Category Archives: Sports

Wayne Selden Returning to KU. My Heart is Beating Again

Every now and then, people love something fiercely and it lets them down. For me, this crushing bolder of despair is called the NCAA tournament. I root like hell for the Kansas Jayhawks, and with rare exception, the season ends in failure. It happened again this year, and ever since the loss to Stanford on Sunday, I’ve been refreshing the CNNSI Jayhawks teams page for a thread of hope, a sliver of light to give me hope in my sports fan-cave of woe. And now I have it. From The Washington Times:

Kansas guard Wayne Selden announced Tuesday that he return for his sophomore season.

The 6-foot-5 Selden averaged nearly 10 points for the Jayhawks, whose season ended with a 60-57 loss to Stanford on Sunday in the third round of the NCAA tournament.

Selden was considered a first-round talent coming out of high school, but an up-and-down campaign may have caused his stock to drop. Most draft projections had him going late in the first round or at some point in the second round.

I’m a big fan of Wayne. I’ve said so before. And this is all I needed. It’s going to be okay. We’re all going to be okay. Hope springs eternal.

We’ll get ’em next year,
Dusty “The Realist” Riedesel

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A Gameday Portrait – Kansas Coach Bill Self: What are we not seeing?

The most fascinating aspect of a serial killer is their familiarity. Assumedly, they wake up, they pick an outfit for the day, they eat meals, and they probably have a hobby, like reading Garth Ennis comic books or perfecting their homemade salsa recipe. People who argue that serial killing is the most fascinating aspect of a serial killer are either ignoring the narcissistic nature of man or underrate the importance of familiarity in earning attention, probably both. Green ketchup wasn’t interesting because it was green, but rather because it was ketchup, America’s 3rd favorite condiment (behind Mayo, and—cue twilight zone music—salsa). Ketchup isn’t supposed to be green. Ketchup is red. If Heinz had produced green jeotgal, no one notices. No one cares.

Society’s aggregated comfort with expectations often hides the differences that make people extraordinary. With a suit, a debatably fake haircut and a paunch that could belong to your grandpa’s neighbor from Okmulgee, society could not be more comfortable with Bill Self. He’s totally the kind of guy that you could find yourself sitting next to at an Applebee’s bar discussing which Riblet’s sauce is the best. What he totally isn’t is the kind of guy that would point out the difference between Applebee’s Riblets and real riblets because he’s not a weirdo. He’s so ordinary. See the stammering interviews, hear the plugs for the Salty Iguana and speak about his conceivable opinions on Riblets. Given his situation, isn’t this how an ordinary person is expected to be?

But then there’s this. He’s a total weirdo. His normalcies somehow obscure the obvious fact that no one else is in his same situation. No one else is the highest paid state employee in Kansas. No one else is going to win a 10th straight conference title. No one else landed the most hyped high school prospect of the last 10 years. This is the most frustrating thing about Bill Self. He must be extraordinary, but try to hash out the reason and it will inevitably become a recitation of “The Nine Things Successful People Do,” an article written by smart people to help normal people be better than average people. That’s not a recipe for creating an extraordinary person, it’s a diagnosis of a their symptoms. And despite the cliché, every division I basketball coach is giving that “little extra”, so there must be something else to Bill Self. He’s not a normal coach, so what’s abnormal about him? Frustrating.

A wolf in sheep’s clothing. A fox in the hen house. A serial killer living amongst us is a common (and fun) trope of television. The juxtaposition of being completely normal and completely different pleases our narrative palette like the best salty sweets. Comparing Bill Self to a serial killer will only make a tiny bit of sense if his career takes a Bob Knight-like turn into maniacal competitiveness. There’s an infuriated smirk Self puts on his face when his team is playing at its worst that suggests it’s possible, but the analogy is extreme and grotesque and ignores number 7 on the successful people symptoms list, “build your willpower muscle.” Mob Boss then. Coaches are kind of like that already. Nick Saban could be Michael Corleone and Tom Thibodeau is definitely Tony Soprano. John Calipari and Rick Pitino are factually (probably) frontmen for the Dixie Mafia. So maybe Bill Self is just a more refined spin on the underground CEO. Maybe he’s Vito Corleone, a man who built his empire on a foundation of favors and kindness so renowned that all inquiries of his methods uncovered was gratitude. And Maybe he’s not. He’s probably not. I’m just trying to please that silly narrative palette I just mentioned.

Bill Self is extraordinary. You’re familiar with this fact. It’s the most frustrating thing about him because you can’t figure out why he’s so extraordinary. And maybe we’ve discarded the importance of what we already know. Bill Self is extraordinary, and whether its mob bosses or serial killers, the best are never caught.

