The news broke yesterday that Nebraska basketball player Walter Pitchford was skipping his senior season with the team.  It wasn’t to go pro.  Or transfer.  Walt P for Degree!  Yes, Walter Pitchford decided that he wanted to buckle down and pull a reverse-version-of-me and focus on schoolwork, seeking to obtain a business degree and launch a career.  Which is truly admirable.

But, in the wake of his leaving the team, Husker fans were left wondering if this was actually what happened.  Was Walt really leaving the squad just so he could focus on his academics?  He certainly seems like a smart dude, a guy that would be open and honest about his intentions.  But, damn it, do I love a conspiracy theory.  Here are my theories on the real reasons Walter Pitchford left Nebraska basketball.

1. Walt P for 1D

Walt1

As I’m sure all of you noticed, and were *totes devastated* by, Zayn from One Direction has left the group.  This leaves not only a big hole in one of the world’s most popular groups, and a gaping chasm in my heart, but a job opportunity.  Walt seems like an ideal fit for this Tween sensation.  He’s cool.  He’s got charisma.  And he fulfills the groups need for a minority.  Check, check, and check.  Also, think how much more fun the lyrics would be with Walt added into the mix:

The story of his life, he drives the lane
He shoots the three, makin’ it rain!
Your ankles. . .are bro-oh-oh-oh-ken.

Or something like that.  I totally don’t know the words to that song.  Really, I swear I don’t.

2.  Pursuing An Acting Career

True

Walt seems versatile.  A renaissance man, if you will.  So perhaps what he’s looking to do, here, is expand his brand a little bit.  I could see him starring in a gritty, brooding, police drama that’s all simmering tension and dark, twisted investigation procedural.  Now, if only we knew a wily, strange, philosophical dude that could play opposite the smoldering intensity of Walter Pitchford, True Detective.  If only we had someone. . .

3.  Working as a Full-Time Manager and Producer for his Boy Band, Terran Terran

Terranterran

I know, I know. Somehow I managed to throw together two idiotic conspiracy theories regarding boy bands in the span of 375 words.  Sue me.  Actually, don’t.  I’ve watched some of the Aaron Hernandez trial and my lawyers wouldn’t have the balls or the bank account to try to make deflategate jokes during the proceedings.

In all seriousness, I think I speak for all Nebraska Basketball fans when we wish Walt the best.  He may not be joining 1D or starring in an HBO series next to Tim Miles, but he did give us a magical run in 2014 that is hopefully still slingshotting our program forward with momentum, in spite of this year.

I’ll always remember Walt fondly for his electric shooting as a sophomore and his UFC looking post-move from this year’s crazy upset of Final Four team, Michigan State.

Also, forget “always having Paris” , I’m just glad we got to have this shirt.

img_4847

FIN

(*Author’s note: it’s that time of year again.  One of my favorite sporting events is here once more: the Nebraska High School State Basketball tournament.  In what is becoming an annual tradition, I will be reposting my epic-length ode to the Lincoln High School 2003 State Basketball champions.  I have left the manuscript relatively untouched from it’s initial publishing from 2013.  However, I have attempted to add in some pictures and have combined those 3-posts into one, massive, piece.  Let’s all hop into the DeLorean, crank that bad boy up to 88 MPH and get our nostalgia on.)

PART I

The Lincoln High Links won a State Basketball title 10 years ago. The echoes of that victory still reverberate somewhere deep in my fandom. That title, even though it occurred during my sophomore year, attached itself to the narrative of my formative years at Lincoln High, a time period in my life that has truly become more gilded in my recollections the older that I get. It was a three game stretch in the early beginnings of spring, when the prairie pilot light for summer has only just been lit, and the icy fist of winter was loosening into a palm.

Capture

Was I on the team? Not a chance. I retired willingly after the boys of the Freshman “B” team took home the city title in 2002 and that was truly the ceiling for my basketball skills. Does it seem slightly ridiculous to still hold such a fond spot in my now semi-adult heart for a high school game from back when “Ignition (Remix)” by R. Kelly was noted as “my jam!”? Say what you will, but these were important times in a burgeoning sports-centric mind.

I knew from an early age that I wanted to go to Lincoln High. My parents had decided that they loved the multicultural aspect of both of their sons attending a high school that had a veritable United Nations of different cultures, races, and ideology. My brother was two years older than I was and he proudly sported the red and black. I would soon follow suit.

From the moment I watched my first Lincoln High basketball game, I was hooked. I had loved basketball from the moment I first started following the NBA in 1996 and, seeing how good the teams were from Lincoln High – their speed, toughness, and a healthy mix of hero worship for the guys who I knew were so cool at the place I wanted to become cool– I quickly became one of their biggest supporters.

I watched in agony as they were bounced from 2002’s state playoffs by their arch-rival Lincoln Southeast. It was a painful display of the rivalry between both schools that I would come to embrace and to love throughout my years of high school.

This out-and-out fanaticism for the basketball team certainly didn’t lessen when I found myself a sophomore at “The High.” If anything, it gained in momentum. I attended home games, cheering wildly until my vocal chords had been Fran Dreschered. I attended road games, jubilantly howling like an injured baboon until my voice sounded like Bobcat Goldthwaite. Any games I could attend that year, I did.

The team had amassed a gigantic following of fellow die-hards like myself. Chanting, swaying, we would jump up and down until the bleachers appeared ready to collapse like a decrepit building on the San Andreas fault. And those were just for regular, middle-of-the-week games. When it became clear that The High was headed to State once more, the stage was set for a massive, recklessly crunk, exodus of near-hooliganism to find its way to the Devaney Center.

