South Florida. But not before Dave and I hit up Ohio's famous Camp Washington for the world's best chili. 

America: A Literal Treasure Trove

Well, many of you are probably wondering what Ben and I have been up to since Seton Hall's loss to Lou-al-ville Wednesday night (hi mom and dad!). Realizing that we still had two days in this glorious state of Kentucky before we head to Cincinnati, Ben and I jumped in our rented Chevy Aveo and did the only thing we knew how to do; we Hazarded.  Below is our own highlight reel of our last two days in Kentucky:

- After grabbing a quick morning brew at a local cafe, Ben and I decided to try and wind our way to Fort Knox in an effort to take some gold souvenirs back home.  Wondering why none of the people we met ever suggested we go to Fort Knox, we soon figured out why as 3 armed guards quickly descended upon our Aveo as we entered the post.  Seizing our camera, cardinal head and Gonzo bobble head doll, the guards continued to question us as to why two guys from Jersey would be wondering around Fort Knox. The only two words we could muster were: Seton Hall. 

- Although razzled, the Fort Knox disaster did not deter us and we quickly continued to Mammoth Cave, the longest cave system in the world.  Apparently there are other idiots like us and we even ran into a group of college students on spring break who were taking a road trip exploring caves throughout the midwest...who needs Cancun!?!?

- Starving after exploring the caves, we travelled off the beaten path a bit and ended up in Glendale, KY, population - 300.  You know you're somewhere special when the ice cream parlor doubles as the town's visitor center. 

- Now we all know a Seton Hall trip wouldnt be complete without some sort of gambling, so Ben and I naturally found ourselves at the Horshoe Casino Riverboat in Indiana. Wawa's number came up big for Ben, obviously still riding the high of the previous night's game. Dont worry Vince, the Ritz Casino was ten times better.

- We made a quick stop back to the hotel to freshen up before meeting up with Aimee, the hotel front desk worker who agreed to serve as our tour guide for the night. Riding in her Mitts-ubishi, top down, she took us to the entertainment district of Louisville. Good times were had by all.

- With today being our last day in Kentucky, we knew it had to be jam packed.  Starting the day off at the Louisville Slugger Museum was the only way we knew how to get started.

- Naturally, a trip to Kentucky wouldnt be complete without paying our respects to Daniel and Rebecca Boone in Frankfort. Little did we expect, but we also wound up in a State Senate hearing on energy conservation and the use natural resources. Lets just hope they heard our suggestions from the balcony.

- In a desperate attempt to relive our college years, we continued on to the University of Kentucky in a vain attempt to find the loves of our lives.  We found Rupp Arena instead, which was completely taken over by 605 UK college students who were participating in a 24 hour dance marathon fundraiser. Much to our dismay, Jodie Meeks was no where to be found. Disappointed, but not discouraged, we decided to give it one last go and wound up at a fraternity Beach Party at a local University of Louisville bar.  Unfortunately, I forgot my trunks.  

Well, that's basically what we've been up to. We'll have a report up tomorrow after our post game interview with a random security guard.             

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

We Made It!!

After waking up at 4 am this morning to catch the Newark airport monorail, we finally arrived at Dayton, OH, and then drove into Kentucky just in time for today's epic matchup with the Cardinals of Louisville. Still smarting from last season's upset, along with the salt in the wounds of our internet sensation YouTube video, Dave and I were prepared for a tough battle. We could have never expected this, however.

First of all, if you've never been to Kentucky, here are a couple things you should know.

1. Everyone is incredibly nice. During tonight's game, Dave and I were bedazzled in our blue Booster Club fleeces, amidst an entire sea of red. Still, the Louisville fans embraced us with open wings, inquiring about our journey not unlike when Greek heroes of yore recited tales from sea. We dined on beef dogs and ice cream... Talked country music... Simply incredible.

2. They LOVE their basketball down here. Freedom Hall was absolutely rocking tonight, including the Farm equipment exhibition warehouse that connects to it, and the fans showed tremendous love for their graduating players. Most remarkable was the pregame video of Louisville's seniors, which featured T-Will singing a tribute to Louisville a la Tom Cruise from Risky Business. 

Tomorrow, we've got a big day planned... We'll take a tour of the Louisville Slugger museum, visit a couple Whiskey distilleries, ogle the thousands of blonde girls, etc. It should be great!

But here's a quick couple thoughts from the game, that you might have missed watching the game on TV:

- From where we were sitting, we had a great view of the court, and it was clear that Walters was a man possessed tonight. After Pitino called a timeout, Walters actually stared him down and brought out his patented walrus-clap as an intimidating gesture. Classic!

- During every stoppage of play, there's a blimp in Freedom Hall that circulates the arena, dropping coupons redeemable for free chocolate milk. Suffice it to say, it makes game action feel like a let-down.

- Not sure if it was clear on TV, but the Louisville team was having a lot of fun tonight, really soaking in the moment, making extra (sometimes unnecessary) passes. We, on the other hand, just looked very tired.

- Early in the game, as Seton Hall was making shots, and got off to an early lead, you could very clearly hear Pitino turn to his bench and say, "Tonight is our pay back." It was clear he was referencing last year's Hazell crush-fest.

- After the game, T-Will addressed the crowd for about a half hour with some very moving sentiments. The highlight came when he thanked all the assistant coaches, including "Little Rick."

Well, phew... I'm exhausted. Thank you to all who have supported us thus far, helping us along this journey. Special thanks to HallDan and the SHU coaching staff who do everything possible to make us feel a part of this great team.

More updates tomorrow on our Kentuckian adventures!

Monday, March 2, 2009

My Love

Love and basketball - two peas in a pod that seem to go together even beyond its famed movie title. Just as Seton Hall is always trying to recruit the best players to join their team for the following season, I am also always trying to court the best local prospects in an attempt to join forces with them for my own future.

Upon sending a text message to my top recruit letting her know that I will be in Kentucky until Sunday, I received the following response:

"Oh my god I cant believe it's already Kentucky. You and Ben must be flipping out. I hope that hezel guys hits his threes and gets the foul call...And that sticks performs and that garcias legs stay strong. And who knows maybe Davis wont foul out in two minutes and actually grab a rebound or two. Go shu!"

What do you think? Does she pass the test? Sure, there were some typos, but who ever said love was perfect?

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Hall Loses to Pitt, Technically

We should have known.

As we waited outside the arena at 7:27, left in the freezing cold by security guards who seemed not to understand the enormity of the night ahead, it was clear this was not going to be easy. As expected, the ceremony for Paul was very nice, and the fans responded with a standing ovation.

By the end of the night, however, we couldn't help but scratch our mitts in confusion. How did we receive three technical fouls, all coming as a result of comments directed to one zebra? How was it possible for our own home court statistician to award 5 steals in the first half to Harvey, but only one to hero-de-noir Paul Gause, who is chasing Seton Hall's all-time theft record?

At one time, the game had looked tantalizingly within reach, but in an instant it became a blow-out. Sam "Forever" Young, with his age-worn visage and leathery mitts, threw down thunderous mid-range jumper after mid-range jumper, paying homage to our own former Pirate great, Brian Laing.

After the game, it was a different story. With everyone gathered in the Ice Lounge, clamoring for a spot near the SNY camera, the atmosphere was electric. Then the players showed up. Garcia and I chilled, discussing our forthcoming trip to KY. Dave and Pete hung out, reviewing calculus problem sets and exchanging Aeropostale coupons. Overall, it was a great opportunity to be with the guys.

So, yes, technically we lost. On three technical fouls.

But in another way, it was a victory. We went down fighting and kicking (and jawing) as usual, just as Paul would have liked.