"A DAY MAY COME WHEN CAPS LOCK FAILS, WHEN WE FORSAKE OUR SHIFT KEY AND BREAK ALL BONDS OF CAPITALIZATION. BUT IT IS NOT THIS DAY! #ALLCAPSDAY" -- me, paraphrasing Aragorn
Of all the Mid-Majority traditions, the #ALLCAPSGAME might be my favorite. That's probably because the first annual #ACG is what drew me back into the TMM fold and ultimately led to mid-major basketball in Colorado becoming arguably my primary hobby outside of work and family. IT ALL HAPPENED BECAUSE OF CAPITALIZATION.
Well, sort of. I was a regular TMM reader in the early days, discovering the site in February 2005 during the first 100 Games Project and jumping enthusiastically on the four-mid-majors-to-the-Sweet-16 bandwagon that year. Kyle became a reader of mine too, back when I had a more heavily trafficked and regularly updated general blog. Indeed, my hurricane-related 15 minutes of fame occurred between TMM Seasons 1 and 2, just around the time Kyle was hired as an ESPN regular. Kyle and I met at Hinkle, glorious Hinkle, during Season 3 on BracketBuster Saturday 2007. (He was wearing the Just Ballz tie.)
But then I graduated from law school, had kids, became a lawyer, got a job, quit and restarted and quit and restarted my blog (I was -- if you'll forgive the vulgar reference -- the Brett Favre of blogging for a while), and generally allowed my A.D.D.-ish impulses to drag me away from TMM and toward the newest and shiniest sites and hobbies. I checked in on TMM occasionally but ceased being a "regular."
Until Jan. 18, 2010.
I just happened be on Twitter that evening, when Kyle started tweeting about UIC vs. Loyola in ALL CAPS. I was instantly hooked. The sheer goofiness of it appealed immensely to the chaotic, anarchic side of my sense of humor. The number of people retweeting and commenting on it alerted me, really for the first time, to the vibrant TMM community that had sprung up on Twitter. National Pixelvision Day followed soon after, I discovered the chat blocks, and before I knew it, I myself had become a part of that community. TMM became an absolute must-read during Butler's (first!) run to the national title game, a story that took on a much deeper significance if one knew the backstory of The Mid-Majority, the Butler Bulldogs, Sports Bubble Stadium and Fate. Those 2 1/2 months were a whirlwind, and when it was all over, I became a member of the site for the first time, the proud owner of one -- then two -- BALLZ (another ALL CAPS word, by the way), a credentialed blogger at Denver and later Northern Colorado, and all-around obsessive about local mid-major hoops. There are many reasons for this, but it all started with ALL CAPS.
So you can understand why I wanted to do my part to make sure the #ALLCAPSGAME tradition continued, or even expanded, during this first season of the Permanent Sabbatical. That's why I started the thread in Bally Club, proposing -- in the spirit of 800 Games Project crowdsourcing -- an entire, daylong #ALLCAPSDAY to which everyone attending (or watching) a mid-major game could contribute. I was thrilled when Kyle and the rest of the community bought in. When we decided on Feb. 11 as the date, I promptly got in touch with Northern Colorado's SID and ensured that I would have a spot on press row for UNC's game against Montana State that day. I hadn't been up to Greeley since March except for the Bears' game against "my" team, Denver, but I'd been meaning to go. A game on #ALLCAPSDAY was a can't-miss opportunity.
By the time Friday night, aka #ALLCAPSEVE, rolled around, I was already irrationally excited for the following day. I set up the #ALLCAPSDAY live blog -- er, excuse me, LIVE BLOG -- located at HTTP://BIT.LY/ALLCAPSLIVE and started posting a variety of goofy tweets and twitpics.
On Saturday morning, before I could leave for Greeley, I had daddy duties to attend to -- namely, my middle daughter's under-3 soccer "class." Naturally, this called for SOCCER TWEETS IN ALL CAPS. (In those tweets, I initially referred to my 2 1/2-year-old daughter as being 3 years old, so distracted was I by all the EXCITEMENT.) Interestingly, although I didn't realize this until just now, I had also tweeted in ALL CAPS from youth soccer -- my oldest daughter's under-4 class -- on the morning of last year's ALL CAPS GAME. Apparently, YOUTH SOCCER IS VERY IMPORTANT.
