Thursday, January 31, 2008

84-75... You Understand

As a wave of purple exuberance flooded the Bramlage Coliseum court on Wednesday night, I was not sure what was racing faster - my heart thanks to 40 minutes of standing, shouting, living, and dying (figuratively) with every foul, turnover, and basket; or my brain while attempting to comprehend just how perfect the night had been and how big of a victory the Wildcats' 84-75 win over the Kansas Jayhawks really was.

One day later, my heart has slowed to the point that I'm no longer feating cardiac arrythmia, but thoughts are still zipping through my head like Wildcat point guard Jacob Pullen breaking a Jayhawk press.

With my mind as crowded as the Bramlage floor seconds after the clock hit 0:00, truly illustrating my thoughts in written form would look something like this:

HolysmokestheCatsfinallybeattheHawksatBramlage.NotonlythatbuttheybeattheNo.2teaminthecountry. OntopofallthatK-StateisnowinsolepossessionoffirstplaceintheBig12.Sweetmercy.Hallelujah.

As you can see, following that writing strategy may not be the most effective way of conveying my thoughts. This process needs deep, serious thought... like an award acceptance speech. And, well, I have a feeling winning an award could not have me feeling much better than this win has left me feeling, so consider this my speech at the podium (... it's a figurative podium).


First, I'd like to thank Michael Beasley and Bill Walker. It's been a long, long time since the best player on the court in the Sunflower Showdown has donned purple... Wednesday night, the Wildcats had the top two players. They may both be freshmen, but the young bucketization specialists do not seem to know the meaning of the phrase "big game jitters," and combining for 47 points seems to illustrate that rather well. They simply play the game, and as Beasley says, they "play for keeps."
... Oh, and thanks for following through on Beasley's prediction. Beat KU in Manhattan - check. Now there's that game in Lawrence... and one in Africa if they're feeling salty.

I'd like to thank coach Frank Martin. Efforts like this should help people realize that he's got a few things going for him other than being a friend of Bob Huggins and a key to keeping Beasley and Walker after Huggins' departure. The offense-defense rotations of Walker-Kent and Young-Sutton were moves that paid off. The switches between man and zone defenses were obviously effective as well.
Also, when some coaches speak of taking one game at a time, it can seem like lip service, but something about Martin shows it's 100-percent genuine in his case. He's chasing a championship, which is a mindset that hasn't exactly been associated with K-State basketball for awhile.

I'd like to thank the aforementioned Pullen, along with fellow guards Clent Stewart and Blake Young. Prior to the 7 p.m. tipoff on Wednesday, popular (unanimous?) opinion seemed to be that the Wildcats' backcourt would be their downfall. After all, KU's backcourt was simply too talented for the Stewart-Pullen-Young trio (that's SPY for you acronym fans out there). Funny how little popular opinion matters once a game starts. Pullen, continuing his transformation from a high school kid learning the college game into a legitmate threat on a legitimate team, scored 20 points while shooting a perfect 10-10 from the foul stripe - including several clutch free throws as the game neared an end. He also showed off his ballhandling capabilities, proving too quick for the Jayhawk defense while breaking presses and finding lanes to the basket on a consistent basis. Stewart scored 11 points while continuing to serve as the model of quiet consistency, and Young tallied five assists and no turnovers against a KU perimeter defense touted as the best in the conference.

I'd like to thank the rest of the Wildcats:
- Dominique Sutton for a harrassing defensive effort. Matched up for much of the game against Brandon Rush, Sutton responded to a push into the starting lineup and forced two steals. He also came up with a huge play, streaking in from the weak side to swat a Jayhawk layup.
- Darren Kent for playing his role in outstanding fashion. Sure his shots didn't fall, but Kent stepped in when Walker got in foul trouble and held his own in the post defensively. Seeing Kent play a key role for a Top 25 team may not be something I ever expected, but I certainly don't mind being wrong.
- The rest of the bench for keeping the crew energized.

