March 25, 2008 10:01 am ET by Kyle Whelliston
If you've been reading this site with any sort of regularity this year, you know about my Face Off with one Mr. Steve Welmer, the most-travelled official in Division I. And all the e-mails have been really great, people are really getting into it. This is one part Amazing Race, another part Cannonball Run and yet another part Basketball Darwinism. It's a battle to answer the musical question: who can call or cover more basketball games in a single season?
Mr. Welmer is the Iron Man of basketball officials. He racks up gigantic per-game paychecks and strings together Ripken-like streaks of 16 consecutive days calling games during the regular season. I am a jerk who drives tens of thousands of miles around the country, sleeps in the car, and covers college basketball for a couple of national media outlets. I'm also definitely a decidedly unranked underdog against anybody who say this:
"Arguably, there probably may never be a guy like me that is able to get a schedule that big," Welmer said. "I take pride in that because I guess that's the American way on everything. I guess it's kind of the male ego thing."
Well, put this in your male ego thing, Steve... after being down as many as 14 games five weeks ago, Whelliston has caught, overtaken and surpassed Welmer -- in the third, second and first person. The furious rally was not quite unlike Davidson's comeback against mighty Georgetown on Sunday, as I got hot like Curry and exploded for 22 games during Championship Fortnight. When I dropped seven during the first week of the NCAA Tournament, Welmer didn't have an answer.
And he really didn't. Welmer has not worked a Division I game since last Wednesday, when he called an NIT first-rounder in Florida. Check the chart -- he's nowhere to be found in the NCAA Tournament so far, and my pair of games on Sunday gave me a two-game cushion heading into the regionals. Even if he shows up for more, I'll be piling on this weekend in Detroit; I'll finish with at least 117 this year, which will be a site record.
But I'm not going to claim victory yet. Remember what happened to Drake on Friday, making that huge comeback only to be Ty Rogers-ed in the end. And for all I know, Steve may just have a really bad cold or something. Or he may be on his deathbed. Or, more likely, just kept off the NCAA's list because he called too many games this year. Anybody know the story? My peeps at Officiating.com (where I have a secret posting account), perhaps? I want to make sure I win this fair and square.
Actually... hell with that, I'm going to gloat. Feel the heat of my devastating diss track.
I see you, Welmer, you're runnin' up and down the floor,
You can't step to my heavy-hittin' word-flo,
You sit all cozy at the Holiday Inn,
I'm at the Flying J sharpenin' my pen,
That's right, fool, you heard what I said,
I'm drivin' 600 while you're nappin' in your rented bed,
I go to more games, I'm stronger, faster,
Bow to the Whelli... for I am your masta...
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