You see, at Lincoln High, basketball was a great uniter. It took sectionalized groups and gave them a common interest. It took the marginalized, the outliers, and put them in a crowd of students who, for four quarters, all knew exactly what it was that they similarly desired: a victory. Stereotypes were shed, biases sidelined, and “in crowd” was lost to the gymnasium-filtered air. A mass of black and red, shoulder to shoulder, lungful to lungful of screaming pride.

Lincoln High Basketball, circa 1920 (Photo courtesy of family old photos.com)

 

Lincoln High was never a bad school, but it suffered from a reputation around town as being a school full of thugs. This feeling of persecution, of misconceived judgment but those with their noses too high in the air to get a good view of the actual place, only served to ratchet up the intensity when the Links found themselves headed to the Bob Devaney Sports Center for State Tournament games. Make no mistake, it was Us V.S. Them (*Author’s note: capital letters intentional.)

There was a great rising motion occurring, the week of the tournament. A soft-malleted crescendo beginning in the hallways and parking lots. Subtle, at first, but gradually building from echo to white noise to simmering hiss. Like prairie thunder in the distance or the electric charge in the air after scuffing your socked feet across a carpet in dry, dry winter months. It was the school. It was preparing to shift. The school that week felt like a carefully laid beartrap being pulled back to lethality. It was cranking, cranking, and delicately positioning. We were anxious to hear the jaws snap viciously forward but first we had to sit through another Spanish class.

I realize, at this point, that this may seem entirely too dramatic; too prosaic. I get that. But you have to understand that, during this time, this was about to be the biggest sports events of my life. I had too much pride, too much passion invested in Lincoln High sports to take this moment lightly. Lincoln High sports represented not only me. It represented us. At least to a certain extent and I wanted desperately for that “us,” that “we” to emerge at the top of the heap. I wanted the band to look good, I wanted our student section to “win” by outcheering and out-taunting the opposition. I wanted the kids who carpooled into school together in rusted out death-on-wheels vehicles to show that this book wouldn’t be judged by its cover, but by its heart and passion, and fight.

All of these complicated, intrinsically Lincoln High feelings were tied to the impending showdown at State. Yes, I knew it was only a game. Yes, I knew that if we lost I would be completely fine. No, I didn’t care about rationalization or logic. It was high school sports at their core and, I would argue, at their best.

First up for the team was playing Central again. The same Central that the Links had beaten in the playoffs the year before, a game in which the Central coach lost all semblance of cool and ended up getting at least one technical foul. The Eagles ended up scoring another “T” at some point in the game and I remember being completely blown away at how cool and collected the Lincoln High bench was.

Emotions may have been running high, but head coach Russ Uhing was unflappable. He was serene. He was Lake Placid on a windless day. Central’s coach was Lake Placid re-runs on the SyFy channel. Uhing was a single candle-flame on the edge of a Spa’s bath, windlessly unflickering. Central’s coach was a dude smoking bath salts. It was a grudge match from the start. It was another proud school, with a storied past and a currently checkered reputation, and the game came right down to the wire.

The Links had to hit free throws in order to send the game into Overtime, where they eventually emerged victorious, winning 68-61. In a change of pace from the previous year, no technicals were handed out. Uhing was as calm in his team’s victory on this day as he always was. Phil Jackson, on his most mellow pipe-ful of Ganj while watching the sun set over his Montana ranch, couldn’t have been more Zen than Russ Uhing.

(Headline image courtesy of Omaha.com) (*Author’s note: I was too cheap to pay $2.95 for the full article.

The team had survived and advanced. They were moving on. We were moving on. I was about to get my parents’ permission to skip class. All was right with the world.

PART II

I’ve already discussed what led us to this point. I’ve covered my borderline absurd love for the Lincoln High Links’ basketball program, from my time spent proudly attempting to be the glue-guy for the Freshman “B” squad to my boyhood hero-worship of the near-missing teams of the early 2000’s. I’ve explained my penchant for hyperbole and the rose-tinted glasses that I have strapped to my face like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s 1980’s rec-specs. However, before we go any further I have a confession to make. Right here and right now. I need to get this off my chest before I pick up by describing Lincoln High’s second round tourney game against Omaha Westside.

In the darkened, bleak years of 15-year-old stupidity(*Author’s note: otherwise known as 2003) I wrote a rap song about the Lincoln High basketball team.

There, I said it.

I’m not proud of this fact. Honestly, it’s taken me 10 years to admit as much publicly, and I feel like if I’m going to continually burn on things I need to be as honest as possible. The 2003 version of me had very-loosely held ambitions to break into the rap game. So I sat down one fateful day, put pen to paper, and cranked out what might be the worst rap song since Marky Mark dropped his pants in “Good Vibrations.” I’ll spare most of you the gory details of this Shel Silverstein, paint-by-numbers rap song. Titled, “Game Time at the High” it involved name-dropping our starting five, bragging about the 22” rims on the cars in the school’s parking lot and any number of other atrocities. It was, essentially, a war crime. I was foolishly convinced by some of my classmates that the song wasn’t that bad (*Author’s note: it was.) and submitted it to the school’s poetry magazine at their behest. I don’t openly support book-burning, but I desperately wish that someone would hunt down the copies of this dark, dark chapter in my life and Farenheit 451 the hell out of them. Moving on.

After we had beaten Omaha Central the mood could only be described as crunk. As a mofo. We sprinted through the parking lot, war-whooping like the racist extras in an Indians V.S. John Wayne movie, baying at the night air. We were feverish. Fervent. We were 16-year-olds with wings on our heels and adrenaline pumping through our veins like we’d just gotten Pulp Fiction needled right to the heart. We were beside ourselves. Not knowing what to do to celebrate this enormous victory, we leapt into our one-friend-who-got-a-car-for-his-16th-birthday’s car and peeled out. Directly into traffic.

