You got a lucky shirt? Wear it.
The ballcap you were wearing the night the Cardinals spanked Syracuse in the Garden? Don it.
When the Cards bested Oregon, was your clicker pointed toward Atlanta? (33.7489° N, 84.3881° W)? Make sure your directions are correctly calibrated by 5:05.
After I write this, I’m going for a jog. When I reached into the drawer for a pair of socks, some adorned with Cardinals were at the top of the stack. I can’t remember the last time I wore these, they only come out for special, necessary moments.
A sign? Is my mojo woikin’? I hope so.
* * * * *
I was blessed with the opportunity to sit 10 feet behind the Duke bench the other night when they beat Michigan State. A clear view.
(An aside. It was WDRB’s seat at press row, which wasn’t going to be used, because Eric Crawford and Tom Lane would be doing TV reports. They gave me permission to use the seat and we cleared it with the security guy. When I went to the seat, sitting there was some egregiously clean cut guy in a suit. I indicated to him he had my seat. He was apoplectic. “Louisville Observer, what’s that? This isn’t your seat.” I advised him to move along. The usher nodded the kid away. At which time, fuming, he returned to his real seat, in the front row of the Blue Devil section, with a bunch of fellows who looked and dressed the same. Observing them during the game, I realized he was one of the Stepford Dukies.)
Anyway, my point is that I got to observe the Duke bench up close and personal during a game.
It was both illuminating and fascinating.
You know those shots they show on TV during games of Coach K and his assistants? And how Chris Collins will be totally focused and teeth clenching Steve Wojciehowski will look so fired up he’s about to explode?
That shot doesn’t come close to catching the intensity.
I thought Wojo would unravel before my eyes. Every missed back screen, lost rebound and errant shot had him screaming, punching the raised hardwood. His motor was revved beyond red line.
At one point, Collins actually turned to him and said “You need to calm down.”
Collins vehemence was more measured. He also was totally simpatico with Coach K, who was actually on a stool up on the court, while the assistants (all wearing identical black suits, black socks and black shoes) were down behind him with the team. Without looking at each other, Krzyzewski and Collins would in unison call out the same play or defensive set. They were of like mind.
Coach K rarely made the substitutions. To be honest, I never figured out how it worked. Either Collins or Jeff Capel was the maestro of that — and I just didn’t see it — or there was a set pattern whereby the players themselves knew when to put themselves in and out?
Krzyzewski never shouted instructions to the players during action, but to indicate a play call. Unlike Collins and especially Wojo, who make Rick Pitino’s constant chatter seem tame and calming.
At one point, early in the second half, about the time the usually moderated Krzyzewski screamed at his charges during an entire timeout, the coach turned to the ever sedate Duke section and flapping his arms up and down, yelled, “Come on Duke fans, let’s go!”
Actually the Stepford Dukies, including the one who tried to steal my press row seat, never stopped chattering during the game. As if each was fully in touch with his inner Wojo.
* * * * *
Duke’s bench is, to say the least, fully engaged during the action.
The most fascinating character — the one I think can be broken — is Quin Cook.
I noticed Cook’s obvious ongoing petulance during Thursday’s shootaround. Always mad at himself. Always glowering, berating himself for a missed shot. A classic hothead, he.
It was worse during the game. And he didn’t have a good one.
At one point, Coach K did pull him from the action and sat him for a good while. As Cook was coming off the court, I thought I heard K yell at him, “It’s one and done.” Though it might have something else entirely.
He may be exploitable today. He has a very short fuse.
* * * * *
The other noticeable characteristic of Duke taken from that microscopic examination:
The Blue Devils play full bore . . . every . . . single . . . second . . . of . . . the . . . game.
* * * * *
I have no intention of breaking this tilt down in advance of tip. Too much analysis is useless.
So too, looking for some historical perspective. Both teams have won national titles in Indy. (Though the site of U of L’s magic moment in ’80 is RIP. Market Square Arena, also the venue of Elvis’ last concert, has long been demolished.)
Both teams are really good. Each have strengths and weaknesses.
Whichever one is the most ready, which gets the breaks, which has the luck, which makes the crunch time plays, which hits its key treys and FTs, which plays with the eye of the tiger for the full 40 (or more, if necessary), which is right with the God of its understanding . . . that’s the team which will head to Atlanta next Saturday.
This is Sparta vs. Troy. (Okay, not really, Michigan State lost. But, work with me here.)
This is Christians vs. the Infidels. (Okay, not really, it’s Easter, take the Christians and give the points.)
This is Goliath vs. Goliath.
This is Good vs. Evil.
* * * * *
Now is the time for your talisman.
Which puts me in a bind. I wore an as yet unwashed t-shirt during U of L’s run in the Big East tourney and the opening games of the NCAA. It’s a funky shirt that honors my years of youth playing ball at the JCC.
Problem is . . . it’s blue.
To wear, or not to wear, that is the question?
– Seedy K