I'd like to thank my cellphone for having a digital camera (or at least a poor excuse for one) allowing me to snap the above picture.

I'd like to thank the Bramlage crowd. From the students that arrived the night before and hid in shrubbery to avoid security to the 60-year-old man sitting next to me that exhibited his excitement through the wonder of hogcalls (suuuuuuuuuuuuuuueeeeeeeeeeeeeeeey), the atmosphere was the best I'd ever experienced in organized basketball. Constant standing, continuous noise and clever signs all added to an environment that I will not soon forget. I'm pretty confident the top five loudest moments ever at Bramlage may have all occurred in this game (sorry, debut of Joe Leonard... you'll have to settle for 6th place). Even a held ball 30 seconds into the game elicited a gigantic roar.
Also, a big thanks goes to the student section for realizing that the "o-ver-rate-ed" chant is not a flattering one and avoiding it completely. It's never fun to admit, but KU is a very good team. Fortunately, a 5-0 in conference play K-State team is showing that they may deserve that label, as well.

In closing, I'd like to thank my family for raising me to be what every Kansas kid should be... a Wildcat.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Gladiators in Our Country, and other things

As many folks know, American Gladiators recently received new television life. Gladiators had been dead since 1996, but NBC did its best Dr. Frankenstein impersonation and gave the show new life. As one who enjoyed watching the show on Saturday mornings during its original run, I naturally miss the nostalgia of Larry Csonka providing commentary and “Two Scoops” Berry becoming grand champion (I realize only three people alive have any clue what I’m talking about by this point). Nevertheless, I put in some time watching the program on Monday night (the second episode of the new iteration I’ve witnessed) and noted a couple of my favorite (read: most ridiculous) elements of AG08.

And down on the floor with the next contestant… Hulk Hogan?

As anyone who has seen Mr. Terry Bollea (how many “cool points” does knowing a pro wrestler’s real name deduct?) compete in the squared-circle (no, I don’t know how that term makes any sense at all) knows, the man who once played Thunderlips in Rocky III is a “Real American.” (He fights for the rights of every man)

Unfortunately, being a real American doesn’t make you a good host/sideline reporter. While Hogan still delights Hulkamaniacs around the globe by sporting his trademark blonde handlebar mustache and bandanna atop his bald dome, his attempts at interviewing contestants sound so scripted that I think the striking Writer’s Guild may have a beef with the show. It’s fairly obvious that Bob Costas would not make much of a professional wrestler, so I’m not sure why the Hulkster would be expected to be a talented reporter.

Of course, Hulk’s misgivings as an announcer would all be forgiven if he would just end every interview by telling the contender to says his-or-her prayers and take his-or-her vitamins.

Ridiculous names and gimmicks for the gladiators

Despite the fact that these events are (apparently) legit competitions, American Gladiators took a page from the former World Wrestling Federation’s book by attaching names and gimmicks to some of the gladiators. Granted, there are no evil clowns or angry dentists, but some of the characters come off as nothing more than delightfully stupid.

The most absurd of all these characters is a man who calls himself “Wolf.” Wolf sports a mane of wild brown hair, an abundance of facial hair, and insists on howling before and after his events. His look and actions are almost animal-like. It’s like he’s trying to come of as some sort of … coyote, or something.

Runner-up for the most incongruous name goes a woman who looks like the long, lost member of the von Trapp family, and whose favorite things include weight sets and dumbbells instead of raindrops on roses. For Gladiators’ purposes, despite the fact that her actual name seems to have no Norse connections, this woman is known as Hellga… You read no typo. Not only is this woman apparently a warrior of the Viking variety, but she also is evil enough that the depths of the underworld are actually spelled out in her name.

In other news…

I recently came across this link, , which should be of great benefit to any potential (or current) parents out there. When in doubt, check the chart.

I have to think giving a State of the Union Address would be a huge confidence booster. Where else can you get ovations (often of the standing variety) after nearly every sentence you complete?