A Gameday Portrait – Kansas Freshman Andrew Wiggins

He plays like the original Iron Man. Conceptually invincible in the imaginations of the uninformed, he is a marvel of engineering, a perfect avatar for his purpose with rocket blasters in his shoes. The only possible weakness could be the pilot. And then the internet dissects everything, and high school homicide spin moves are as outdated as roller-skate tech. Take away the elite athleticism and who is Andrew Wiggins? Not a genius billionaire playboy philanthropist. He’s overrated and overhyped, a mental drifter with a weak handle and a jumpshot as reliable as Hammer tech. Andrew Wiggins was the future, but that was three months ago.

The internet makes everything look outdated quickly, even its own declarations.

It’s so easy to scoff at the non innovative application of a resource, and then the resource itself goes unappreciated. The arc reactor is a publicity stunt until it’s Iron Man. Iron Man is just armor until it’s Extremis. That original message that “I am Iron Man” was inaccurate and “I am becoming Iron Man” is perfect. No story is ever Tony Stark versus the villain. The villains are merely impetus for evolution. And now the resource is appreciated. It’s always been a story of evolution, embryogenesis of the cybernetic organism’s singularity. Tony Stark was a human, but that was years ago.

Maybe cyborgs would be more patient with an embryonic narrative. Is he the leading scorer and top perimeter defender of a national title contender? Is he an underachiever? Pundits thrust prematurely for an ultimately unsatisfying climax. The scrutiny of the masses would make Ayn Rand shutter. Because the real question that every critical member of these scrutinizing masses is really daring you to ask is simple and cold and straight from Iron Man 2. Does the pilot deserve to have Andrew Wiggins’ body?

Civil Justice, A Kansas Fan Takes Action Against Tar Heel Scandal

My buddy sent me and a few friends this article entitled “The Scandal Bowl: Tar Heels Football, Academic Fraud, and Implicit Racism.” Even though the topic has been covered for years, I felt like maybe key individuals needed to be alerted to the subtle implications attached to this event. So I jumped into action.

First, as a friend, I replied directly to the one one guy on the email who was a UNC grad by saying, “So surprising from a university of such acclaimed academic rigor, amiright?”

Next, as a commited fan of Kansas University, I forwarded the article to Charlie Weis with the subject line, “what it takes to win FATBOY…” He hasn’t responded yet, but you can expect KU football recruits to get better for about three years before anyone catches on. Worth it.

Then, I forwarded the article to Mark Emmert (yep, CEO of the NCAA), with a subject line that said, “birds (=UNC athletes) of a feather (=seriously, check the bball program too).” So that should probably ensure the justice gets spread around.

I’ve also started the paperwork for background checks on everyone I know who graduated from UNC. Especially the individuals who seem interested in Afro-American studies.

Go Kansas. Go non-cheating Midwestern values. Go future cheating Midwestern values.

Finally, I’m going to send an email to Roy Williams on behalf of Bill Self that we think he’d make a great “outside consultant” to the Kansas staff. Subject line will be, “we still love you too, Roy…” with the purposeful ellipses leading him to open the email and see the opening compensation for outside consultants as “Your own sense of self-worth, and perhaps a good lead on a twilight job at a school like SMU.”

Dishing out justice like a man,
Dusty “The E-Male” Riedesel

A Gameday Portrait – Kansas Freshman Joel Embiid

There’s a factoid about Joel Embiid that is existentially surprising and expressively tired. In every KU game, it has been mentioned, and that won’t change. No announcer all year will be able to stop himself from saying it. Here it is: Joel Embiid only started playing basketball three years ago. “Three years, can you believe it? Some of his opponents have played college basketball longer than that.” You’ve been told this before, and you will be told 100 more times. You’ll definitely hear it when Kansas plays Toledo tonight on ESPN. This theme will be ongoing and annoying.

And yet who can blame any announcer? Every now and then, an athlete’s background narrative perfectly explains the fan experience of watching that athlete. Embiid’s relative infancy in the game of basketball clarifies what you think you’re seeing. He’s not a step slow on his help defense, he’s a step faster than you’d expect him to be. You’re not seeing inconsistent post production, you’re seeing a pivot ballerino on his first night of rehearsal. Like an eyases testing its wings or a tiger cub wrestling, you process the tangible potential of natural power and grace as much as the clumsiness of new movements.

