I'm given to hyperbole less than anyone in the world, so I can say that the two NCAA semifinal basketball games on Saturday were among the greatest events in the history of the world. In case you happened to miss my column the other day, I should tell you that I, the fledgling sportswriter, was there to see it all.
One of the strangest things I noticed as I was walking into the Alamodome was that there was a Saturn blimp hovering above. I know it's common for a blimp with a camera to cover a sports event, but the Alamodome is a closed dome arena. What was the blimp covering? The action in the parking lot?
As was probably reported elsewhere, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets won the first game by two points in the last second. One of the most interesting things about that game was that the disappointed Oklahoma State fans did not leave the arena right after it was over. Instead, they stayed to watch the next game. That's what college sports are like. Can you imagine fans of a professional sport doing that? L.A. Lakers fans leave the Staples Center early even if the game is tied. I don't think they'd hang around to watch another game if their beloved team just dropped a big one.
The interesting thing about the Duke-UConn game was that it looked like University of Connecticut coach, Jim Calhoun, had made a serious mistake by benching his star, Emeka Okafor when the center picked up his second foul after only four minutes. He kept Okafor on the bench for the rest of the half even though Duke took the lead. In the second half, Okafor, against a weary and foul-heavy Duke, took over and almost single-handedly defeated Duke—by one point in the last seconds. Obviously, Coach Calhoun's strategy had been brilliant. There's a reason that big-time college coaches get paid more than a college's Nobel Prize winning professors. I'm not saying it's a good reason, but it is a reason.
Sunday was a day off for the teams and for us sports writers. In the middle of the day, I noticed the message light on my hotel room phone was lit. When I called the operator, she told me I was being invited to a breakfast Monday morning. She said it was an awards breakfast being given by the United States Basketball Writers Association. I couldn't believe it. I had only been a sportswriter for two days, I had written only and they were giving me an award? What a business! What a country! By next year, if I work really hard, maybe I'll be up for Sports Writer of the Year, and then ... okay, I admit it -- I didn't really think I was going to get an award. But a week ago, nobody would've invited me to a Basketball Writers breakfast, and now they were. That's award enough. Not to mention, the free breakfast.
As for tonight's game, I can't tell you who's going to win. But I can tell you to look for certain things in terms of sports writing and broadcasting. As a reader, I've noticed that the bigger the game, the writing becomes simultaneously sillier and more grandiose. Some maven might mention how appropriate it is that the game is on the first night of Passover, the first Seder, the setting for the Last Supper. Expect to hear the word, "Passion." Look for some expert to talk about someone leading his teammates to the "promised land." If either team had a player named Moses, I could guarantee it. With Isma'il Muhammud, it's a stretch.
I promise you'll be hearing or reading things like, "Georgia Has A Peach Of A Game," "Yellow Jackets Sting Huskies," "Connecticut Yankees Burn Georgia," or "Huskies Make Mush Out Of Georgia Tech." If any key Yellow Jacket gets kicked out of the game, you might see, "Georgia Techs Out."
In terms of fooling around with players' names, Georgia Tech might have the edge beginning with their star, Jarrett Jack -- "Jarrett Knows Jack About Basketball." And then there's "Where There's A Will (Bynum), There's A Way," and "The Force Was With Luke (Schenscher). Connecticut's tempting pun is a reach: "Emeka is the Big Oak For UConn."
Of course, I won't be using any ridiculous comparisons or puns in my story about tonight's game. If I did, I'd run the risk of my sports writing career ending faster than a Britney Spears marriage, and it would probably be followed by the headline: "Readers Pass Over Garver's Sports Writing."
Lloyd Garver has written for many television shows, ranging from "Sesame Street" to "Family Ties" to "Frasier." He has also read many books, some of them in hardcover.
By Lloyd Garver
Copyright 2004 CBS. All rights reserved.