Centralgame

(Headline image courtesy of Omaha.com) (*Author’s note: I was too cheap to pay $2.95 for the full article.)

 

 

Unfazed by the instantaneous gridlock that is Devaney Center parking, we bumped DJ Kool’s “Let Me Clear My Throat” as loud as our speakers and ears could take it. (*Author’s note: I’m not entirely sure how a song from 1996 came to be my own personal anthem for Lincoln High’s miraculous run, but it absolutely was. I mean, it’s no “Game Time at The High”, but it was okay.)

In typical high school fashion, once we got out of the parking lot of the Devaney Center, we were desperately in need of some fast food and a place to hang out. We rolled into Runza, piling gleefully out of the clown-car-packed vehicle and an impromptu dance party took place in the parking lot. At some point we decided that the best way to consecrate such an amazing sporting event was to have one of our group attempt to bong an entire mini-cone full of Mountain Dew from the restaurant. They had given out the cones to help our students cheer, apparently, but I feel relatively certain that we weren’t the only ones misusing them. The Dew-bonger choked and sputtered and generally soaked his Lincoln High shirt in a sticky amalgamation of 47 grams of sugar per serving mixed with all the unholy chemicals that make Mountain Dew so damn Mountain Delicious.

Eventually we had to head home. Hoarse. Exhausted. Way too excited to sleep without first burning off some energy by playing Nintendo 64 for a while to calm my nerves. Finally beginning to unwind to the sweet, sweet goodness of Goldeneye I was able to take a deep, rattling, breath. The next day would be a day game. It would be a parentally sanctioned truancy bonanza. It would be a showdown between the Westside Warriors and the Lincoln High Links.

Having school the day of a state basketball tournament game is pointless. It’s like trying to study in a library while Kiss is having a debauched, insane concert two Dewey Decimal places over from you. My concentration was shot. Our concentration was shot. Even the teachers seemed ready to “come down with something” and split as quickly as they could. The dull, throbbing white noise, like the soft humming of industrial air-conditioning that had been building; that had been continuing to increase incrementally from way off in the distance at stage left? It was getting louder. It was nearly drowning out math and science and English and the droning of teachers clicking through their 4th power point of the day. The school was poised at the precipice. We were looking over the edge, with our parachutes strapped on at 10,000 feet up. We were. Ready. To. Jump.

For the Westside game I had to play with the drumline at halftime. It through my whole pre-game routine out of whack and, initially, left me in a foul mood since I wasn’t able to stand in the student section like I normally would have. However once it was game time, the jackhammering heartbeat, the swaying crowd full of friends and colleagues and casual-acquaintances-turned-high-fiving-best-friends was too much for me. I was swept away. After proudly strutting onto the court to perform with our school’s dance team, replete with Nelly-style Band-Aids under our eyes (*Author’s note: big ups, 2013, on leaving that weird trend behind.) and red and black camouflage bandanas, I was able to set my drum aside and focus purely on the action on the court.

And “action” is perhaps underselling how exciting the game actually was.

It was a back and forth battle. Both teams were scrappy, over-achieving units that had good coaching. They had a rabid student section that truly gave as good as they got. Almost. We shouted. We chanted. We attempted to will our boys to a victory against the invading hordes from Omaha. As the game came down to the wire neither team was able to pull significantly ahead. The Links gamely clung to their opponents, refusing to allow the opposition to pull away. Uhing was Freon. He was pre-Al Gore Ice Caps. The team never flinched. Hovering somewhere above the din, above the tumultuous Molotov Cocktail of our unbridled emotions, was a sense of calm.

The team. The coaches. They were oblivious to the bedlam occurring in the Black and Red mosh pit behind their basket. They were focused and hungry and full of flinty-eyed determination borne of hours spent shooting in stiflingly hot gyms, borne of suicides run from missed free throws (*Author’s note: I’ve seen both of these with my own eyes. I’ve been in the gyms at Lincoln High in the summer time and they’re Devil’s Oven hot and I’ve seen the looks of teammates when you’re responsible for making them run. Frankly? I prefer the heat.) and borne of a stiff, rigid pride that won’t let you turn your head away even if you fear the worst.

With time running down, the Links were down by 1 point. I honestly don’t remember who drove the ball, but I do remember that he missed. I remember that the ball seemed to hang for a crystalline moment, suspended in animation, softly perched upon the wishes and hopes of a bug-eyed student body in mid-air.

10 years ago, Nick Madsen went up and tipped in a shot. At the buzzer. For the win.

10 years ago the students of Lincoln High school volcanically erupted. Exploded into a massive, TNT-roar that ripped through our chests and nearly ruptured our vocal chords. Time had expired and Lincoln High had, again, managed to desperately cling to another victory. They had survived. We had survived.

Our student section was a joyous prison riot. I grabbed the closest student to me and shook him like I was a dirty cop, trying to force a confession. Screaming, leaping, jumping. The band wasn’t playing. The students weren’t worried about who they were suddenly grabbing. Parking lot beefs were suddenly turned to full-on bearhugs and some people merely stood in a stunned silence. Simply put, the moment escapes even my most desperate, breathless, re-tellings.

(*Author’s note: after I posted this, my brother was able to track down a YouTube video from Jarod Gilmore of the fourth quarter. Say what you want about the quality of video, in 2003 this was as close as you got to HD, but if you just listen to the noise you’ll understand how exciting this game was.)

