Happy Friday -- big three-day weekend Friday, at that. Makes me feel like telling a story. (Audible moan heard from the crowd) Those of you who would rather be in charge of pulling up Rashad Bishop's shorts all game than listen to me weave a yarn, feel free to scroll down to the first link.
Almost every MLK weekend from the time I was in junior high until I left for college, we used to head to Perfect North Slopes. Come to find out Perfect North wouldn't be characterized as the Mecca of skiing, but it we enjoyed it. My first time there was my first time ever skiing.
I nearly got kicked out for being terrible at it.
It wasn't completely for lack of training. I went through the beginner's program. They take you over to the toe rope, they work with you going down the bunny hills. I was never worried about going down, like most, my concerns were in the area of stopping. More specifically, the lack of an ability to do so.
The answer given by the staff was to use the snowplow method and twist both skis inward like you were pigeon-toed. That would slow you down.
Going down the bunny hill, that seemed to work. So, I sloshed from side to side, snow-plow. Done.
Thinking I had this kicked, my more advanced friends were ready to head up the mountain so we did. There is a run called Center Stage. It's called that for a reason. Everyone in the cabin. Everyone going up the lifts. Everyone who just wants to see somebody bite it, is watching intently. By the way, said cabin is right at the bottom of the hill between two lines of people getting on both the lifts. This was a particularly crowded day on MLK weekend so, the lines jutted out perpendicular to the direction the skiers came down the hill.
Now, I didn't go all the way to the top of Center Stage, but midway up. No need to push the limits right? So, I start swooshing down the hill. Swoosh. Swoosh.Swoosh-Swoosh. Swoosh-Swoosh-Swoosh-Swoosh-Swoosh.
Only 20 seconds in, I am no longer swooshing side to side, with too much Isaac Newton behind me, I am flying directly down the hill like that guy on the Agony of Defeat open for Wide World of Sports. Not good.
Then I realize, oh yeah, SNOWPLOW!
So, I snowplow. Yeah, your damned snowplow doesn't work. All methods of survival have abandoned me and it's officially difficult decision time.
I am barrelling like Clark Griswold down the mountain and I can either A) split the two lines of people waiting for the lifts and head directly toward the cabin, which will certainly stop my momentum -- when I plow into it. B) Use these nice paying customers of Perfect North as safety net of sorts and run right into them. Or C) Purposely fall early, roll that way with skis flying God knows where and hope nobody is impaled.
Well, in the 2.3 seconds I had to make the choice, a combination of B-C prevailed. I swerve and start to fall (politely yelling look out the whole way) at the line of about 40 people waiting for the lift. Just before my head was ripped toward the ground, I looked up and caught a glance at their eyes. It was the first time in my life I saw what shear terror looked like.
So, I pummel into the back of the line, screams, skis and curses fly all over. Because everyone was locked into the line, they were very close and couldn't move. Once I took down the back end, everyone went to the ground, one by one, like a frightened, life-sized game of Domino Rally. All until the final person fell onto the actual lift and the thing was shut down.
I slowly curled up, surveyed the natural disaster I caused and uttered all I could think. "My bad."
Turns out, my bad wasn't quite good enough. One of the employees, who actually was among those instructers for my lesson, swishes over and sprays snow on me stopping. Asks me questions, I relay the story. She whips out this flourescnet orange tag that goes over top of my tag that says in big black letters, "RECKLESS SKIER."
It was the Scarlet Letter of Perfect North. She goes on to tell me if I have any more problems, they are kicking me out.
Demoralized, I stood there as she walked away and feeling I needed to save my reputation, needed to yell out something.
"Yeah, well, your snowplow method sucks!"
Luckily, neither myself nor anyone else was hurt that day or the rest of my skiing career. But I'm pretty sure somewhere in that cabin there is a picture of me under a Wanted heading.
OK, everyone who didn't want to hear Storytime can pick back up here.