After soccer, it was time to hit the road for Greeley, leaving my wonderful wife to a few hours of solo parenting while I watched basketball on a second consecutive Saturday. (She's a saint. A SAINT.)
A few miles south of Greeley, and just over 10 minutes before the scheduled tip-off, I stopped for horchata at Mariscos Y Tacos El Tapatio. I knew this stop might make me a few minutes late to the game, but I couldn't possibly skip out on #horchata4mids on ALL CAPS DAY.
(For those keeping score at home, it was better than the horchata I got at Tacos Rapidos in Greeley before the Big Sky title game last year and way better than the stuff I got at Taco Mex before UConn-Butler last year, the low quality of which was probably responsible for the Bulldogs' loss. However, the horchata I had at Las Delicias in Denver on Sunday is the best I've tried yet.)
The horchata, combined with a wrong turn when I got to Greeley, did make me ever-so-slightly late. When I walked into Butler-Hancock Sports Pavilion -- with horchata in hand, in violation of policy -- and got my first glimpse of the scoreboard, the clock read 19:43. The score was 0-0.
I took my seat on press row ...
... and settled in for a what was, ALL CAPS theatrics aside, a critical game for Northern Colorado's efforts to avoid missing the Big Sky tournament altogether. Only the top six of the conference's nine teams make the tourney, and UNC entered the game on the outside looking in, tied for seventh place, two games in the loss column behind a cluster of teams in the 3rd-6th spots. With everyone having four or five games left, there were too many scenarios to game out, but the bottom line was pretty simple: After six losses in their previous seven games, the Bears desperately needed a win over Bobcats or it would effectively be the end of their hopes to defend their conference title.
Despite the game's importance, it was, frankly, a bit difficult to pay full attention to the action on the court while also tweeting in ALL CAPS and tracking all the ALL CAPS HILARITY that was filling my TweetDeck. The official #ALLCAPSGAME in Chicago was happening simultaneously with my game, and there was just a ton of #ACG tweeting going on. It was a truly great event, and a reminder of what an awesome community TMM has. You don't realize just how many fellow-travellers you have in this crazy mid-major odyssey until you see them all SIMULTANEOUSLY TWEETING IN ALL CAPS.
• THIS IS A COMPETITIVE BASKETBALL GAME THUS FAR. MONTANA STATE LEADS NORTHERN COLORADO 16 TO 14 AT THE UNDER-12 TIMEOUT. #ALLCAPSDAY #TMM8
• #ALLCAPSDAY PRO TIP: TWEETS IN ALL CAPS ARE FUNNIER IF YOU DO NOT ABBREVIATE THINGS AND IN FACT USE EXCESSIVELY BLOATED LANGUAGE FOR A TWEET
• A NOTEWORTHY FEATURE OF THE @UNC_BEARS' GYM IS THAT IT IS WATCHED OVER BY AN EXTREMELY LARGE INFLATABLE BEAR. PHOTO LATER. #ALLCAPSDAY
• THERE IS A PROMOTED TWEET BY @WENDYS AT THE TOP OF MY #ALLCAPSDAY TWITTER SEARCH IN TWEETDECK. IT IS NOT IN ALL CAPS.
• I GOT AN E-MAIL FROM @RONPAUL ABOUT UPHOLDING THE CONSTITUTION. I WONDER IF @RONPAUL FINDS SUPPORT FOR AN #ALLCAPSDAY IN THE CONSTITUTION.
• GROVER NORQUIST IS TRENDING BUT #ALLCAPSDAY IS NOT. WHY? #ALLCAPSDAY TAXES ONLY YOUR EYES, NOT YOUR WALLETS. GROVER SHOULD APPROVE.
• NORTHERN COLORADO IS IN DANGEROUS TERRITORY HERE, TRAILING 26-17, 7:17 1H. A LOSS VIRTUALLY ELIMINATES THEM FROM BIG SKY TOURNEY CONTENTION.
• MONTANA STATE NOW LEADS 30 TO 19 WITH 5:34 LEFT IN THE FIRST HALF. THIS IS NOT GOOD FOR THE @UNC_BEARS.