We rocket-boosted out into the parking lot. Pouring out. Holding banners and flags and wearing red, black, and cowsuits (*Author’s note: yes. A group of students all got together and coordinated the wearing of cowsuits to the game. They held a banner that read, “Udderly Unbeatable” which I still find to be a stroke of genius even at age 26. You can never have too many fans in cowsuits, in my opinion, and they set the standard for bovine-crowd interactions. Eat your heart out, Chik-Fil-A.) we flooded out onto the concrete landings of the stadium sprinting at Usain Boltian speeds.

(Headline image courtesy of Omaha.com) (*Author’s note: I was too cheap to pay $2.95 for the full article.)

 

I still had track practice that day, and ran with red-dye in my hair and flecks of paint dripping down my face. If we would’ve had a meet that day, based solely on the adrenaline tsunami, I feel certain we could’ve shattered some school records.

We were in the championship game. After two spinal-spasming-ly close contests we had somehow come out with only one game standing in our way. We were to play Lincoln Southeast for the state championship. We would be coming face to face, head to head, crowd to crowd with our biggest rivals. It would be Montagues and Capulets with jerseys and a ball. It was to be Sharks and Jets without all that sissy dancing. We had one team to beat. We had the team to beat. We went home that night, joyful rabble-rousers, and prepared ourselves for the biggest game of 2003.

PART III

(*Author’s note: And here, after way too many words, is the final chapter. If you’ve read this far, you’re truly an endurance athlete.)

The weekend games are always the most fun in the state basketball tournament. Sure, it’s awesome skipping 2/3 of your classes for the day to paint up like a strange combo of Darth Maul and the least sneaky special ops soldier ever, but having nearly a full day to work yourself into a Seismically active, frothing at the mouth maniac? That’s what makes Saturday at the State Basketball Tournament better.

You have to understand the rivalry between Lincoln High and Lincoln Southeast at this point in time in order to better understand the intensity between the two teams and fanbases. In the early-mid 2000’s Southeast was a sports powerhouse. They were cranking out division I talent in football, basketball, and baseball. They were routinely among the top teams in the state in basketball, having lost in the previous year’s finals after offing the Links in a brutally tough game in the semi-finals.

LinkLHS.png

When Southeast and Lincoln High’s basketball teams met on the court, the intensity level would catapult off the radar. Students would camp out for games the moment school got out. Fights would break out, Principals would wade shoulder deep into student sections in an effort to keep the peace, and fire marshal’s would stop people from getting in at the door due to gyms being over capacity.

It was an old-school, bitter, rivalry that broke bonds and divided friendships. I knew several kids who were at Southeast. I thought they were great. Until it was game time. Then I would launch into a rapid fire shit-talking attempt to verbally incinerate them and they would immediately fire back. We would inevitably find ourselves on opposite sides of the court and I believed I was honor-bound to out-shout, out-taunt, and out-cheer whomever stood in opposition to the Red and Black freight train.

The games were always contentious. They were emotional slugfests that left your scalp tingling, your throat desperately calling for hot liquid, and your adrenal glands ready to go on strike. By halftime.

I honestly can’t remember if we beat Southeast that year. I vaguely recall losing to them, but I truly can’t be sure. (*Author’s note: I know, I know. I just spent 200 words talking up the games as completely unforgettable. What can I say? I’m old. I’m broken down. Maybe someone can refresh my memory, when this post comes out. In the meantime I’ll be crushing up Ginseng and snorting lines of it off my mirror in an effort to stave off my on-rushing senility.)

The bottom line is, when your whole rivalry is predicated on white-hot, liquid-magma, hatred for the opponent revenge isn’t really necessary for motivation. Ever game against Southeast, whether we won or lost, felt like it was a Quentin Tarantino revenge film reaching its gory climax. Dlinks Unchained, if you will. (*Author’s note: I apologize. That’s a little corny, even by my standards.)

As we mad-dashed our way into the student section for the game our rising action was becoming fully complete. Our deus ex machina was firmly in place. The slow simmer from part one that I had mentioned, that flickering spark? It was a boiling, raging, forest fire.

The distant timpani-roll that had been building sonorously since Thursday of that week was now a full on spastic, flaming drum solo so loud it resounded in your lungs. The tension wasn’t so thick you could cut it with a knife, it was so thick that you would need a logging crew to chainsaw their way through after using TNT to explode open fissure-like crack.

I was 16 and on fire with school pride; radiating with hope that my school, our school, could somehow continue their Nantucket Sleighride towards victory. I was fully prepared to howl with all my wolfen fury until my lungs exploded like a too-full party balloon that has landed underneath a stiletto heel. I looked left. I looked right. We were a pack. A rabid, heaving, viscerally charged mass of desperate, pitched longing. When the band struck up their notes we yowled with unrepentant fervor.

When the team was introduced I screamed like a Bieber-groupie getting backstage passes, hitting pitches and octaves that, even at 16, would have astounded auditory scientists. Fortunately, I was one voice among many, many, cheers and my own voice was swallowed up by the ever-increasing decibel detonation coming from the student section. It was death metal concert loud. It was shuttle launch loud. I don’t know that I’ve ever heard the Devaney center as fiery before a game has even tipped before or since.

Once the game began our manic chants and hoarsely defiant screams filled the air. We wanted to pay back Southeast for the previous year. We wanted to assert ourselves as the basketball power in the city; in the state. We wanted vengeance.

LSE

Immediately things started going wrong for the Links. Shots weren’t falling. The offense wasn’t flowing. The team battled, to be sure, determined to outwork their slow start. Southeast started scoring. They were hitting buckets. They were rebounding. They had all the answers on defense. An icy finger of doubt slid down my spine; a creeping, uncomfortable caress.

Southeast seemingly had the answer for everything. There was a subtle riptide pulling at our ankles, tugging us out and away from our steel-mill-hot passion. We fought it. We kicked and screamed and tried to head against the current. Southeast just kept pulling ahead. As the first quarter was drawing to a close the Links still hadn’t hit a basket. Or a free throw.

