Note: Chuck Klosterman is in Atlanta covering the Final Four for Page 2. Check back all weekend for more updates.
LAST UPDATED: 10:27 p.m.
SATURDAY'S ENTRIES: 12:10 p.m. entry | 5:54 p.m. entry | 6:41 p.m. entry | 7:31 p.m. entry | 7:41 p.m. entry | 7:49 p.m. entry | 7:51 p.m. entry | 7:54 p.m. entry | 7:55 p.m. entry | 8:04 p.m. entry | 8:36 p.m. entry | 9:01 p.m. entry | 9:03 p.m. entry | 9:30 p.m. entry | 9:42 p.m. entry | 10:05 p.m. entry | 10:27 p.m. entry
THURSDAY: Final Four prep
Saturday, 12:10 p.m.
ATLANTA -- There is a non-broadcast TV channel in my hotel room that shows nothing but still images from previous Final Four championships. There is no audio and no video: it's just still photos of Jordan's jumper against the Hoyas, Patrick Ewing hugging John Thompson Jr., Pervis Ellison, Keith Smart, etc. Many of the images feature dudes cutting down the nets at the games' conclusions. As such, I am curious: Is it normal to cut down the net from a Nerf Hoop after winning a one-on-one game that takes place in a kitchen? My friend Jordan Woodbury did this after he beat me in 1985. It was devastating.
Until I was 12, I never owned a Nerf Hoop; I had to construct my own from the lid off an ice cream pail. Every time I dunked on it, the rim would bend down and I'd have to lean off an adjacent staircase to fix it. When I was in fifth grade, I fell while trying to rehang the rack and plummeted seven feet, headfirst, onto the concrete floor of our basement. The fall broke my ulna and my radius (and this was a Theismann-like compound fracture, so blood was everywhere). My farm was 30 miles from a hospital; that ensuing emergency drive was (ahem) "below average." But here's the worst part: My mom had made me wear a turtleneck on that particular afternoon, and the doctors had to cut it off with a scissors in order to set the fractures. The cutting of this fabric required the nurses to twist my arm 90 degrees, which hurt more than any experience I've ever had (before or since). I have never forgotten this feeling. It seemed like my arm was on fire, but from the inside. As a consequence, I still cannot wear turtlenecks; in fact, just seeing a turtleneck in public makes me nauseous. And this is ironic, because -- as we all know -- nothing makes a voluptuous woman look sexier than a tight, black turtleneck. Decades later, this internal paradox continues to haunt me: Every time I see an attractive woman in a turtleneck sweater, I am not sure if I want to have sex with her or vomit.
This is how I live my life.
ANYWAY, things are pretty slow this morning. It looks like a lot of the people in the hotel are hungover. I briefly attended a party last night where the guest list included Bob Ryan. He talks with his "TV Voice" all the time. (I suppose that might mean he doesn't have one.) I later watched Kobe Bryant score 53 while losing to the Rockets; at this point, I would classify the difference between Kobe and MJ as "negligible." This afternoon, I am meeting with a friend of mine from college who purchased tickets off Craigslist for tonight's two semifinal games; they cost him $350, which doesn't seem wholly unreasonable. This friend is named J.J. and remains best known for throwing televisions out of windows whenever Georgetown loses key tournament games (he actually has done this twice in his life, which I find astonishing).
A few e-mail notes from readers:
1.) Apparently, I am the only man in America who did not know that John Feinstein and John Thompson Jr. are sworn enemies. How did I miss this?
2.) This from a 64-year-old man: "I did to my son what your dad did to you, as far as hoops is concerned. It worked. He chose to attend UCLA rather than Cal because Tracy Murray was on the Bruins' basketball team. Makes sense, right?"
3.) From an Ohio State student: "Contrary to your recent article regarding the 'strange' academics of this school, The Ohio State University is one of the highest ranked schools in the nation. We are in the top 25 of public schools, and rank 9th in our Research foundation. Also, FYI, not every student participates in burning couches. In fact, I think only three students were involved in that after the 2005 Texas game." That's awesome, chancellor.
4.) Sadly, Mr. John Wooden will not be attending this weekend's festivities. "I read it in the LA Times," said a reader. "He was quoted as saying that -- at his age -- he does not do airports."
5.) "Can I please interview you about the amount of colons you use in your books?" asks someone named Brad Spieser. How exhilarating such an interview would be!
6.) "I have been thinking about writing a dissertation or book comparing heavy metal and Islam. Although not a Muslim nor a die-hard metalhead, I believe both are misunderstood and have been unfairly chastised due to the violent messages of those on the fringes. For example, I think you could honestly compare Ozzy Osbourne to Mohammad in that perceptions of both have been twisted by mainstream, non-understanding establishments focused more on the negative (Ozzy's famed "Suicide Solution" and the Quran's call for Jihad) than on generally positive or life-affirming messages. Also applicable is the comparison of extremism: namely comparing the fundamentalism of Wahhabism (Bin Laden's branch) to the musical-driven terrorism of Norwegian Death Metal."