Let's talk Syracuse....
--- Rick Jackson is a beast. The Cuse 4/5 is 6-9, 245 and averaging about 13 points and 12 rebounds a game for the Orange. Watching the way he attacks the glass couldn't help remind me of what the Bearcats need to see more of from Yancy Gates.
With that line of thought, this exchange emerged from yesterday's media availability.
What makes Rick Jackson such a great rebounder?
Mick Cronin: All great rebounders love contact. People say to be a great rebounder you got to get position, well, translation of getting position means seal the guy physically. Seal somebody ont eh inside so you can get a rebound. On the other side box somebody out. It goes hand and hand. Love of contact and rebounding go hand and hand. That being said, he has great hands and he's enormous. He's got himself in tremendous condition, he's a totally different person.
Q: Do you see enough of that love of contact in guys like Yancy or Thomas?
Q: Is that an issue or something you need to work on?
MC: I don't know if you can work on that. I'm not a scientist, I'm just a coach. I think that's illegal in the
--- A Charlie Colesian response from Mick and fair enough. The bottom line is Gates, and Thomas as well, they aren't going to change. They will probably never be 13-12 guys. Some nights, Gates will grab three rebounds in 30 minutes, like he did against USF. That's part of the challenges of his development and the development of this program. That's not to say Yancy can't be a physical player, it's difficult not to be at 6-9, 260. But emphasizing some of his other strengths can make him as effective as Jackson. He only needs to be more consistent.
A knock on Gates over this first two seasons was not being able to put up the big numbers enough against those of the physical equivalent of him.
Saturday will be a great test to see how he fares with Jackson loving contact and the zone swiping at the basketball.
--- Cronin talked about the message he sent to Cashmere Wright and Dion Dixon after they struggled in the Villanova game. I found it interesting. When you are winning so handily, it's easy to sluff aside what was a dropoff in performance for the two. I know I did.
"Both guys have just been in a little bit of a funk. When you have the record that we do sometimes you can be a little misled on how well you're playing. Playing well has nothing to do with winning and losing. We just had to break some things down for those guys and get them to realize that although we might have been playing well up until Sunday we had been trying to explain to them that they had not been playing well recently. They were on cruise control even though we had been winning games. All those games we won by an average of 18 points per game, just I didn't think they were playing well.
"The statistics showed they weren't playing well and I didn't think they had been practicing hard. I thought they had lost their edge. I didn't want to bench them but I had to do something to wake them up. Show the some film show them some statistics from previous games. You coach guys on your team in different ways. Those guys are great kids but they're two guys I have to stay after from an intensity standpoint to make sure they're working hard at all times. Obviously I had to whisper to them a little bit and tell them how much I loved them in a nice way. But they needed to play better for us to win."
--- Here was Jim Boeheim's take on the Bearcats from the Big East teleconference:
--- One of the reasons Syracuse's zone has been so successful is the length of their back line. Even when you manage to penetrate into the lane, you're awaited by 6-9, 6-10 or even 7-foot when freshman Fab Melo plays.
The Cuse are ranked in the top 10 in the country in blocks per game with 6.2. UConn leads the nation with 7.1.
--- If you missed Bearcats Sports Weekly with our man Tommy G, here you go.
--- Message Boards have become the epicenter for hate on the Internet. I've seen parents, kid, coaches and even myself bashed on them.
Finally, somebody on a message board takes a stand and for all the right reasons. Great post and good luck, Bret.
--- More stories on the difficulty of playing in the Big East. This time from FoxSports.
--- Luke Winn's Power Rankings are insightful. They have quite a few different Syracuse tidbits in there that you might find interesting. He also ranks UC 27th.
On to some randomness...
--- Joe Theisman with some unintentional bathroom humor sends Deion Sanders into a fit.
--- I wish all BMX races started like this.
--- There are few things more gratifying than watching somebody accidentally play a practical joke on themself.