Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Making Your Tuesday Better - First Of Many

The young man Making Your Tuesday Better this week is...Al Horford! Now, I was going to save him for a special occasion. But hey, the beginning of the tournament's this week - that's special, right? Therefore, in honor of it, here's Gator!Al.

Now, Al Horford is gorgeous. This is obvious.

I mean, the eyes, the lips, the bone structure...he's got it all.

Enough so that even pretty girls should probably not take pictures with him.

And he's, you know, okay from the neck down, too.

He has his flaws though! For one, he can look like an enormous fourth grader. (And we're going to leave the ears alone for now.)

It can be argued that the perception of his attractiveness is increased in relation to those he usually takes pictures with:

But now that he's gone to the NBA, it's clear that he can be hot with the best of them.

It was so sad when he and the other boys left. It was obvious how much they loved their team, UF, and each other. The press conference had its ups and downs:

Oh, God, Al. Me too. *tear*

Saturday, March 15, 2008

A Lion Born Lame, Held In Destiny's Hand

I find it hard to describe how much I love Sundiata Gaines. He's been, for years, one of the best players in the SEC - and one of the most underrated, within the conference and nationally. He's the "scrappy" kind of player that white people love, except that, oddly, he's not white. He's a great passer, not very athletic, and is hard-nosed, whatever that means - I think it means he fouls a lot. In fact, he may be the first player in tournament history to foul out of two games in one day, but we'll see. (Edit: Yep.) Apart from that, his biggest problem is that he plays for Georgia. And, frankly, Georgia is not all that good.

A common occurence, in Georgia games, is to see Sundiata drop a no-look, seemingly impossible, perfect pass to a teammate that has no idea what to do with it. The Bulldogs are just not very talented. It's probably a recruitment problem, but whatever the reason, they're not good. That's probably why Sundiata is so underrated; nobody pays attention to good players on bad teams, unless they're Michael Beasley. But in Sundiata's case, I think this deep run into the tournament - deepening as I type - may change that.

So, now that Florida's out and Tennessee got upset, I'm rooting for Georgia. Because, frankly, I dislike the rest of the SEC. I don't know why I like Tennessee and UGA, but despise Ole Miss, LSU, and Vanderbilt. (Well, no, I know why I hate Vanderbilt - they're a bunch of assholes, that's why.) I'm probably a bad fan in that way, that the teams I like after my favorite are my favorite's biggest rivals. I've liked Tennessee since the year before last, and watched them often. Bruce Pearl is a pimp and I like the way they wear their headbands. One of my favorite moments from last season was the UT/OSU game - watching Greg Oden guard Wayne Chism was like being witness to a humorous child molestation.

On a different note, one of the most interesting things about the postseason, I think, is the way minor players move themselves into the limelight. It happens at all stages of the game - Daniel Gibson, anyone? In this game, for example, Sundiata fouled out with more than seven minutes left in the game, and the other guard, Billy Humphrey, had to pick up the slack. I'm sure few people have ever heard of Billy Humphrey; I know I never have. But with UGA playing in the championship game as a six seed, and with Sundiata likely to foul his fouly self out foul again (foul) - kid's going to get national attention. I wonder why such things happen every year? It's a matter worthy of its own post. (That code for "I'm lazy".)

Did Vanderbilt get eliminated yet? I hope so. Jerks.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Through Variegated Lenses

I didn't come by my love of sports, and my particular love of basketball, in any regular way. I never played any sports - I'm tiny in all directions and unathletic. For that matter, so are most of my family; the last time a family member played organized sports was when my brother was in Little League, and my tallest relation is 5'8". Apart from football on Saturdays and sometimes Sundays - which I seldom paid attention to - my family didn't particularly watch sports, either. No, my love of sports didn't come from my family or my childhood, which is how I think most fans become fans. Rather than have it ingrained in me, it snuck up on me one afternoon and then never left.

One early spring day when I was about fifteen, I turned on the television and a game came on. I was bored. I watched. And pretty soon, I couldn't not watch. I couldn't turn away, even when my family came in and laughed at me; even though I didn't know the players and had probably never heard of at least one of the teams; even though I'd never watched a basketball game in my life. The game itself is what got me. I've posted before on how much, and vaguely why, I love it, so I won't do so now; I'll only say that the game well and truly grabbed me. So, I watched more games. I became more familiar with teams and players, I learned what the terms meant. And, since I didn't know any at my school and didn't know how to find and befriend them, I searched for other fans on the internets.

I found other girls online that were into sports, girls that were older than me, that were intelligent and excellent writers, and who knew a lot more about basketball than I did (or do). This was, in the interest of full disclosure, on livejournal - yes, I know, I'm a teenaged girl, I've had a livejournal since I was twelve. That kind of interaction influenced me in probably more ways than I can name. For one, I picked up their loyalties. My friend in Denver loved the Nuggets; I learned all about the Nuggets, about Eddie and Melo and JR and AI, from what she wrote. My friend in Phoenix loved the Suns; I couldn't help but see the light. My friend in Orlando loved Dwight; after reading her posts for a while, I did too. I got started on team loyalties that weren't my own, and progressed from there.

My closest of these friends, at UF by way of New York, could care less about professional basketball - she loves the Yankees, the Giants, and the Gators. But she writes for a paper (a published one! on paper!), and therefore has sports caché with me. (A real newspaper! She's only in college!) I followed the links on her page to, among others, Kissing Suzy Kolber. The first post I read was "Fuck It, I'm Throwing It Downfield"; that was my introduction to dedicated sports blogging. And, after following the link on KSK to FreeDarko, I thought: Oh my God. I have truly found my people.