7.) This is the conclusion of an e-mail from someone who was in a band called Stolen Cheesewheel, recounting a brush with fame during the 1990s: " I did not kill Jeff Buckley. But the funny thing is that there are people in Memphis who believe [my friend and] I chased him from the bar and threw him in the river. We were, in fact, confronted several times for just that. I just thought you seemed like someone who would be interested in an anecdote concerning the end of a talent."
Indeed I am.
Saturday, 5:54 p.m.
In the evening's first major upset, the media buffet at the Georgia Dome features lasagna. This was quite extravagant and unexpected, as TV commercials from the 1990s generally suggested that journalists could live off Snickers bars. Upon further review, the caterers probably should have saved the lasagna for Monday, just in case Garfield is now employed by the sports desk of the Omaha World Herald.
I'm a little nervous about blogging during these two games, simply because the WiFi in this building is slower than Craig Ehlo, and I'm unsure if my transmission will even get as far as Athens, Ga. Right now, it's 18 minutes before game time. Tensions are running semi-high. I am sitting at courtside. I kind of can't believe this has happened to me.
Unlike the Super Bowl, the Final Four feels much more like a conventional sporting event. At the moment, the stands are maybe 60 percent full (primarily filled with people dressed in red). The Georgetown contingent is comparatively small, although they supposedly bring their own seven-foot Easter Bunny. OSU's band performed the national anthem. The Hoya players seemed more "respectful" (or whatever) than the Buckeyes, except (of course) for Greg Oden: Oden did not move one muscle during the entire song. I suspect that dude spends 45 minutes a day looking at a photo of Medusa.
Ohio State is not shooting very well during pregame warm-ups; I doubt if this has any real significance. Meanwhile, the OSU cheerleaders seem to be taking a lot of tactical gambles with their sideline pyramids. Bones may shatter; comas may ensue.
OK ... 10 minutes before game time. I will try to write more when something actually happens.
Saturday, 6:41 p.m. (Nine minutes into the first game)
The moment Oden was charged with his second foul, I anticipated a palpable shift in emotion. I thought there would be a wave of confidence that would pass through the Georgetown bench. This, however, did not seem to happen. JT3 immediately implored the Hoyas to go down low, but the tenor of the game barely changed. I think the bigger issue will be how this impacts Oden, because he suddenly looks more distant and detached on the bench.
Quick sidebar: Even as I write this, I'm still not sure what purpose this live blog is supposed to serve. Is it for the people actively watching these games? No, because they don't need it. Is it for people who can't watch the event (but do have access to a computer)? Sometimes, but not really; live blogs tends to react to the things they cover, but they generally don't report what's happening in any meaningful way. Is it for people who see the event live and then want to re-experience it at a later date, perhaps to compare someone else's reality to their own? I suppose, although that seems like a very weird brand of nostalgia for the extremely recent past.
Saturday, 7:31 p.m. (12-minute mark of the second half)
I am no longer seated at courtside (long story). Instead, I am sitting in the press box of the upper deck, approximately 8,000 feet from center court, chatting with a Japanese man who writes for an Asian publication called Gekkan Basketball. Somehow, this situation is actually better: The flow of game is more lucid. It was exciting to be so close to the action (particularly since I was seated in front of Ohio State and Celtics legend John Havlicek), but it almost became difficult to follow. The ragged nature of the offensive exchanges (in this game in particular) was almost disorienting. I feel pretty stupid admitting this, but sometimes I fear that I can only contextualize things when they look like television.
Saturday, 7:41 p.m. (7:24 remaining)
OSU up six ... the pace of this game is really starting to favor the Buckeyes. Georgetown needs to pull out the rock and take things in a Princeton direction. Meanwhile, I just got an e-mail from someone who suggests we all start referring to Roy Hibbert as "Dr. Hibbert." This makes all too much sense.
Saturday, 7:49 p.m. (6:37 remaining)
WHAT DID GREG ODEN JUST ATTEMPT TO DO? SOMEONE IS GOING TO END UP IN THE BONE YARD.
Also ... that was a terrible call.
Saturday, 7:51 p.m. (4:16 remaining)
Dr. Hibbert is starting to look like a future multi-millionaire.
Saturday, 7:54 p.m. (2:36 remaining)
Bucks up by four. I don't see how OSU can lose this game if they go directly at Dr. Hibbert, who has four fouls. That said, Georgetown has more dignified cheerleaders than OSU. This reflects well on America's oldest Catholic university; I bet the Pope is pulling for the Hoyas.