If you are viewing this via (sorry Facebook note readers, no luck for you) you may have noticed the new poll feature on the left side of the page. Take a look, vote (two votes at last tally… woohoo!), and let me know if you have any good ideas for poll questions in the future. I can always use the opinions of two different people for some good research.


Obviously, there’s a huge game taking place in Bramlage Coliseum on Wednesday night. It’s not often that K-State attempts to break a 24-home-game losing streak against its in-state rival in a contest that features the No. 2 and No. 22 teams in the country (hard to believe, I know). The Wildcats are playing much better than they have in years, but defeating Kansas will still take quite an effort.

Can the Wildcats win? Absolutely.

Despite what national reporters may say concerning their infatuations with the Eric Gordons and Derrick Roses of the world, Michael Beasley is the best freshman (and probably best player) in the country. Disagree? Check the stats. It’s hard to argue with the No. 4 scorer and leading rebounder in the nation. Add Bill Walker into the mix (averaging 17 ppg in conference play) and you’re looking at one of the best forward combinations in the nation. The rest of the crew might not be names that strike fear in the hearts of many, but they comprise a team that has improved as much as a Guitar Hero player who discovered he’s been holding the controller upside-down.

Will the Wildcats win? … I don’t exactly have the most accurate record when it comes to written predictions. Then again, I've never tried including a hidden prediction (probably available to those reading at only)...

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Let's Go Cats!

In case you are not aware, I exhibit some hermit-like tendencies. On a nice Saturday with nothing major to do, I've done exactly that - nothing major. Aside from a trip to a large chain store that may one day rule the world (hint: it rhymes with Ball-Cart), I've basically put a dent in my couch while watching college basketball. With K-State now opening Big 12 competition with a battle against the Oklahoma Sooners, there's even more hoops on the schedule.

My media coverage of D-1 basketball has been mostly limited to the women's game this season, and as a result I'm suffering a few symptoms of withdrawal when it comes to writing about the men's side. Therefore, I'm going to hit the highlights (or random points) of this game as I view it on my home theater (i.e., six-year-old TV).

Pregame- The starting lineups are shown, and Andre Gilbert remains in the starting lineup, despite the continual emergence of recent Wildcat addition Dominique Sutton. That's a situation that will probably change by the end of the month.

1st half
16:38- The Cats are up 10-9, thanks in part (we'll call it 50-percent) to five early points (five is 50-percent of 10... yes, I did go to a couple math contests as an elementary schooler) by Michael Beasley. Beasley is matching up against OU forward Blake Griffin, probably the second-best frosh in the conference, behind Beasley... Believe it or not, that storyline has already been mentioned a few times.

13:45- Shortly after checking in, Sutton scores his first two points of the game off a couple free throws to put the Cats up 15-12.

12:41- Luis Colon gets an offensive foul after throwing an elbow while posting up. If there was an event more likely to happen in this game than that one, I'm not sure what it would be.

9:50- The TV play-by-play announcer asks the rhetorical question "How good would (the Wildcats) be with (injured forward) David Hoskins?" Luckily, I've become accustomed to the "knife in the chest" feeling that has consistently followed this question the entire season.

9:10- OU's Longar Longar hits a pair of free throws to put the Sooners up 26-24. I get the feeling Dunder Mifflin's Michael Scott would have a hard time refraining from voicing his trademark, "That's what she said," saying if he were in Paul Splittorff's spot as the color announcer.

Minutes later - During a commercial break, I contemplate how entertaining an announcing team of Michael Scott and Dwight Schrute would be (Although it's not possible. They're fictional... and overqualified). Granted, the basketball IQ would be low, but I guarantee fans would learn a few facts about bears.

6:34- Beasley rebounds his own shot and scores, as the Sooners lead 30-29. What can I say, the kid is fun to watch. At least I'll probably have an NBA team to truly root for next year.

4:06- Beasley hits a baseline jumper to increase his point total to 13 and again pull the Wildcats within a point, 34-33... Meanwhile, I'm writing a letter to NBA commissioner David Stern petitioning the creation of a rule requiring college players to finish their eligibility at a school before being drafted.

