Monday, April 4, 2011

The Agony of College Sports

Just in time for tonight's NCAA Final, guest blogger Sarah Peveler shares her witty observations on the life of a college sports fan. Welcome, Sarah!

I learned the agony of college sports at an early age. When I was in the fourth grade, daddy and I stretched out on the floor in front of the stereo and listen to Larry Munson, the voice of the Vanderbilt Commodores, call games from the road. The passion is genetic. Daddy’s father never met a sport he would not coach, umpire, and referee in northwestern Iowa. We loved the games and were always disappointed when Vandy played “smart boy” basketball. Even Vandy’s 1965 season with Clyde Lee and John Ed Miller fell short of expectations.

Diminished expectations are my college sports life. I wear with pride my Northwestern Rose Bowl sweatshirt every year, remembering four years of freezing in Dyche Stadium (and several of those were winning years with Mike Adamle!). We warmed up with post-game oven-baked beef stew and bad red wine to forget the chill of losing. I remember spending my courting days at Georgia Tech’s swimming pool as my to-be-husband breast-stroked to victories. Then came the 1968 Olympic Trials and, of course, he didn’t make the cut. More disappointments. (And, by the way, I’ve never forgiven Georgia Tech for leaving the SEC).

I live in eastern North Carolina where basketball is a passion only behind family, BBQ, and God. I have no dog in the Tobacco Road fights even with friends who are passionate Duke and Carolina partisans. I do remind my Duke alumni friends that Christian Laetner is the devil in my house and that of my brother (remember the Kentucky 1992 loss?). The intensity that North Carolinians bring to the game makes me happy even though I sit out these battles.

This season’s NCAA March Madness has been another lesson in frustration. I took Vanderbilt further than I should have before switching to Kentucky (my perennial strategy – never UT) but it was not to be and neither was Kentucky. For the last 10 or so years, I’ve done brackets with my Philadelphia friend, Sara Macro Forrest. One or the other of us has won every year to the point where no one will play with us. One year, a colleague, who is a former Catholic nun, selected only Catholic colleges and did better than most in the pool!

Reflections on this year’s NCAA tournament? Sara and I are tied in the brackets and will remain so – our brackets were toast early on. But what can you expect from two gals who are graduates of Emory University and Bryn Mawr College? Maybe we are just looking for a team to love. We do this every year with a pizza as the prize and maybe 2012 will give us teams for which we are passionate and will support our brackets. Butler and UConn? Who thought? Are there possibly three people in the nation with these picks? But that’s the glory of the NCAA tournament. And maybe Vanderbilt will make it to the Final Four next year. I can always hope, can’t I?

By the way, Sara and I are ready for baseball and the Phillies, one thing we can agree on. The sports seasons unfold to new games and agonies.

-- Sarah F. Peveler

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Where is Joakim?

Darn ... on the bench with an injured ankle for the third straight game. He said yes, coach said no. He'd like to go-go-go ... The Bulls need him tonight. They're off to a slow start against the Raptors. Derek Rose is just getting warmed up and Boozer seems to be the main guy on the court right now.

I love to watch Joakim Noah play. He is a tall lanky guy with a big cloud of curly hair in a top knot. A great big smile and legs that run on steam. A guy like this will overplay and then wonder why he's still hurting.

His father, Yannick Noah, played tennis for France with grace and style -- and lots of guts. A serious guy on the court. Joakim is cool, hip, a little gawky -- the kid from New York who just has to sink one more shot before dark. And maybe just one more ... Sure miss him tonight!!

Get better, Joakim. Please. Quick.