Silver Jews - "People"
CEDAR FALLS, Iowa -- Since 2004, I've gone through a lot of different bags, pens, cell phones, cameras, iPods and Moleskines. The only item that I currently carry around the country that came with me on trips four years ago is a taped-together copy of "Actual Air"
by poet and songwriter David Berman, a book of obtuse modern short verse that I open any time my writing gets too stagnant and repetitive.
Two days after I was fired, Mr. Berman announced
on a message board that he was leaving the music business and disbanding his group, the Silver Jews, to devote his life to the fight for justice. With the luxury of retrospect, I realize I took this news harder than any other last week, probably for the same reasons that a few of of you might have had if I completely disappeared. It's hard to come to grips with losing the opportunity to enjoy somebody's creative output, and in some cases it allows for reflection about the absurdity of talking about live people in the past tense. Our art will survive us, no question.
I remembered three years ago, the first time I put that gig out on the line. I skipped out on preparations for the Mid-Major Super Bowl
and drove up from D.C. to Baltimore to see the Silver Jews play at a small wall-hole
, one of the very first times in a decade that the band had broken its strict no-concerts policy. Berman hid behind a lectern the whole night, fumbling through a stack of his own lyrics and delivering them in a quavering voice -- just another reminder for me that writers don't need to be rock stars. Then I spent the next morning explaining why I hadn't covered practices.
David Berman never wrote a song about basketball.
Anyway. I've been meaning to keep you up to speed on preparations for the NCAA's third annual mock selection exercise, an event that was created in order to provide greater transparency into the Selection Weekend procedures. Twenty journalists will gather at the Hyatt Regency Indianapolis on February 12 and go through the exact same processes that the real decision-makers will in March. We even get special photo ID's.
If the past two years are any indication, many writers will post a story afterwards about how they've earned new respect for what the Selection Committee does. We hope to take this to the next level, and bring you inside the process from beginning to end right here on TMM. Nothing I've received has indicated that these procedures are private, and because the goal is to foster greater understanding among the people, I'm guessing this won't be a problem.
Two weeks ago, I received this note from David Worlock, the Associate Director of the Division I Men's Basketball Championship.
We trust that you are doing well and enjoying what is shaping up to be an exciting season. We look forward to you joining us for the mock selection exercise on February 12.
Your work will represent the discussions and balloting of your group. The session is on the record and provided for your background on how the process works and the accompanying pressures that come with the responsibility.
As a group, you will go through the entire selection, seeding and bracketing process. You and a fellow participant have been designated to act as one of the actual members of the Division I Men's Basketball Committee. For example, the chair of the committee, Mike Slive of the Southeastern Conference, will be represented jointly by current USBWA President Dick Jerardi and Steve Scheer of CBS Sports. Each "committee representative" duo is responsible to specifically be conversant on the conferences assigned to each committee member as indicated on the attachment. Obviously, each member must also be prepared to discuss and ultimately cast ballots based upon the entire Division I field. This preparation is crucial. We will be considering teams based upon performance through play on February 11, as if it represents the conclusion of regular season play.
Each duo will abide by the principles and procedures committee during the selection process, such as not being able to vote on or provide opinions for teams representing the institution or conference that the committee member represents.
Also attached, you will find an Excel document that we refer to as a composite ballot. Prior to your arrival in Indianapolis, you should consult with your partner in this exercise and complete this ballot. Please select no more than 34 teams you believe should be in the tournament as at-large nominees in the column marked "AL." Please select teams that should receive consideration for at-large berths in the column marked "C." You may select as many teams as you wish in the consideration column. Each duo should reach consensus on which teams are worthy of selection into the tournament and which teams should be brought up for discussion with the entire group for possible selection into the tournament.
The session will be Thursday, February 12 at the national office in Indianapolis. It will begin at 1:30 p.m. EST and will not end until very late that night.
You will be treated like committee members - same menu, same snacks, same access to watch games ongoing during the deliberation. And of course, we are going to work hard.
Please take good notes and provide us with feedback on how we can improve this exercise for future years.
Best wishes. We look forward to seeing you in Indianapolis next month.
Receiving this, of course, was very exciting. It was just like "Road Rules"
or something, where there's a letter waiting at the next rendezvous point about the next phase of the mission. Soon thereafter, I received my marching orders.
Each pairing, other than the Jerardi/Scheer duo, will be responsible for monitoring a few conferences, so you should come prepared to discuss teams in the leagues you represent.
The rest of the pairings, and the conference monitoring assignments, are as follows:
-Elton Alexander and Jeff Rabjohns, representing Laing Kennedy (AD at Kent St.). Big Sky, Big Ten, Horizon.
-Wally Hall and Kyle Whelliston, representing Lynn Hickey (AD at Texas-San Antonio). MEAC, SEC, Summit, Sun Belt.
-Jeff Goodman and Mike Kern, representing Dan Guerrero (AD at UCLA). Big West, Colonial, Conference USA.