2:14- K-State now leads 37-34, after six straight points by number 30. Finding the right balance between Beasley's scoring and the rest of the Wildcats will play a huge role in the conference season (sorry... that was my Madden-esque, obvious comment of the day).

1:02- Griffin zips right around Colon for an quick bucket... I shake my head.

Half- The Wildcats lead 42-40.
-- Flipping through channels at the half, I discover a news story about a man who wrecked his pickup. The story is obviously unfortunate, but it takes an interesting twist - He did not buckle himself into his seat belt, resulting in injury, but his 12-pack of beer was buckled in tight and secure in its seat ( ... I guess life is all about priorities.

2nd half

18:45- Bill Walker sinks a 3-pointer to put the Cats up 45-44.

18:02- Walker hits another 3-pointer. If this were NBA Jam, the announcer would have just said, "He's heating up."

17:09- Beasley eclipses the 20-point mark after point guard Clent Stewart follows the "when in doubt, get it to Beasley" rule... It's a good rule.

16:12- Sutton picks off a pass like a seasoned NFL cornerback and draws the foul at the opposite end. K-State is up 51-48 after Sutton converts one-of-two free throws.

14:44- Freshman point guard Jacob Pullen connects with Beasley for a perfectly orchestrated alley-oop. Seems like a good momentum builder.

12:51- Seems like I was wrong, as Oklahoma finishes a quick six-point run to lead 57-55.

Commercial break - Can someone please alert the cows of the world that they're consistently spelling "chicken" wrong? I know the idea of talking to cows may seem absurd, but if they know enough to compose sentences, surely they can understand us. It's not "chikin," you fools!

12:16- Walker converts an and-one situation, and the Wildcats are back up 58-57... and I'm not making anymore predictions tonight.

11:40- With half a minute left on the shot clock, Darren Kent lofts a 3-pointer from the left wing that does not find its intended destination. It's at this point that I directly channel the sentiments of every other Wildcat fan watching the game. "What the...?"

10:45- 62-60 Wildcats, after another Beasley jumper.

9:39- Walker converts another bucket-and-foul combo.

9:00- Walker drives around Griffin and throws down a huge two-handed slam... I'd like to thank the Wildcat coaching staff for realizing the match up problems that could be created by playing Walker at the four-spot with Beasley at the five. K-State leads 67-62.

6:26- Griffin throws down a slam to give the Sooners a one-point lead. Beasley follows at the other end with a quick shot from the short corner... It would be pretty fun to see these two match up for three more years... Ahh, dreams.

5:01- A Blake Young 3-pointer is followed by a Tony Crocker 3 for OU... 72-72, Hello shootout.

3:32- Beasley absorbs contact in the lane, scores a bucket and hits the ensuing free throw. 75-74, Wildcats.

Under 3 minutes - This is nerve-wracking.

2:01- Walker converts again when fouled in the lane, but this time the free throw won't drop... I think that means Walker should stick around for another season... please.

2:00- Thank goodness Griffin can't hit free throws. The kid keeps getting to the line, but he's struggling... Nevertheless, this seems to be another Big 12 freshman that is quite a player.

1:09- HUGE 3-pointer by Oklahoma-native Clent Stewart to put K-State up 82-78. Sticking the open treys that result from double-teams down low will be a big key for Stewart the rest of the season (Mr. Obvious makes his inevitable return).

0:24- A Griffin steal and dunk ties the game. Stewart's pass at the top of the key was a bit weak, and Griffin took full advantage.

Did I mention the wracked state of my nerves at this point? I had a press row seat for the K-State-OU game a few years ago when former-Sooner Drew Lavender went coast-to-coast and sank the Wildcats with a buzzer-beater. Such a memory is filed under "Good, Not."

I have a pretty good guess as to who would get the final shot... but that's just me.

0:00- A penetrating Pullen draws the defense in, and he finds an open (huh?) Beasley underneath the basket for the final deuce. OU's last-second heave misses the mark.