I had completely depleted my repertoire of swear words at this point.

Desperately I searched for anyone who might be bi-lingual to bail me out with new cuss words but, upon Southeast scoring yet again I broke the search off and went to my tried and true, old school American curses. I was driven to inventing brand new f-bomb combos, stringing together obscenities like a foreign cabbie in rush hour who didn’t quite have a handle on the English language yet. The quarter ended with Southeast up 13-0. The Links had inexplicably been shut out.

Coach Uhing was liquid nitrogen. He was a human Polar Bear Plunge. The team fed off this calm.

(Image courtesy of Journalstar.com)

 

We did not.

Eyes bulging. Sweating like I had just gotten done playing in the game myself. Mind reeling. I was a meth-lab of emotions. I hadn’t given up. Oh, no. But I was drastically, stringently worried. I wasn’t sure what to do. I had never seen our team get blanked in the first quarter of a game. With Southeast up by 13 the lead certainly wasn’t insurmountable but it was sizeable.

The Southeast fans were on a rampage. There was blood in the water and they were hungry. They were Shark Week in HD, swarming viciously with their teeth out and their hands high in the air, high-fiving hard enough to amputate. I don’t blame them. They were thunderously pleased with their team’s performance, holding their distraction-balloons high into the air in the shape of zeros. They were the bellows pumping onto the hot, bitter coals of our would-be vengeance. They scored again at the start of the second half.

We found ourselves firmly strapped in on the front car of a cocaine roller coaster.

They had 15. We had nothing.

They had 15. We had each other.

We had our team. We had the immutable, foolhardy hope of die-hard believers, even though the light was flickering and the clock was ticking.

Our intensity rose. Combustion engine firing on anger and pride and that all-too-familiar feeling of our shoulder blades meeting the wall with nowhere further to retreat to.

Suddenly we scored our first basket. Then we scored another. We redoubled our fanaticism. Cajoling. Pleading. Fighter-plane loud as our boys engaged in evasive maneuvers in the on court dogfight. Basket by basket. Inch by inch. The Lincoln High Links were pulling themselves out of the freshly dug grave of a scoreless first quarter, zombies coming back once more. No longer was this a bloody stomping. This was Rocky in the 12th round, toe to toe.

To be honest, the rest of the game blurs a little to me from here. It’s like an epic watercolor that sort of ran together into a beautiful palette of colors and images. A big shot here. A big stop there. The team’s bench imploring the fans to keep the intensity level high. Uhing clapping calmly, as if he was at a mediocre theater production.

By the time we took the lead, we were in a state of delirium. The cadaver of the first quarter had somehow been Frankenstein-ed back to life. Stitched together, an amalgam of pieces playing their part, and lightning bolted to accelerating life. I’ve never heard the Devaney Center louder before or since. Lincoln High Alum, some of the proudest I’ve known, responded to our energy. Parents and students and players alike leaping to their feet.

We ended up winning the game, that day 10 years ago, by 5 points. Scoring 43 points in the final three quarters we were able to outlast the Southeast Knights. Though I never would have admitted it at the time, they fought valiantly. (*Author’s note: I can only clearly assess our rival school now, 10 years in the future, if that’s any indication of how heated our rivalry was.)

As the final horn sounded, anointing a new king in the State of Nebraska, we detonated. Mt. Vesuvius met Pompeii and our student section spontaneously combusted into madness. People were falling, crying, jumping wildly into the air. Insecure young men were hugging passionately and everyone, everyone, felt like we had just conquered the world.

It was 10 years ago. I was 16. And it still gives me goosebumps to recount the scene.

Our team, ever conscious of their rowdy and reckless fans, their hooligans, stood in front of the student section and let us buffet them with a joyful typhoon. Holding their jerseys up for all in the stadium to see. Lincoln High, they said. “Lincoln High” we screamed. Our pride was radiant.

Coach Uhing smiled.

The team climbed ladders and cut down nets. They were given medals and a trophy and an assembly where the entire school attended, cheering like lunatics for the guys that had finally brought home a state basketball title. They had blazed through collective, beating-as-one hearts, and etched their names in neon across the remainder of the school year.

They had done it. They had successfully climbed the mountaintop. They were Sir Edmund Hilary. And we fancied ourselves their Tenzing Norgays.

They had won for themselves. They had one for each other. They had won for black and for red and for the coaches who believed in them all along.

They had won for Lincoln High.

Whether or not they knew it that day, they had won for us.

(*Author’s note: the best part of writing this absurdly long, self-indulgent memoir has been all the people who have shared what their experiences at these games were like. Whether it was former players, former students, or anyone lucky enough to have been cheering for the Links that year, everyone was — and still is– moved by the victories.

If you made it through this rambling piece, feel free to offer your own testimony in the comments section. I was blown away by how many of us still care so deeply about this team and that time in our lives. I would love to know where you were when the horn sounded or what you were thinking when the clock hit zero. Thanks for reading. Go Links.)

Headlines

(Headline image courtesy of Omaha.com) (*Author’s note: I was too cheap to pay $2.95 for the full article.)

Headlines2

(Headline image courtesy of Omaha.com) (*Author’s note: I was too cheap to pay $2.95 for the full article.)

Russ Uhing

(Headline image courtesy of Omaha.com) (*Author’s note: I was too cheap to pay $2.95 for the full article.)

 

FIN

It’s almost that time of year, people.  So prepare yourself for The Madness.  No, not that madness.  I’m talking about the insanity of Joe Lunardi’s weave.  Legend has it that this glorious, charcoal helmet of flaxen fortitude is made out of the hair of unicorn tails and is woven together by Rapunzel and a design team of 14 elderly women from the Shady Rivers Retirement home.