-David Jones and Jerry Palm, representing Stan Morrison (AD at UC Riverside). MAAC, MVC, Southern, West Coast.
-Rob Washburn and Tim Gardner, representing Tom O'Connor (AD at George Mason). ACC, Big South, Ivy, Ohio Valley.
-Kirk Wessler and Seth Davis, representing Gene Smith (AD at Ohio St.). Big East, Patriot, Southland, SWAC.
-Gregg Doyel and Bob Wojnowski, representing Jeff Hathaway (AD at Connecticut). A-10, Mountain West, Northeast.
-Mark Snyder and Mike DeCourcy, representing Mike Bobinski (AD at Xavier). America East, Mid-American, Pac-10.
wanted to be Bobinski
For those of you who don't know, Wally Hall
is one of the most knowledgeable and respected voices in the Southeastern Conference, which is not quite on our side of the Red Line... and I will obviously defer 100 percent to his judgement on all things related to that. I'm sure he's familiar with the Belt, which is right there in his Arkansas territory with State and Little Rock. Hopefully, he'll be charmed with my MEAC stories, and I hope he understands if I refer to our other league as the "Badlands Conference." My tongue just slips like that sometimes. OK, all the time.
So that's where we stand now. At regular intervals over the next couple of weeks, I'll be posting full dossier monitors on the four conferences that we're responsible for, even though I might need help with that fourth one. And I trust you'll understand that this is business.Conference CallsColonial: Perhaps I should have dialed back the boxing references yesterday. The late stages of last night's G!O!T!N! battle for first between Northeastern and VCU was marked with an ugly shoving match that required a lengthy delay and a sideline Coach Chatâ„¢ to get things calmed down. In the end, Northeastern won the Litos Cup, 68-63, to move into a one-team tie for first at 9-1. But wow, did the Siegel Center look great on TV or what? All that aside, let's get down to brass tacks. Eric Maynor standing over Matt Janning bore more than a passing resemblance to this, but in context, it was just another example of recent VCU teams exhibiting premature jocularity. They'd spent the night putting up ridiculous shots and trying to replicate a Davidson boxscore (Maynor: 10-for-26), and this is a program that went 2-2 after cutting down the nets for winning the 2008 regular season championship. Killer instinct: WANT. (Psst... Mason won big against Delaware, they're 8-2 and tied with the Rams.)
Bizarro Valley: I spent a week out here earlier this season, but last night was my first taste of the new, random MVC. Creighton (6-4 Valley), the preseason consensus favorites, let Indiana State, with four overall wins, hang around for 30 minutes before spouting a spurt that put them away. All I could think about during the entire game was how the preseason consensus favorites were letting a team with four overall wins hang around for 30 minutes. None of this makes any sense, so I'm going to flip coins for the rest of the season and see how that goes as a predictor. Tonight's Illinois State-Northern Iowa tilt, eliminated from G!O!T!N! consideration because of my attendance, goes to ISU on account of "tails." Two games at Bradley and Southern Illinois are likely going to be snowed out, so the magic coin says
Evansville will beat Drake in tonight's other game. (EDIT: Bradley's on, Aces-Dogs on tomorrow at 4 p.m.. That is, if Evansville makes its 15-hour bus ride west.)
Big South: Only one game in the BSC last night, as resurgent Liberty (6-4) beat league low point High Point (1-9) by 15 at home. VMI is still flying high, averaging 94 points in its conference games and leading the conference at 8-1 -- the Keydets will step out of the league (and Division I) to snack on Southern Virginia tomorrow. Radford is a game behind at 7-2, although the Highlanders lost at home to VMI last week. If you have a TiVo that allows super-future scheduling, your last opportunity to catch Duggar Baucom's bunch will be Feb. 21, when the current top two square off on MASN.
U'useless Stat of the Day
Speaking of that Liberty-High Point game, freshman guard Seth Curry (who has a famous brother, you know) reached a milestone. In his 22nd game as a Flame, he earned his first double-double: 18 points and 10 rebounds. He stands 6-3, but that is what is generally referred to as a "big boy" dub-squared. And he now has just one fewer of those than this guy.
Stephen's first collegiate double-double was on Dec. 18, 2006 at Chattanooga, a 30-point, 11-rebound effort that inspired his first national website piece to be written. His second came at home against Georgia Southern early in his sophomore year, when Flash scored 24 and grabbed 10 rebounds. This year, he's collected three of the guard's variety, the kind with points and assists.
It's unlikely that Seth will ever scale the heights of notoriety that Stephen has, even though national TV crews regularly descending on Lynchburg, Va. would be fun and fantastic. We maintain that Curry the younger's legacy will match that of Eddie Bird -- immensely talented, and eventually content in civilian life, knowing that any rec league he joins will force him to play with a hand tied behind his back. But it's still kinda cool that they're both shooting exactly 38.5 percent from 3 this year. Those have got to be some intense HORSE games in the driveway.