In the midst of all this, I started watching the Gators play. Of course, my eye was first caught by the team's most hirsute player, but soon I fell in love with the team as a whole. And pretty soon after that, they won a national championship. And a year after that - a year I spent working concessions at the O'Dome and watching all the basketball I could - they won another. Now, this was the Gators. I was born in Gainesville. I've spent my life surrounded by people in orange and blue, and now the Gator team of my chosen favorite sport was making history. It was, needless to say, a pleasant way to get started as a basketball fan.

When I say I fell in love with the team, I mean it. I went to every game I could, and watched every other game from start to finish on television - I think I only missed one in the whole season between the first championship and the second. I not only rooted for them to win, I was afraid that they would lose. In the tournament, this became terror; I just knew they would throw away a game, and then it would all be over. But they were unstoppable - with five exceptions - and I knew that that was true, deep down. It still hurt me when they lost, and it still scared me when they played it close.

It hurt, to care that much. But after they won the second one, I relaxed; and after Corey, Taurean, Joakim and Al declared, and after C-Rich and Lee graduated, I promised myself I'd never care that much about a single team again. But that team, and that kind of team loyalty, were the foundations of my emotional attachment to basketball - and that kind of emotional attachment is an integral part of the way I view sports.

I don't, really, know that much about basketball. After all, it took me a year to even figure out what a pick and roll is. I will tell you now that I am not good at basketball analysis, and that there are many other bloggers and writers better at it than me. I've only been watching sports for a relatively short time, and my viewpoint is relatively limited. But that viewpoint is what makes me unique in what I write about: as a female, as an intellectually-inclined person, as a relative outsider, as a fan. After all, how many tiny, teenaged white girls do you know that write about basketball in a bi-equal split between contemplative philosophy and girlish squealing?

Please don't answer that.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Making Your Tuesday Better - Le Suisse, J'y Adore

This week's attractive young basketballer is...Thabo Sefolosha! Why? Why not?

The man known to some as "Swiss Mister" is actually one of my favorite players. I have a soft spot for skinny point-forwards (See: Barnes, Matt), and also for, well, pretty young men. Observe:

Maybe he should be the one played by the dude from Prison Break, eh, Barnes?

He was drafted at the same time as another attractive young man, Tyrus Thomas.

Photographer: Closer, I say!
Thabo: Uh...*shuffles* Like this?
Tyrus: grumblegrumblegrumble. *shuffles*
Thabo: How is-
Photographer: *click*
Tyrus: Gay.

Back to the topic at hand, Thabo is pretty.

I think the best part of being a Bull, for Thabo at least, has got to be the knowledge that he will always be the prettiest one there.

I mean, no offense to Tyrus, but he's got a bad case of the Gangsta-Face. Yeah, Tyrus. You're tough. We get it.

Tyrus: Man, I'm going to get Frenchy-cooties on me.
Thabo: Swedish-cooties.
Wait. Cooties?
Tyrus: Whatever.

Lest you think Thabo's only got it going in the face, voici:

Ohhhh-la-la, Thabo! J'approuve.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Thought Is Degraded Action

I first watched this Stanford team last year, in a game with Washington State. I was watching Washington State because I was in love with Derrick Low. I forget, now, why I first watched Wazzu - I think it was when they were playing Vanderbilt. Whatever reason, they quickly became one of my favorite teams. And, later, Stanford became another.

I like teams because of their players, mostly, with a few exceptions. I like Virginia Tech because of Deron Washington. I like Stanford because of the Lopez twins. And, at first, I liked Washington State because of Derrick Low. But then I watched them play, and became engrossed with the team as a whole. Kyle Weaver. Robbie Cowgill. Taylor Rochestie. Their coach, Tony Bennet. The little backup point that looks like Snoop from The Wire. Even big, foul-y Aron Baynes. My Gator Boys were still playing, so they weren't my favorite team, but they were close. And now that they're gone, Wazzu has taken their place, as my emotional favorite team, if not the one I'd always root for.

But I can't underplay how much I dig Stanford, either. I was taken with Brook and Robin - not what they looked like, or how they played, at least not at first, but by their very existence. Seven foot tall Puerto Rican twins with girls' names? How awesome is that? But then I realized that they, and Derrick Low, were being hyped all over the place. So I figured I might as well check out how they played. And, well, damn. They deserved the hype.

Right now, though, Washington State is playing Stanford, and Stanford just cut the lead from 13 to 2. They are, of course, doing so on the backs of Brook and Robin. As far as I can tell, Brook is the stronger of the two, basketball-wise. He has better numbers and plays more minutes. But if I were the coach of Stanford, I'd be really ugly. No, I mean, if I were the coach of Stanford, I'd play them at the same time as often as I could. And not just because I enjoy watching them play volleyball with the basketball - because with that much size, I see no reason why Stanford can't be at least a Sweet Sixteen team. If all you need is size and skill, then Stanford has it in spades, no matter what the rest of the team looks like. And the rest of the team looks pretty good.

On the flip side is Washington State. Wazzu is not a big team. They've got two big white guys, Baynes stiff and Cowgill not, and Kyle Weaver, who is not very big at all. Yet, with Derrick Low doing his best Steve Nash impression, they don't really need the size. What they need is to not be in the PAC-10, because this is some ACC shit right here. As I'm watching them lose, though, I think they also need more mental toughness. Because they missed ten straight field goals in the last seven minutes, and that's just pretty much reprehensible. All that Stanford did to win that game was to play.

And the Gators lost to Mississippi State. Is it tournament time yet?