Sadly, I had to go chalk on my first bracket projection of the year.

Lunardi

 

First 3 out:

  Capture  


Last 3 in:

    

FIN

Tim Miles is having kind of a rough year.  After starting the year out with high expectations, and what appeared to be a program on the brink of wave-riding their way down a big Tsunami of momentum carried over from an incredible finish to the 2014 season, the Husker Men’s Basketball team has crashed and burned in Evel Knievel-like fashion.

Miles has tried coaching them up, slowing it down, guest speakers, and virtually anything short of hiring a voodoo priestess to come in and stick pins in Melo Trimble’s hair-doll.  (*Author’s note: he may have done that at some point, too.)  His latest desperate tactic has been locking the Huskers out of their locker room and posh traning facilities at the Hendricks Training Complex.

That means the players will have no smoothie bar, no shower heads with Bluetooth speakers and no players lounge which basically looks like Macauly Culkin’s house from Richie Rich.

So, with not a moment to lose, Tim is taking one last desperate move to fire up his team.  He’s pulling out all the stops to try to get his team motivated for the final few games of the year.  This is the leaked audio of his latest attempt: a stunningly dope rap track and music video.  The words to the song are listed beneath the song.

(Intro)

If you havin’ real problems, I feel bad for you, son.
I got 99 Problems but Hendricks ain’t one.

I got dudes brickin’ threes while I’m grabbing deeze
Haters up in stripes I call ‘em referees
Stinking up the Vault, yo I need Febreze
Bout to snap like a tendon in D-Rose’s knees
I’m from the great white North, more Dakota than Fanning,
Call me the GOAT like I’m Peyton Manning
Underneath this button up I’m built like Tatum, Channing
Taking more selfies than a girl who be tanning.
I’m catching all types’a shit from those Twitter Bros
And Walt P’s in the paint and he’s throwing Bos
Shavon’s so damn smart he’s worried ‘bout Microbes
And I can’t stop staring at Thad Matta’s nose.
I’m getting’ so emotional, startin’ to feel my feelings
And I still don’t know the damn difference between Australia and New Zealand.
From D3 to D1, Son, I Ain’t Dumb
I got 99 Problems, but Hendricks Ain’t One.
Hit me

99 Problems but Hendricks ain’t one
If you having real problems I feel bad for you son
I got 99 problems but Hendricks ain’t one
Hit me

Well it’s 2015 and I’m so, so def
But standin’ in my way? It’s the motherfuckin’ ref.
I got two choices, ya’ll, shut my mouth up or
Chase down that Douche and start to stompin’ on the floor.
Now I ain’t trying send ‘em to the free throw line
But I got a few dollars I can pay the fine
So he pulls me over to the side of the court
And I heard “Son do you know why I’m techin’ you for?”
Cause I’m nerdy and I’m pissed and you’re screwing my team
And you’re worried I’m bout to turn you into a Twitter Meme?
Should I head back to the Bench, to try to let off steam?
“Well you was getting too loud when you started to scream
Head back to your bench for I throw your ass out
“Now if you’ll excuse, me Tim, I’m goin’ over there to pout”
I ain’t going back to shit, all my gripes are legit
“Do you mind if I talk to those other ref a bit?”
Well the fans are all pissed and so’s the rest of my staff
And trust me when I say you don’t want Molinari’s wrath
“Listen, I’m probably shouting ‘Boom’ when I drop the T,
“Unless you take two steps back and away from me!”
Well I’m not backin’ up, this is turned to a mess
You’re reffing up this game like your name’s Carl Hess
“See how you feel when the league fines you a ton”
I got 99 problems but Hendricks ain’t one
Hit me

99 Problems but Hendricks ain’t one
If you having real problems I feel bad for you son
I got 99 problems but Hendricks ain’t one
Hit me

Now once upon a ‘bout a season ago
We were magma hot, straight smokin’ yo.
We were burning through teams: the passion, the drama!
Now we’re 4th tier news behind a bunch of Llamas.
With all the losses, the haters be hatin’
The best part of this year? Man, at least we’re not Creighton.
Yeah, sure, they might’ve beat us in the head to head
But that’s like being the deadest Zombie on Walking Dead.
We’re losing more than the pounds of Rick Ross
And this season’s ass backwards callin’ it Kriss Kross.
We’re fadin’ real hard at the end of the race
Why does Fran McCaffrey have such a punchable face?
And now come March, it’s our thumbs they’re gonna twiddle
And our fan base is dividing like Tom Crean’s hair middle
But next year Huskers, it’s eternal hope springs
And we’ll see what new guys and some 4 stars brings
Maybe we’ll learn to break a full court press
Beat it black and blue like that Twitter Dress
Or was that gold and white, yo my rap is done.
I got 99 problems but Hendricks ain’t one
Hit me

99 Problems but Hendricks ain’t one
If you having real problems I feel bad for you son
I got 99 problems but Hendricks ain’t one
Hit me

FIN

The NFL is known for being an all-powerful, narrative-vice-gripping, billionaires club.  So what usually happens when you get a bunch of super-rich white dudes together that are struggling to control their apparent image problems?  (*Author’s note: it’s called congress.  Hiiiii-oooooh! But Seriously. . .)

You get more even more secrets and ass-covering than even a paranoid Illuminati-crazed whacko could come up with.  At No Coast Bias we’re determined to crack the code and get the behind-the-scenes access that our readership demands.

This is where the NFL Combine comes into play.  The combine has turned into a multi-day hypefest that explodes onto our social media timelines with pictures of fat guys burning through more 40s than in a party scene for a Big Pun biopic, NFL fanbases losing their minds over the measurables of their favorite prospect, and a whole lot of super-athletes being judged by chubby dudes sitting at their office desks (Author’s note: see: Hatch, Chris).