Saturday, 7:55 p.m. (1:41 remaining)
Lighty = clutch
Saturday, 8:04 p.m. (3.7 remaining)
This is over. I will say this for the Hoyas, though -- they do not get nervous. If they bring everybody back, I can't see anyone beating these dudes next year, except maybe Carolina.
Final score: Ohio State 67, Georgetown 60
Saturday, 8:36 p.m. (in-between games)
The Gator band was just playing their rendition of Tom Petty's "American Girl," a song about a girl who either jumped or fell out of a dorm room window at the University of Florida. At least I think it was the Gator band; from this distance, it's entirely possible that it was actually performed by UCLA's band, which would constitute some of the most creative taunting in recent memory.
The general consensus among the media types in the building is that the first game (sort of) sucked. I think they had all been hoping the Hibbert-Oden matchup would take on the atmosphere of the storied Pat Ewing-Ralph Sampson regular season matchup on ABC from 1982 (a game that was hyped by Sports Illustrated through the magic of water-color illustrations). However, I think that game (sort of) sucked, too. I suppose nothing is ever as good as we want it to be, except for maybe prescription drugs and Dairy Queen.
Saturday, 9:01 p.m. (first TV timeout)
Weird start to this game. The Gators want to trap, but they haven't been scoring enough to set up their full-court D. Still, I like the idea of using [Joakim] Noah at the top of the press; he seems pretty comfortable there. UCLA rotates extremely well when it jump traps in the half-court set. This is going to be a low-scoring game. In other news, I find it mildly ironic that the Bruins have the most dominant basketball program in American history, yet some of the least intimidating team colors known to man.
Never trust the media, says the media.
Saturday, 9:30 p.m. (5:44 remaining in the first half)
Here is why the Internet blows my cerebral cortex into 3.1416 pieces ...
I admit that I am obsessed with the results of the NCAA basketball tournament and the more I analyze it, the more I realize how corrupt it is, and yet I cannot turn away .... the commercial breaks come ridiculously too often and when not in the stadium, one vaguely realizes or appreciates what an impact these commercial breaks have on the game. McCluhan's medium is the message rings so true. My mind has been trained to look at "time outs" as some sort of precious and valuable aspect of a basketball game ... and thus the coaches' use of them has to be tactical and poignant ... yet at the same time I don't take into account that every time there is a commercial, the players are taking yet another timeout. I suppose basketball, like football, has become such a commercialized, money-ridden sport in the USA. As I have been in Europe for the past two years, soccer nor rugby has commercial breaks, which is probably why "club" uniforms are emblazoned with corporate logos ... beyond the commercials and the field itself, what can "the man" do to be seen? Brand the players themselves. The players in televised U.S. sports don't seem so "tagged" themselves, but the pace of their game revolves around the pace of the broadcast. In Europe, the only commercials you get are at halftime ... So I am obsessed with this tournament in part because I was in math class with half of the players on the present Florida basketball team (when I was at UF approaching my sixth year or so of undergrad), and these guys were highly entertaining ... I did not know who they were at the time, but their energy (their good vibes or whatever) drew me to that class every day. That and I found it highly entertaining to watch the teacher teaching math via basketball metaphors. And something about seeing them in this tournament takes me back on that short thread, to this moment that now seems like a psychological lifetime ago (two years in France will drain your very soul and crush your very dreams, I assure you). So here I am in Paris at 2 in the morning.
I agree with your father.
p.s. Have you ever listened to Yannick Noah's music?"
THIS JUST HAPPENED.
Saturday, 9:42 p.m. (halftime of the nightcap)
I like the Bruins' style, and Josh Shipp is pretty much keeping them in this game by himself. But Florida fights through picks the way hyenas tear apart wildebeest carcasses. UCLA will not score enough to win this game.
Saturday, 10:05 p.m. (19:57 on the clock)
I'm sure the TV guys pounded this fact to death, but isn't it strange that Florida took a six-point lead into halftime, even though they committed 10 turnovers and UCLA only had one?
Saturday, 10:27 p.m. (and on the verge of the blowout)
Al Horford just dunked on somebody, or perhaps everybody. Noah just pumped his fist like Linda Hamilton at the end of "T2," and somebody I've never met just told me that he thinks it would be cool if everyone started referring to Arron Afflalo as "Afflalo Creed." Lee Humphrey is now driving on people, seemingly at will. It looks like this game is history. The dulcet sounds of my fingertips striking this keyboard are making me despondent. Unless the nature of the world radically changes over the next few minutes, this is probably my last post of the evening. Tune in tomorrow, when I will write even less and possibly discuss "The McLaughlin Group." BYE BYE.
Chuck Klosterman is the author of "Fargo Rock City," the essay collection "Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs," "Killing Yourself to Live: 85 Percent of a True Story" and the anthology "Chuck Klosterman IV: A Decade of Curious People and Dangerous Ideas." He can (sometimes) be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org