PAWTUCKET, R.I. -- If you're a native New Yorker, or just someone who lives in a town with a Tribune-owned television station, you probably know about the Yule Log
. It's that close-up shot of a fireplace that goes on for a commercial-free two hours and plays Christmas music. I've loved The Log for years, and the Official Wife and I watched the whole thing again this year. Hope your holidays were great too.
Turns out that the origin of the greatest six-minute loop on television is closely tied to our game. According to a new documentary produced this year, the original broadcast of The Log in 1966 was made possible because college basketball takes the annual break we just took, and WPIX used its regular hoops timeslot to send a "Christmas Card" to its viewers, missing out on four grand in ad money.
But that's a secondary point, really. There's now a podcast
of The Log, so you can watch it whenever you want. Here's your assignment: watch this every day for the next year, then sometime in mid-January let me know if you're over your post-holiday depression and have contracted extended-holiday depression. There's a reason why this season is so mercifully short, and I for one am glad that I won't have to hear "Santa Baby" again for another 11 months.
Besides, basketball's back on.at Northern Iowa 76, Bradley 65 (MVC)
-- The kickoff of Valley season is sorta like an extended mid-major opening day of sorts, and provides that jolt (woop!) that says, "OK, it's business time now." Also, it was awful nice of ESPN2 to broadcast the first meaningful conference game.
So what did we learn? We'd already pretty much caught the drift that UNI is really good with its 10 wins and its double over Iowa State and Iowa, and that the Panthers can overcome height deficits with muscle and grit. But although there was certainly no deficit here (where have you gone, Patrick O'Bryant
), we also learned something that the Braves' loss to Michigan State told us: that if you can force the guard-happy Braves to the mid-60's possession-wise (67 last night) and eliminate second chances (UNI +17 on boards), you'll wear this team down. But don't count the new freewheeling Bradley out yet, there are certainly other MVC squads out there that don't have the mix of width and intelligence that UNI does.at Ohio 97, Rhode Island 69
-- Everybody was waiting for the Bobcats to live up to the "It" label last season, but this squad -- laboring miles out of the national limelight -- is much better. Credit a lot of that to the explosive emergence of 6-6 Jermone Tillman
, a MAC All-Freshman selection last season who is playing nearly 10 points above his 2005-06 average at 15.1 ppg and has already notched five double-doubles. And this team can score: Ohio is shooting 50% as a team, 43% from three, and has only averaged less than a point per possession once so far, out in Tempe against Davidson. If the defense can carry a tune, count on a lot of happiness in the O-Zone in the next two months.at Wisconsin-Milwaukee 75, Wyoming 73
-- When you lose nearly all your scoring and your returning players have a combined eight starts (fewest in D1), you're going to lose a lot of games. And the Panthers have indeed done so (11 so far), and will continue to lose games as play in the H-to-the-L intensifies. But, thanks to Avery Smith's
10-for-13 shooting performance, 28 points and winning free throws, they'll always have Wyoming.
And whilw we're in the Horizon, I just want to say something about Jimmy Collins, the head coach of the 7-8 (2-0 Horizon) Illinois-Chicago Flames who today extended his leave of absence
, admitting that it's related to physical and mental exhaustion. Here's what he said:
"Directing a college basketball team can be a taxing profession at times and in the last few weeks I have found myself both physically and mentally exhausted. After the game at Penn, I realized that the disposition of myself and the team was causing un-needed stress amongst the team and not allowing my players the best opportunity to succeed."
I've seen the Flames play three times this year so far, and while I could never say that I "saw this coming" or anything, I did notice how exhilarated and happy he was at the pair
, and how hard he took the one loss
Now, there are a lot of would-be analysts -- real actual paid analysts, too, for that matter -- who endorse certain coaches with a quick "he can really coach" or "he's a good coach," or dismiss others with a "he can't coach" or "he has no business coaching." At times when my blood stops boiling, I usually respond with a muttered "easy for you to say." The medium-length answer is that anybody who has risen to the ranks to a helmsman position in the NCAA's Division I can coach
, and anybody who can't recognize that is just being disrespectful, myopic, and may simply be talking out of their ass.
The long answer is that a head coach has to balance foster-fatherhood of upwards of 15 young men, coordinate a staff of assistants, manage X-and-O game preparation, recruit future players, serve in a public relations capacity (often with us bozos in the media)... and many even find time to be a good husband and father.
Then, throw on top of that the thrill of the win and the agony of defeat. Sure, there are those who get to taste victory more often than not, and those are The Great Ones, but I have the utmost respect and admiration for those coaches that play .500 ball. They're the ones who go through the most, because they have to deal with the emotional rollercoaster of low lows and high highs in addition to their regular everyday job duties.
So come back when you're ready, Coach Collins. Get some rest.