But what about the lesser-publicized events that the NFL uses to try to judge a prospect?  Are there, in fact, secret “measurables” that only the innermost circles of the NFL Combine are privy to?  We dug deep and utilized our secret sources that are connected on the deepest levels of security to find out that there are, indeed, 4 additional events that the NFL tests for at their fabled combine.  Here they are.

1.  The 40 Lawyer Dash

40

This test is pretty much exactly what it sounds like.  Given the NFL’s recent troubles off the field, this is a speed test in which prospects try to see exactly how quick they can lawyer up should they run into any kind of legal trouble.  How fast can that shifty running back from the Pac-12 manage to find himself a defense attorney?  Can that star linebacker from the SEC get to a prestigious, amoral law firm before TMZ finds out what happened?  This drill is carefully scrutinized by both electronic timing and several corrupt judges brought in to monitor the potential legal proceedings.


2.  The Character-Based Questionnaire

Character

We’ve all heard about the Wonderlic test and we’ve heard horror stories about players with checkered pasts getting questioned by directors of player personnel from various teams.  However, this year the NFL opted for one-question test that allowed them to identify any potential troubles that may occur when the players aren’t on the grid iron.  Because this year: what concerns do they have for you if you’re not Jameis?


3.  The Weed Brick Lateral

Dime-bag lateral

At this point, I’m not sure why this isn’t just a publicly held event like the other parts of the combine.  Every NFL player needs to have a fall guy ready and waiting to say, “Uhh. . .yeah, officer.  That is my weed.  Not the guy driving the Maserati’s.  Totally mine.  Whoops.”  This event tests the dexterity and fast twitch muscles of potential players who are required to quickly dump a brick of weed into the waiting hands of their less-financially-important homeys.


4.  The Goodell Says Jump, You Say “How High.” Vertical Test

Rog

This is, for all intents and purposes, the single most important phase of the NFL’s secret combine.  At least, it is to Roger Goodell.  And, if the man seated on the Iron Throne approves of your obedience and approves of your undying fealty, he will not put your name on the black list.  (*Author’s note: And, yes, that is supposed to be kind of a racist version of a double entendre)  If you deny swearing your blood-oath to the master and high priest of all of the National Football League, Goodell will recommend that are you immediately sent to the football hinterlands to languish in misery for all of eternity.  Or as the NFL calls it: you’ll get drafted by the Buffalo Bills.

FIN

Last night, Joseph Kahn dropped a ’90s themed atom bomb on my consciousness.  He released what he called a “De-Boot” of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.  If you haven’t seen it: here’s the video.

It’s got James Van Der Beek playing Rocky DeSantos, or as I called him while stuffing my mouth full of knock-off, store-brand Lucky Charms on Saturday morning: The Red Ranger.  Katee Sackhoff stars as Kimberly the Pink Ranger, or as I called her while I was still cramming that cereal into my mouth: “The One I was Madly in love with”

Kahn is mainly known for his work on music videos but also has directed one of my all-time favorite movies, the thoroughly weird, completely insane, and pop-culture packed Detention.  

Image courtesy of: IMDB.com

If you haven’t had a chance to watch Detention yet (*Author’s note: and literally no one I know has) you need to make sure that you check it out.  It defies description in such a perfectly absurd way that I won’t even waste any further text on it, nor distract from the task at hand: namely, praising this intensely badass 15-minute movie.

Kahn’s take on The Power Rangers is bleak, kind of terrifying, and packs in so much fascinating backstory that I found myself re-watching it almost immediately.

Highlights include:

— A trailerparked up Bulk and Skully selling out Kimberly, and her freshly-married Green Ranger lover, Tommy, and the two once-comic foils watching as both rangers get mowed down in a hail of gun fire a la Kill Bill Volume II.  (*Author’s note: Bulk and Skully later OD in their trailer park.  I’m a sick man, for enjoying this so much, aren’t I?)

— The always-racist Black Ranger doing blow and killing a room full of North Koreans

— Incredible special effects that look like they were hijacked off the CGI-studio for (______Insert Michael Bay Movie Here).

— The reappearance of Rita the Space-Witch, replete with her insane head gear and the laugh that used to haunt my Saturday morning day-mares.

Unfortunately, Kahn issues a disclaimer in the print underneath this short-film masterpiece essentially making it well known to all of us that this isn’t an attempt to make this into a feature length film.  He doesn’t want our money (*Author’s note: which is weird and cool) and he isn’t looking to stretch this out.  He’s, apparently, just like the rest of us and has always wanted to see The Might Morphin Power Rangers kick more ass and take more names as grown ups.

Anyway, I’m done writing.  I’ve got to go re-watch the Black Ranger shoot some guys in the head after having a three-way with two chicks.

FIN

The Big Ten is really, really dumb.

I know.  That’s not exactly an earth-shattering sentiment at this stage in the game.  But it’s one that I feel bears repeating.  Bolding.  Italicizing.  Hell, maybe even underlining.

The Big Ten is really, really dumb.

I would type it a hundred times if it wouldn’t immediately cause all of you to close out of this post faster than normal (*Author’s note: which is approximately the amount of time it takes Rick Pitino to have himself some black-mailable fun).

The latest in a long slew of ill-advised, half-coherent ideas that threatens the league’s credibility and once again puts a once-proud conference at the end of a whole hell of a lot of punchlines.

In a statement yesterday, the Big Ten announced that they were reaching out to their member institutions about a “year of readiness” that would be designed to hold out student athletes from their freshman year of athletics in order to better acclimate them to college life and to allow them to focus on academics.  (*Author’s note: immediately after typing that, I had to step away from my computer and projectile vomit like a malfunctioning android in Alien.)