Even at the moment of publishing, that last paragraph is probably outdated, at least as a description of performance. Bleacher Report describes Embiid’s true basketball childhood from high school, “In the same game, Embiid got hit in the stomach by a guard’s pass, tripped and fell coming off a screen, and had the ball bounce off his foot when he was trying to dribble past a defender.” His teammates laughed at him. Only three years later, he is producing as a freshman starter at one of the nation’s premier programs. It is clear that Embiid will be a top five pick in the NBA Draft whenever he chooses to go. And that unanimously accepted valuation of his talent will inevitably re-center conversation around the inexperience, because we rarely get to witness the becoming of a genius.

When you hear announcers tell you that Embiid just started doing this thing called basketball, the realization of genius is the idea they’re daring you to think. The natural precedent for Embiid’s becoming is Hakeem Olajuwon, since they’re both foreign seven-footers who didn’t start playing until after their 15th birthday. Yet as it is with precedents in most any field, we don’t have established expectations to serve as framework for proper appreciation. Hakeem existed as a nice “coming to America” story that was suddenly great. He averaged eight points and six rebounds as a freshman at Houston and then a double-double for the next 11 years of his career. Nobody cared much about Hakeem as a freshman and so he went unnoticed. It’s like if you caught a Mumford & Sons performance at some West London dive in 2008 and you didn’t even take so much as a picture. Nobody believes your hipster boasting. Now you take pictures at every concert.

And that’s what makes Embiid so enjoyable to watch. You can be just as invested in the evolution as the realization. While other players tinker with nuances to a game practiced for over a decade, Embiid is making adjustments on a macro scale. Every game could be that moment when possibly great becomes factually great, when talent is actualized into skill. Maybe Embiid isn’t a late-blooming basketball savant. Perhaps he’s just a very athletic 7-footer who will plateau faster and flatter than we expect. Everything we’ve seen up until now begs to differ. Especially if you consider that he’s only been playing for three years. Three years! Can you believe that?

Telling you again in case you hadn’t heard,
Dusty “3 Years, guys!” Riedesel

The Better Part of Valor: Watching My Friends Run the Tough Mudder

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From left to right: The Tiz, Big Phil, Burger, and BenSpann

How much would I have to pay you to drive several hours to run 12 miles through exorbitantly muddy conditions in chilly November temperatures? $20 for the novelty of it? Let’s sweeten the pot. I’ll include a dip in a sub 40-degree pool of water, zap you with electricity on multiple occasions, and if you cramp up, well, I have no contingency plan for you. Sorry. $50 is probably a solid compensation for that scenic walkabout. Would you do it for $50? Fine. I’ll throw in a beer and a commemorative t-shirt you can flaunt what a badass you are to everyone you know. Can I pay you to do this?

Wait, what? You’d like to pay me for organizing all this? $120 you say? I’ll cover gas and lodging of course…you’ll pay for that too? Welcome to the Tough Mudder my friend.

I don’t do a lot of comemorative posts on Writing Bareback, but what the heck. I went to the Tough Mudder in Charlotte during the first weekend of November. Let me be very clear about one thing: I did not run it. My co-blogger Tommy ran it because he’s in love and that makes us stupid. I was there with my college roommates and Daniel “The Tiz” Thompson, pictured at the top of this column.

Sure, they look like happy guys. And why not? They chose to embark on this run. They’ve had a good night’s rest and a good morning’s breakfast. Pre-run, everyone’s happy. Including me. I staked out this view for the first obstacle:

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So what if it was 10am. We’re all weekend warriors at this event. Also, I was dealing with a personal situation. The night before, we went to Sticky Fingers for some BBQ. The waitress asked what brought us in, and I said the Tough Mudder. The guys immediately clarify that I’m too scared to run. I don’t point out that scared isn’t a synonym for wise and instead take the abuse in jovial fashion. “Team mom” and “mascot” were some of the nicer terms. The waitress hears mascot and says I should dress up. The guys love the idea. I say I’d do it, thinking that nothing will come of it. Instead, we stop by Wal-Mart on the way back to the hotel, and they purchase me this little number:

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So the pre-10a beer is justified. Also, this made me a little bit of celebrity among race patrons as I was easy to spot, easy to approach, and easy on the eyes. I spent the first obstacle speaking to some ex-marine who was working security. He respected the onezie, gave me a map of the course and generally applauded my stance on not running.

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Early on, standing in a pink onezie with multi-colored snowflakes, you think you’d feel a lot manlier if you ran. It’d probably be better for your self-esteem all-around to run. Especially cause the guys look pretty stoked about overcoming their first obstacle. I’ve never known what “warrior poets” are, but dammit if they didn’t look like them.

