19 and 20-Year Old Dudes

Encountered Bruce Weber in the supermarket yesterday. Poor guy looked like he was about ready to cry. There we stood, refrigerated tubes of biscuits to the left of us, pork chops to the right of us. Pondering shredded cheese, me and Bruce. 

Mine for some still-being-formulated recipe that exists somewhere deep within the recesses of my wife’s culinary creativity. (When she says, “Get some shredded cheese,” I’ve learned to shut up and trust her mad cooking skillz.)

Couldn’t help but wonder as he stood there contemplating between the Sargento Shredded Artisan Authentic Mexican or the Kraft Shredded Sharp Cheddar if the head coach of the Kansas State University men’s basketball team was reading between the lines or maybe carrying an analogy beyond the dairy case.

The hopes and expectations of the 2014-15 season. Shredded beyond recognition.

Our Wildcats are 13 up and 15 down heading into tonight’s Big Monday (ESPN’s caps) tilt against KU. Barring something unforeseen, we’ll finish below .500 for the first time in a dozen years. 

We might get an NIT game. Prolly on the road. 

Lotta pressure on D-1 college basketball coaches to succeed these days. We’re one of ten schools in one of five “power conferences.” Even li’l ol’ Manhattan, Kansas is a big deal.

Strip away the state-of-the art practice facilities, the national TV exposure, the contract incentives, bells and whistles and you find a system where success depends, almost exclusively, on the moods, motivations, choices and decisions any given day of a handful of 19 and 20-year old dudes.

Talented coaches and other adult mentors with real young people-connecting ability can and do give of themselves to these dudes, but one gets the distinct impression that maybe the giving is only as good as the quality of the receiving.

I remember what motivated me at 19. It was rarely about the best interests of the system. In fact, it was nearly always about...   

This morning, my wife had to remind me there’s a game tonight. We’ve had season tickets since the 20th century but this season has been that forgettable.

So we’ll show up and cheer for Thomas Gipson and Wesley Iwundu and Nigel Johnson and Brian Rohleder (the pride of Doodah's Bishop Carroll) and all the 19 and 20-year old dudes on the team whose moods, motivations, choices and decisions this season have been worthy.

It is the least we can do.

Plus, it’s K-State versus KU. Who cares if the Jayhawks are ranked 8th in the nation? Every Kansan should experience this rivalry in person at least once in their lives.

Manhattan and Lawrence, if you can swing it. 

At the shredded cheese, I considered giving Bruce an attaboy or a ‘hang in there, coach.’ It woulda been the decent thing to do. But by the time I thought about it, he had moved on.
To the hot dogs.