Hello victory. The Wildcats open Big 12 Conference play 1-0 with a road win. Such a victory could be pretty big for a K-State team that needs to get as many quality wins as it can in league play to increase its chances at the NCAA Tournament.

I also appreciate the fact that I didn't spend time during the game taking all these notes only to be frustrated with the result. Such would not be something I'd deem as an "enjoyable venture."

The basic formula the Cats used tonight (strong efforts from Beasley (32 points, 11 rebounds) and Walker (22 points)) will be essential to success in the Big 12, but the Wildcats will need to improve their effort on the glass (out-rebounded 30-26).

Overall, you're looking at a very encouraging win for K-State, and something good to build off with a match up against the no. 10 Texas A&M Aggies looming next Saturday... Something tells me you may read about this team in this space again.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Looking Back and Glancing Ahead

I apologize.

Apparently I misinterpreted this whole “Television Writers’ Strike.” It applies to individuals who get paid to write scripts, jokes, etc., for television shows… not people who write as a hobby about things they see on TV (this explains why my picketing in Manhattan, Kansas has been such a lonely affair). As a result, I’ve been slacking on updating this reservoir for carefully crafted written works (translation: blog). Because of this, the public (one person) has been in an uproar (slight sense of disapproval).

Well, the new year has arrived and with it comes a resolution: I will heed the demands (suggestions in passing) of the greater public (again, one person), and compose more exemplifications of self-expression via the written word (pointless, rambling things filled with inside jokes that may not entertain anyone but myself) than I have been.

How serious am I about this resolution? I’ve downgraded my Netflix account to one movie at-a-time in order to allow more opportunities to write (… pausing to allow situation-appropriate gasps and possible fainting spells…). That’s right, I’m sacrificing an opportunity to see feature films (some of which are distinctly putrid... right Pick of Destiny?) that will be around forever in order to hone my ability to concoct prose.

In effort to assist in the strenuous task of thinking of subjects to write about (a process that often consists of turning on the television (I’ve got sensitive thumbs)), I’m now also taking requests for topics. To start things off, I’ve conducted an in-depth study and discovered that my readership insists on a recap of 2007 and a look ahead at 2008 (the aforementioned “one person” suggested the idea, again in passing).

Without further ado, here’s 2007 in review (that’s right, 2008 Derek will not be constricted by a fear of rhyming; he’ll embrace it)…

January 2007-
On my 25-year journey to becoming the person I am on this very day, I entertained many ideas as to what profession I might one day pursue. Would I be a taxi driver? An archaeologist? A professional baseball player? The possibilities were endless. Possibilities never considered by young Derek were anything that involved frozen water (figure skater, ice hockey player, ice fisherman, Vanilla Ice backup dancer) and I showed why on a fateful (clumsy) January day.

Walking into work, a slip on the ice brought about one immediate thought. No, it wasn’t, “Ouch, my wrist.” As I scrambled back to my feet, the most pressing thought in my mind was, “Wow, I hope no one saw that.” Luckily for my short-term pride, no one did, but increasing discomfort in the scaphoid (fancy name for one of the bones in the wrist) near my right hand brought about worries and ultimately a trip to the doctor. With the ensuing x-rays, cast application, and weeks of attempting to live left-handed, the question that always remained was, “Oh, what happened?” Unfortunately, the answer was always “Well, I have the balance of a cross-eyed pirate who’s had too much rum, misplaced his wooden leg, and now must maneuver across a sopping poop deck.”

Stupid ice.

February 2007-
Please be patient while I channel my inner James Lipton (or a written knock-off of Will Ferrell’s impersonation)…

The entire world stopped and applauded as Eddie Murphy’s film Norbit hit theaters and declared box office supremacy. Norbit used a COMPLETELY ORIGINAL story element that involved a comedian dressing up as a very fat woman. The result: comedic gold.