Indeed, it was not good at all for the Bears. UNC pulled within 30-25 with a mini-rally, but Montana State stretched it back out to 34-25 at halftime. Three minutes into the second half, the Bobcats led 42-28, and things were looking dire for Northern Colorado. Even when UNC's defense would give its offense opportunities to catch up, they kept squandering those chances, as I noted at one point in a tweet: "NORTHERN COLORADO DOES NOT SEEM ABLE TO EXECUTE ON THE OFFENSIVE END TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF SCORING CHANCES. THIS IS UNFORTUNATE."
Then something changed. The tide turned. The wind changed. The Bears started executing, at least enough to begin mounting a comeback. After a few free throws, a Mike Proctor #OMGDUNX and layup, and a pair of back-to-back #SUPERHOOPS by Tate Unruh and Paul Garnica -- and a bunch of defensive stops -- suddenly it was just 42-40 Bobcats at the 12-minute mark. The crowd, officially 1,398 strong, was going WILD. This was EXCITING.
Northern Colorado tied it up with 6:22 to go, but for a while, the Bears seemed unable to get over the hump. At the under-4 timeout, they honored three alums at center court: Devon Beitzel and Neal Kingman, stars of last season's first-ever NCAA Tournament squad, and Mike Higgins, who played for Northern Colorado from 1985 through 1989. "THAT'S GREAT, BUT CAN BEITZEL SUIT UP?" I tweeted at UNC alum Jordan Freemyer, who was also at the game. "WE COULD USE KINGMAN, TOO," came the response. "HELL, YOU COULD USE THAT GUY FROM THE 1980S," I replied.
Even without the assistance of Beitzel, Kingman or the 44-year-old Higgins, UNC took its first lead since the early going with 1:59 left, going up 55-54 on a free throw by Connor Osborne. MSU responded with a free throw of its own at 0:58, tying it up at 55-55. Northern Colorado got the ball next, and Tevin Svihovec missed a layup with 35 seconds left, but teammate Osborne secured the rebound, shutting off the shot clock and giving the Bears a chance to reset and try to win. A controversial off-the-ball offensive foul with 8 seconds left -- following on the heels of a number of no-calls on sequences underneath the basket with heavy, consequential contact affecting the play -- robbed them of that chance, but UNC held on defense as Svihovec got a crucial steal with two seconds left. The clock hit zero, and we were going to overtime.
As all of this was happening, I was watching the game from a variety of perspectives. I spent some of my time on press row, but I also wandered up to the top row for a wide view at one point...
...and, at another point, spent some time on the sideline, next to a man with a variety of words tattooed on his arm. They were NOT in ALL CAPS.
In overtime, I wandered some more, heading over to the opposite baseline, where a small but enthusiastic student section was watching the action. It included a man with "NC" painted on his chest and, uh, women's underwear over his pants, for some reason. (The reason, I suspect, is "college.")
As I watched the game from near the student section, the Bears jumped out into the lead. The team's leading scorer, sophomore guard Unruh, who had scored 10 points in regulation, exploded for another 10 points in overtime. He got things started with a #superhoop at the 4-minute mark and a pair of free throws at 3:22 for a five-point UNC edge. By the 2-minute mark, it was 64-57 Northern Colorado.
After getting some student-section photos, including the above shot (taken as Svihovec attempted the free throw that would give the Bears that seven-point lead), I decided to head back to the opposite baseline.
AND THEN SOMETHING AWESOME HAPPENED. AS I WAS WALKING PAST MIDCOURT ON MY WAY ALONG THE SIDELINE TOWARD NORTHERN COLORADO'S BASKET, TATE UNRUH SWISHED A #SUPERHOOP WITH ONE MINUTE AND FORTY-FOUR SECONDS LEFT IN THE GAME TO GIVE THE BEARS A TEN-POINT LEAD. HIS SHOT WAS THE QUINTESSENTIAL "DAGGER," AND HE KNEW IT. I WAS JUST A FEW FEET AWAY FROM UNRUH AS HE TURNED AWAY FROM THE BASKET AND, HEADING DOWN COURT TO GET BACK ON DEFENSE RUNNING IN MY DIRECTION, FLASHED A SMILE OF PURE JOY AND JUST A WEE BIT OF COCKINESS -- A SMILE THAT SAID, "YEAH, I JUST WON THIS GAME." IT WAS AWESOME. IN FACT, IT WAS ALL-CAPS AWESOME, REGARDLESS OF THE DAY.
