I wanted to sleep on the train, but the excitement and the freshness kept me awake. It was Wednesday afternoon. I had just left O’Hare Airport, deciding to take the train instead of a cab after a friendly elderly woman offered me a free ticket she wasn’t able to use.
Stop after stop, Chicago sprung to life. We passed Addison, and I knew Wrigley’s green walls beckoned close by. We passed Grand, and I knew shoppers walked the streets above the surface headed toward the Magnificent Mile.
Each stop brought me closer to the tall buildings, to the stiff breezes off the lake, to the artificial sunsets produced by the Hancock Observatory, to a refuge. Continue reading →
On God’s Son, Nas has a song titled “Book of Rhymes.” On this track, he supposedly rifles through an old book in which he has written a bunch of random lyrics, and he regales us with his findings. Most of the time his musings are unintentionally comical. These nonsensical short bursts (“How can I trust you, when I can’t trust me/picture me an old man, an old G”) are often followed by sound effects of him crinkling paper and throwing it into a trash bin. At one point, instead of rhyming, he begins acting like he’s stumbled upon a page featuring the phone numbers of several women. He is surprised, saying, “Oh shit, Tina. I’ve been lookin’ for this bitch’s number.” Later, he will complain about a lack of values regarding our treatment of women. In short, he pulls off the common rap achievement of sounding terribly unoriginal while also disrespecting women and then sounding hypocritical by calling others out for disrespecting women.
Nonetheless, this song has inspired me. I’ve had it stuck in my head all morning, and it’s made me want to copy its style and retell my road trip from Dallas to State College “Book of Rhymes” style, Continue reading →
Well, it’s time for another YouTube Sesh at the Brewhouse.
If you need a primer on the history of the YouTube Sesh, you can check here…
But here’s the short of it. Sometimes YouTube videos just need to be shared.
But before we get to the goods, we must start with a story about Jon Scheyer.
Scheyer is, of course, a senior guard at Duke. This weekend, he’ll start in the Final Four for the Blue Devils. You probably know a little bit about Scheyer. For instance, you probably know he’s a great shooter. And you might know that he started running the point for the Devils this season — at least, more than he ever had before. And you probably know that he’s been pretty good at playing the role of Duke’s fair-skinned villain.*
*Of course, it does seem like Duke has entire team of fair-skinned villains these days. And it also seems like none of them — not Scheyer, not forward Kyle Singler, not the Plumlees — has been especially good at being hateable (not a word, I know, but still). I suspect that part of that is due to the fact that Duke hasn’t won much the last four or five years, and it can be hard to hate people that lose all the time. Of course, that could all change this weekend.
Anyway, I was thinking about Scheyer this weekend, because I think he kind of represents an interesting case in how the internet has changed the sports world nowadays.
I’ll explain shortly… but first, my Scheyer story.
I can’t remember when I first heard about Scheyer. I believe it was sometime in late 2005, during the middle of the college basketball season. It could have been earlier. I suspect I ran across his name while checking the basketball recruiting scene that year. Scheyer attended Glenbrook North High School in Northbrook, Illinois, a well-to-do suburb located a short drive north of downtown Chicago*.
*So I was just trying to figure out the exact distance from Northbrook to Chicago — and I ended up having a little fun with the google machine.
Anyway, somehow, I ended up checking out Coach Krzyzewski’s wikipedia page. And somehow, I totally forgot that Coach K went to seven Final Fours in nine years. Seven! Wow. Obviously, Michigan State coach Tom Izzo has been getting a lot of love because he has somehow coaxed the Spartans to six Final Fours in the last 12 years. And that’s unbelievable. But seven in nine years?
Coach K went in 1986, 88, 89, 90, 91, 92 and 94. I could be wrong, but given the state of college basketball — one-and-dones, roster turnover, parity, — I don’t think we’ll ever see seven in nine years again. Duke, of course, had the core of Laettner and Hurley for four of those Final Fours — and Grant Hill caught the tail end of that era before leading the Devils to the Final Four again in 1994.