This “year of readiness” is just another moment in a “career of idiocy” by Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany.  Delany, seemingly hell-bent on self-destructing the entire league and imploding any hopes the Big Ten has to capitalize off a recent national championship and a splashy off-season that brought in new blood and big names to the league, continues to bumble and botch the big stage with gusto.

Freshman were made eligible to compete in NCAA sports in the 1972-73 seasons.  I didn’t have a “year of readiness” but, if my math serves me, that was 43 years ago.  There’s a lot of stuff from 1972-73 that we really don’t want to have come back.

Delany just drank a fifth of Vodka, got dared to drive, and hopped into his DeLorean so he could swervingly speed off to 88 MPH in the hopes of recapturing “the good old days.”

Jim

Who dared him?  Probably a snooty, pinky and nose in the air while sniffing a brandy, whack job that thinks players like DeMornay Pierson-El and Melo Trimble would be left holding their Econ 101 textbooks on the sidelines while their teammates were out on the field needing their help.

Here’s the only way I could imagine a swine like Jim Delany reaching such an absurd conclusion:

FADE IN:

Interior, a lavishly decorated office that looks like it was taken straight out of Scarface:

Jim Delany sits at his desk.  It’s surrounded by paintings of himself.  Directly behind his desk is an elaborate collage showing lemmings jumping to their doom.  In big letters it proclaims: Follow.  At least you won’t be the first one to jump off the cliff!

Delany has a credit card in one hand and he’s making lines out of a pile of a white powder that is placed on a mirror at the center of his desk.  It’s likely just powdered sugar, as it’s a well known fact that Delany’s a culinary expert.  Glory Days by Bruce Springsteen is playing on repeat at maximum volume.

The gold-plated, ivory crusted phone rings on Delany’s desk.

Delany
Greatest commissioner in the world, Jim Delany speaking.  Why, yes,
Angela.  Be sure to send them right in.  And how many times have I
told you?  Either call me “All Powerful and All-knowing Commissioner
Mr. Delany” or I’ll send you back to the kitchen where you belong.”

Delany hangs up the phone.  Into the room walk 4 older white dudes that look straight out of an SNL skit poking fun at Congress.  Delany hastily wipes off the mirror and turns down the music.

Delany
Gentleman!  Come on in.  Can I interest you in some scotch?
Some segregation, perhaps?

All the old men laugh heartily.

Quickly the mood shifts.  The old white dudes sit down and stare at Delany grumpily.

Old White Dude #1
Jim, we need to talk. . .

Delany
Anything for my friends at the Angry Honkies Of Large Entitlement
Summit.

Old White Dude #2
We know we can count on you, Jim, to always have time for
AHOLES.  We need to talk about the Big Ten.

Delany
I’ve told you guys before.  I’m not changing the name.
We’ve got, what?, like. . .
(He snorts loudly, dips a finger in the white powder residue
and rubs some on his gums while he attempts to count)
10 schools?  So we’re sticking with it.  It’s math.

Old White Dude #3 stands up and places his hands on Jim’s Desk.  He takes off his toupee and fans himself with it in frustration.

Old White Dude #3
I’ll stop you right there, Jim.  That’s exactly the problem.  Math.
The students don’t know it.

Old White Dudes 1, 2, and 4
(Simultaneously)
Harrumph!

Old White Dude #3
And they’re not learning it.

Old White Dudes 1, 2, and 4
(Again, in unison)
Harrumph!

Old White Dude #3
And, as card-carrying AHOLES, it’s our duty to harken back
to a time when things were simpler.  Purer.  A time when
a man’s word was his bond, our politicians were only looking
out for the American people, and all wars were justifiable.
A time when racial politics weren’t so fraught, and student
athletes were students first and then athletes.

Delany is swept up in the rampant old-man-rage-current and staggers to his feet!

Delany
By God, you’re right!  The ’70s were the best!  Watergate?
So what!  Vietnam?  Big deal.  And people of all races got along
so much better.  You know what?  The ’70s got me.  They always
have.  What we need is to go back. . .

AHOLES
Harrumph!!!!!!!!

Delany
I’m talking way back.  I can see clearly now, the rain has gone.
What we need is to stop our student athletes from playing
their first years on campus and get them back to focusing on
important things.  Like paying $18,000 a semester to take Intro
to Psychology.

(Slapping his hands on the desk)
Gentleman: I know what I have to do.

Old White Dude #4
We’re glad you listened to reason, Jim.  Do the right thing.  And
I’m not talking about that horrid movie by that Spike Lee guy.
Atrocious thing, that.  Trying to make us think about things we
don’t like.

Delany
Exactly.  No more thinking.  Just acting.  Or better yet, re-acting.
Preferably reacting immediately, blindly, and with little regard
for human decency.  Good day, gentlemen.

The AHOLES all walk out laughing.  Delany closes the door and heads back to his desk.

In the lobby, the old men pull off their masks, Mission Impossible style.

It’s Bob Bowlsby, Mike Slive, Larry Scott, and John Swofford!

Bowlsby
Did he just. . .?

Slive
Do exactly what we wanted him to do?  Yes.  Yes he did.

Swofford
So what you’re saying is that the ACC has a chance?  With Jameis
leaving I was getting kind of worried. . .

All the other conference commissioner’s look at one another and laugh hysterically.

FADE TO BLACK

That’s legitimately the only way I could see this scenario playing out.  An elaborate, Illuminati-style conspiracy at the hands of the other, smarter commissioners to trick Delany’s broke-ass into flushing any remaining chance at talented young players in the Big Ten down the B1G Crapper.

FIN