I even got a picture of the moment, albeit a picture that's a little bit blurry and poorly framed, as I wasn't expecting anything quite that great or important to happen just then, and I had to scramble to get my camera out. Still, you can see Unruh just after pumping his fist, and the crowd, bench and cheerleaders going nuts. It was UNC 67, MSU 57, and the game was effectively over.
At this point, I should probably explain the title of my post. It's a reference to a different basketball player named Tate -- an above-the-Red-Line player, I'm sorry to say. But he's pretty much single-handedly responsible (well, him and a guy named Scott) for the beginning of my college basketball fandom, so I, at least, will give him a pass.
If the first #ALLCAPSGAME made me a Mid-Majority fan (again), that game in 1990 made me a college basketball fan (for the first time). And the headline on the front page of the Hartford Courant the next day -- I've never forgotten it -- was "It's Late, It's Tate, It's Great!" So, given Tate Unruh's OT explosion Saturday in Greeley, and given that he provided the signature moment of Colorado's #ALLCAPSDAY game, I figured the homage to that old headline was appropriate. Once again, Tate was great late.
The final score was Northern Colorado 77, Montana State 64 in overtime. Or rather -- excuse me -- NORTHERN COLORADO 77, MONTANA STATE 64 IN OVERTIME.
"Tate made some Devon Beitzel-esque plays," Bears coach B.J. Hill said of Unruh after the game -- a high compliment in Northern Colorado's world to be sure. Unruh, for his part, called the victory "a great team win," adding "That was fun to be a part of." It was fun to watch too, and fitting for #ALLCAPSDAY. For this young Northern Colorado team, after all their struggles and as desperately as they needed it, this was a dramatic and IMPORTANT win that deserved the ALL CAPS.
By the end of the night, Northern Colorado was in much better position in the Big Sky standings -- still on the outside looking in, but within one game in the loss column of two teams above them, one of whom it plays Wednesday. The Bears, still so young and inexperienced, are unlikely to recapture the magic of last season's NCAA trip -- but at least they've still got a fighting chance to make the conference tourney. And hey, if they do that, who knows? It's a three-game season then. We know it will end in a loss at some point, but the goal, always, is to put off that day. It could have effectively ended with a loss Saturday, but it didn't. Not yet. NOT YET.
at NORTHERN COLORADO 77, MONTANA STATE 64 02/11/2012
MONTANA STATE 11-13 (6-7) -- S. Reid 6-16 5-6 18; J. Budinich 5-12 0-0 12; M. Fall 5-5 0-0 10; R. Singleton 3-7 2-2 8; X. Blount 2-8 3-4 8; C. Moon 2-7 0-0 4; M. Dison 0-4 0-0 0; T. Johnson 2-7 0-0 4; B. Brumwell 0-0 0-2 0; J. Allou 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 25-66 10-14 64. NORTHERN COLORADO 8-16 (5-8) -- T. Svihovec 3-10 9-10 15; T. Unruh 5-9 6-6 20; M. Proctor 3-8 2-5 8; T. Huskisson 2-5 2-2 8; C. Osborne 0-0 3-4 3; E. Addo 4-5 3-6 13; P. Garnica 2-4 2-2 8; B. Keane 1-1 0-0 2; B. Douvier 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-42 27-35 77.
Three-point goals: MTST 4-24 (J. Budinich 2-5; S. Reid 1-6; R. Singleton 0-2; C. Moon 0-5; M. Dison 0-3; X. Blount 1-3), NOCO 10-16 (M. Proctor 0-1; E. Addo 2-2; T. Unruh 4-4; P. Garnica 2-4; T. Svihovec 0-1; T. Huskisson 2-4); Rebounds: MTST 26 (M. Fall 5), NOCO 37 (M. Proctor 13); Assists: MTST 10 (R. Singleton 3), NOCO 15 (M. Proctor 5); Total Fouls -- MTST 26, NOCO 15; Fouled Out: MTST-M. Fall; NOCO-None.