So I heard about this young kid named John Scheyer. He was a scoring machine in the state of Illinois, he’d led Glenbrook North to the state championship as a junior — and he’d committed to Duke.*
*Not to get off topic again. But if you want to pinpoint the day in which Illinois coach Bruce Weber lost his “elite college coach” reputation, look no further than the day that Scheyer committed to Duke. Not only was Scheyer going to high school in the state of Illinois, but his high school coach was Bruce Weber’s brother.
Really. His brother. Not a good sign when you can’t lock up your state best player… who also just happens to play for your brother.
So I knew a little bit about Jon Scheyer. But then, it happened. Scheyer went viral. The funny thing was, at the time, I’m pretty sure people didn’t even refer to anything as going viral — unless you were talking about E. Coli or the mumps or the measles.
This was 2005. The internet was huge, no doubt. But YouTube barely existed. Facebook was just a few years old — and Twitter was just a idea in the mind of some advanced-thinking techie. In short, there just weren’t many channels for something to go viral on.
Still, Scheyer managed the trick. During a high school game at the Proviso West Holiday tournament in December of 2005, Scheyer pulled off one of the most amazing feats in the history of high school basketball. With his future college coach Krzyzewski in the stands, and his team trailing 71-58 with 1:24 left, Scheyer scored 21 points in the final 74 seconds. His team would lose, but Scheyer would finish with 52 points. In the final 1:24, he hit five three-pointers and six free throws. Think about that: 21 points in 75 seconds. That’s one point ever 3.57 seconds.
So, of course, the buzz on Scheyer went national. Everybody wanted to know about this scoring machine from suburban Chicago. It helped that J.J. Redick was finishing up his prolific career at Duke the same season. The comparisons were inevitable. Both shooters, both about 6 foot 4, both, well, fair-skinned. It may have also helped that Coach K was in the stands. After all, Coach K is a Chicago native — though it’s safe to say that the neighborhood Krzyzewski grew up in looked nothing like Northbrook.
Here’s how my Scheyer story ends. I went to Chicago for spring break that year — and I just happened to be in downtown Chicago on a Thursday night. I walked into a random sandwich shop with a friend, and Duke was playing LSU in the Sweet 16. Duke was a one-seed that year. And Redick, along with Gonzaga’s Adam Morrison, were the darlings of college basketball.
You probably know that Duke lost that game. And Redick’s career ended in the Sweet 16. I remember being in the sandwich shop and watching the game on television.
CBS showed a shot of a dejected Redick walking off the court after the game. And in the background, a guy yelled out: “It’s OK, Duke. Y’all be alright. You guys got our Jon Scheyer coming in.”
For some reason, that story stayed with me — at least, enough to be able to remember it four years later.
Anyway. I’ve followed Scheyer’s career for the last four years. And I use the term “follow” loosely. His first two years at Duke weren’t great. He was a little thin — and he didn’t quite have the career that Redick did.
But here’s the larger point about the sports world: There just aren’t any surprises anymore. There aren’t any prodigies that show up out of nowhere. Jon Scheyer, a player who’ll likely play minimally in the NBA — if at all — was on the national radar at age 18.
I understand this isn’t an earth-shattering realization. After all, it is 2010. And we’re inundated with tweets and videos and links all day long. If something crazy happens in the sports world, everybody talks about it for a couple hours, then we move on to the next crazy thing.
I also understand that basketball recruits have been provoking good feelings in college basketball fans for decades. Show me a top college recruit, and I’ll show you a little hope.
Still, it does feel different these days.
In order to find “the next big thing”, we put 16-year-old baseball players on the cover of Sports Illustrated. And we rank the nation’s top 100 high school freshman basketball players. And we hear about a 13-year-old soccer prodigy who turns out to be mediocre.
This isn’t a new phenomenon. But we’ve never seen it on this scale.
If somebody like Scheyer can go viral four years ago — before “going viral” even really existed, imagine the buzz his epic high school performance would stir today.
I’m not sure if that all makes much sense. But whatever.
Still… Scheyer’s performance is still pretty unbelievable. Enjoy.