There is an old adage in sport writing - one that I've never really found to be true - that goes like this: The smaller the ball, the better the writing. Football writing, in this medium, lends itself to relentless self analyzing, an over abundance of mundane concepts, and a long, long off season during which there is very little to write about. Every week for 13 weeks you get 60 minutes of sample data, then it's over. You're left with 6 days worth of content to fill using only that data before you apply what you've learned to the next game, realize that you've learned nothing, and repeat the process. There are, however, shiny little moments where the writing escapes the structure of "football writing" and becomes something more. The authors of that old adage surely have never read this. Or this. Or this.
I have put more ink to paper regarding football than any other subject. It's odd, really, that this should be the case given that while in school I was always told that literature was a real subject, and that football was just a playground fantasy. Hell, I majored in that real subject, and yet, here we are, writing about playground fantasy. A bigger playground fantasy of mine, as a young kid growing up in Indiana, was to play basketball. Man alive, that's all I really wanted to do ("man alive" is another unfortunate aspect of growing up in Indiana). I had my parents install a light up above the garage that would shine well into the night on Fridays, illuminating five or six lanky 7th graders who wore their shorts low, just like Chris Webber and Jalen Rose. We would stay up until midnight playing basketball, eating Papa John's pizza, and drinking Mountain Dew. When the games ran out, we'd just sit on the cold cement of the driveway, idly rolling a ball to each other, and talk about school, cars, and girls we liked but wouldn't talk to. Then my friends would walk or ride their bikes home, and I'd be left alone sitting on that cool cement with just the ball, and the light above the garage, and the crickets. I'd imagine Bob Knight patrolling the edge of my driveway. I'd imagine Gene Kaedy getting all red-faced. In my head, they were yelling for me, or at me, depending on the situation. No matter what, I'd make that last shot to win it all. Then I too would go to bed.
It ends there, my basketball story. I never made the team. I took up swimming instead. I found out I was a much better swimmer than I was a basketball player, and it ended there in 7th grade on the cool cement on a day that I picture to be late July. However, a new basketball story is about to unfold before us. The 2009 NCAA season is officially upon us, and Michigan looks considerably better than they have in years past. For the first time in a long time, there is reason for optimism for this team. Manny Harris leads a squad coached by another West Virginia man with a penchant for turnarounds. There is a legitimate 7 footer on the roster (his health TBD...). There are some talented freshman who can bomb three's. There is a relatively weak Big Ten conference. There is a chance, however small, that this team could be playing in a tournament in March that has one more letter than N.I.T. It's the start of a season, and just like all starts, Michigan is undefeated. They put that on the line tonight against Northeastern.
I don't write about Basketball. I never have. I'm not sure that a basketball is technically smaller than a football, but I doubt my writing will follow the old adage. I apologize for this, but it is what it is. Football is something I love from afar. I've looked at it all my life, I've followed it most of my life, and I find it interesting as hell to try to decipher, but there was never anything outside of some neighborhood touch games that I've experienced as a participant. Basketball is something I love viscerally because it is a part of who I am. I will try to follow basketball as closely as I can this season, and I will write about this Michigan team the best way that I know how. I will undoubtedly, however, be groping along for some sort of guide rope as I do so. Please know, however, while I fumble around for the handle on Basketball writing that I love the sport, and am doing my best to put some of that into this Wolverine team.