March 2007-
The annual “This Is Why You Don’t Bet On Games/Take That, Derek’s Bracket” game happened in just the second round of the NCAA Tournament when USC topped freshman phenom Kevin Durant and crew. Seeing the final score of that game left me feeling like a depressed Ron Burgandy walking the sunny streets of San Diego with a carton of milk. “Texas was a bad choice.”

April 2007-
Diego Gasques won the 7th edition of Big Brother Brasil (thanks, Wikipedia)… Now you can’t say you didn’t learn anything.

May 2007-
I ended my residence at one of the most ramshackled excuses for an apartment that I’ve ever been witness to. In my time there, my ceiling leaked, bugs roamed as if it was their natural habitat, and my sidewalk and driveway were never scooped of their snow and ice once (please note: I’m normally capable of shoveling such snow, but there was the whole broken wrist issue). Despite all these issues and complaints, upon moving out I was penalized an outlandish amount of money for things like having dust on the blinds and not cleaning an oven that happened to be caked in preposterous amounts of char when I moved in.

In case you’re wondering, that landlord did not receive a Christmas card.

June 2007-
The Kansas City Royals put together their first winning month since 2003, while pitcher Brian Bannister won the American League Rookie of the Month award. You didn’t think I could write review piece without mentioning the Royals, did you?

July 2007-
It was hot… Apparently so hot that I couldn’t think.

August 2007-
The Kansas City Chiefs started preseason play and scored a total of 10 points against a Miami Dolphins team that would flirt with a 0-16 regular season record. Who says preseason games don’t tell you anything?

September 2007-
The world of professional football continued to turn against Derek Larson, as the Chiefs opened the season 0-2 (scoring 13 total points in the process) and all [number omitted in effort to maintain dignity] of his fantasy teams suffered from injuries, inept performances, or both.

October 2007-
Following suit, college football began its turn against me, as K-State dropped games to Kansas and Oklahoma State. Because the Orange Bowl is on the television in front of me as I write this, I refuse to discuss any further outcomes of the college football season.

November 2007-
Michael Beasley made his debut in what is destined to be an abbreviated collegiate career. The prospects of a 30-point, 20-rebound effort seemed like a supernatural effort to Wildcat fans the previous March, but Beasley accomplished the effort in his first regular season game… The phrase “special player” comes to mind.

December 2007-
Bringing events of the year full-circle, my nemesis, Ice, returned and this time attacked in full force. Ice blanketed much of the state, and put many folks without electricity for several days. I was only without power for seven hours, but I may have been developing Cabin Fever by the end of it.

Ice may have gotten the best of me in 2007, but 2008 will be different. In fact, I’m going to request that anyone reading this immediately run to the nearest freezer, remove some ice cubes and put them in the microwave for two minutes…. Now who’s laughing, Ice?

Aside from my all-out battle against the forces of all 14-known solid phases of water (again, Wikipedia… anyone can edit it, so you know it’s accurate), what else will 2008 bring?

The TV Writers’ strike will end when a network airs a new reality show called Who Needs Writers? on which random folks try to act in a television show without a script. The resulting clueless stares on the faces of the actors will seem funny at first, but will wear on viewers after the first 40 minutes without dialogue.

I will pick KU to lose within the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament (this receives the ‘DL Guarantee’).

The Kansas City Chiefs will use their top-10 draft pick on a defensive lineman that has size and plenty of “potential” but will never pan out and will be off the team in three years (please be wrong).

The Kansas City Royals will show marked improvement and will compete for third place in a strong American League Central division (the third time predicting this has to be a charm, right?).

My calls for the short lived TV series 3 South to return to television or at least be put on DVD will continue to be ignored.

A young actress/musician will be arrested for something drug/alcohol related and the media will treat it as if it’s an unprecedented situation (quite a stretch, I know).

I will struggle to think of ideas of things to write about and will need inspiration. Send me ideas.

Exciting, unforeseen events will occur, and great things will happen… Who do I look like, Miss Cleo?

And finally, the population of the public (one person) that demands so much of me (makes passing comments) will double by the end of the year… How’s that for positive thinking?