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I walked the mile and a half to the next obstacle, the Arctic Enema, and immediately realize that the walk was exhausting, and the last thing I want to do is jump into a bucket of 35-degree water. I certainly wouldn’t have spent $7 for an ice bath at this point, which I kind of figured is the PPO (price per obstacle).

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The shocked faces confirm my theory. Big Phil was really the star of the post-enema posing. He looked like the happiest house-dog that ever lived. Finally wet and muddy and in his element.

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Then it was a waiting game. I walked back to get another beer, and then walked to intercept them at the next obstacle I could view, some wall-scaling thing. I was happy for this obstacle because it led to the following photo:

PennyShine

And the following conversation upon reviewing pics/vids in our hotel room:

Me: This is such a great shot of Burger’s butt.
BenSpann: Look at that butt!
Burger: What can I say man?
Me: Big Phil’s at just the right level!
BenSpann: Philly, you’re getting right up in there!
BigPhil: I was thinking about shinin’ the penny.
Me: [breathless laughter]

I’d never heard the phrase before, and I lived with Big Phil for almost four years. That’s the exact kind of gross word-gem you hope to mine out of these events.

Up to this point of the run, it’s been pretty casual. Sure, the guys were exhausted. I’ve seen geriatrics walk laps at the mall faster than they were running, but their spirits were high. It was probably this next event that began putting a damper on them. Tommy chronicled his own struggles with the Eel Crawl well, but when it comes to personal pleasure, it’s hard to beat the live screams of your friends. The Tiz has my favorite around the 21-second mark.

From there, it was a quick decline. The guys looked pretty haggard when I next saw them. I hate that I didn’t get BenSpann’s original cramping on video. It was a cite to be seen. We huddled over him and massaged his calves for 15 minutes, basically rubbing his will to continue back into his legs. All we have recorded is his gritty determination to overcome this final, nearly fatal obstacle:

The guys finished. Big Phil got electrocuted so bad on the final obstacle that he was knocked off his feet, and there was a legit 15 seconds where I didn’t know if he was getting back up. I’ve never laughed so hard. They finished, shivered, and looked pretty miserable.

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Well, except Burger. He probably could have run another one right away. Did they inspire me to join them when they do it again? Nope. I liked my Team Mom role just fine. My boys made me so proud.

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Yes ladies, I still own the onezie,
Dusty “weak and clean” Riedesel

Thanksgiving and Football: Here’s a really sucky post about those two things

Warning: This post might suck. I’ve got a premise, and it has a strong chance of sucking. I’m going to start typing and see if I can avoid complete suckiness. Let’s start sucking and see if we can stop.

Football. It truly is America’s game isn’t it? The strongest, most testosterone-laden males this side of Mr. Olympia gird themselves in the most advanced collision armor and do battle in gladiatorial coliseums. There’s dancing girls, television coverage, celebrity status and enough money to make it rain in strip clubs from Jacksonville to the Twin Cities (which is either the name of strip clubs in 20 different cities or a strip club in the cities with that nickname). Because we love football, we’ve made a collective social pact to ignore the growing evidence that football is inhumane. I’d say it’s a fact, but that’s breaching the pact of ignorance…Ah hell, I’ll call it what it is. I actually celebrate the big hits that are factually related to brain failure. Cant’ help myself. I love football.

You know the best day for football?

Thanksgiving. It truly is America’s holiday isn’t it? The most opulent country this side of Luxembourg throws nationwide feasts to celebrate having so much by engorging ourselves to a euphoric level of gluttony. There’s splendidly eclectic pie selections, families coming together, parades and enough tryptophan to put a baby rhinoceros into a coma. Because we love Thanksgiving, we’ve made a collective social pact to ignore the fact that Thanksgiving was the beginning of the Native American genocide that allowed us to inhabit this country. We ignore it so hard that we actually reenact Thanksgiving in elementary schools with pilgrims and Indians yucking it up around a cornucopia. But Thanksgiving is a time of thanks, and I’m not going to ruin my 10,000 calorie consumption day with death-thoughts. Can’t help myself. I love Thanksgiving.

I couldn’t do it. This post sucks. What a downer. Refer to my “Best Things About Thanksgiving” article on PolicyMic last year for a lift in spirits. Here’s number 5:

5. The Turkey Bowl – Everyone does this, right? You pull together an inevitably odd-numbered group of people for some touch football. Usually the teams consist of four bad knees, one dodgy rotator cuff, two hands that couldn’t catch a snail on a salted sidewalk, a guy who doesn’t realize what “just for fun” means, and the little kid who will get trucked by no-fun guy and run inside crying. At least then you have even numbers.

I’m thankful that my lunch is over and I had to give up on this post,
Dusty “Sucksgiving” Riedesel