Tag Archives: Kansas State

Just thinking about Sherron

He looks like the old man in the rec league out there, the one who doesn’t quite understand that his legs and game have deserted him.

He weighs a little more than everyone else. Maybe that’s why. His back aches, and his quads aren’t firing. Maybe that’s why.
Whatever the reason, he is stumbling. This is ESPN Game Day. This is against a rival. This is Bramlage Coliseum. This is the Octagon of Doom or whatever the heck they’re calling it.

And Sherron Collins looks like that damn old man everyone at the gym would pay if he promised to never play again.

They take him out. They stretch his lower back. They massage his upper legs. When they put him back in the game, he hobbles around for a while longer.

So then it makes perfect sense that he makes the game’s most important shot.

***
A couple of weeks ago, a cousin of Nic Wise tried telling me that his Arizona point guard relative played the game of college basketball better than Collins.

Of course I laughed.

A friend of mine who graduated from Kansas State said point blank that he would prefer to have Jacob Pullen on his team rather than Collins.

Another K-State fan soon told him to shut up.

Reason prevailed during these arguments. Notions of basketball insanity were quickly dismissed. But a worry still lingers. These people erroneously questioned the value of Sherron Collins, and I fear it happens on a larger scale.

It seems strange. Collins is flashy, and he’s undersized, and he loves crunch time. He shoots the three. He often drives like a mad man. He’s been part of a national championship. He has what casual observers might refer to as intangibles.

These characteristics normally pop out for admirers of college basketball.

Yet the devaluation occurs. Sherron Collins, a fireball, one of the gutsiest players to wear a Kansas uniform, always does what he needs to do. The moment calls, and he’s there. Situations and games change, and he’s there.

***
Go back to early November, 2, 2006. In his first college game, an exhibition, Collins came off the bench for 24 minutes. He dribbled wildly, navigating his own way to the basket where he missed as many layups as he made.

He would score eight points and contribute five assists.

The crowd would pine for Shady.

Yep, Darrell Arthur did everything that night. He flashed NBA-ready post moves, jammed a couple of times and, of course, he introduced us to that nickname, Shady, one people would repeat for a long time*.

*And Dave Armstrong would improperly join the nickname with his last name, calling the big man “Shady Arthur” for the next two years and producing an untold number of cringes for listeners.

I remember walking home with a fellow group of KU fans. Someone talked about getting Arthur’s jersey. Another person told him not to bother because with that kind of game he would certainly leave after one season. Someone else said he couldn’t believe that he was a year older than Arthur.

What about Sherron? What about that 5:1 assist-to-turnover night? What about the way he darted into the lane, so quick that his own body sometimes couldn’t react?

***
Go back to April 2008. For the major KU fans, I suspect I don’t need to recount the date. However, for the less studious, it was Monday the seventh, and the game was the championship, and the opponent was Memphis.

We all know what happened.

Mario Chalmers stroked a fall-away three-pointer that sent the game into overtime. It would send the Lawrence crowds pouring out of Mass. Street bars and into the streets. It would send the “One Shining Moment” editor scrambling to make that the permanent ending.

Everyone, rightfully, raved about “The Shot.” Few noticed “The Pass.”

The pass came three months after a fight erupted in Chestnut Hill, Mass. Well, it wasn’t quite a fight. People who use the thesaurus too often would probably refer to it as a fisticuff or something.

It started when Boston College’s Rakim Sanders took offense to Chalmers. Chalmers had accidentally slipped into his chest, and Sanders started jawing at him, a little too close for just friendly chatter.

A second later, Collins was there. He could have knocked Sanders’ head off – and probably wanted to – or he could have played the role of peacemaker. In the end, he really didn’t do either. Darnell Jackson calmed the situation down.

But I couldn’t stop thinking about Collins. He ran from the other side of the court in a second to be there for his teammate. I had never seen a person move quite like that when no one else really saw the argument coming.

And it illustrated a point. When his team needed something, Collins would do anything, and he would do it reflexively, as though it were second nature.

And that’s what connects Boston College with “The Pass.” No man could have consciously done what Collins did on that play. It was reflex. It was natural.

View after view on YouTube can’t bring about a clear picture. One second, he’s dribbling, the next he’s falling and still dribbling and making a perfect pass all at once. It almost seems like he skips a frame, like he transcends time.

Joe Posnanski ( I think) would later write a column about Collins’ pass. I unfortunately can’t find it.

This gave “The Pass” its due, its rightful justice. Only, it didn’t. Nothing could. Collins defied basketball logic with that play. He saw an opening few could have seen, burst through it and did something that can’t even be properly interpreted on film.

****
For a while, Collins struggled with his role as the man. And at the beginning of last season, he had to be the man. He couldn’t quite trust anyone else.

Cole Aldrich was still unproven. He had outplayed Tyler Hansbrough months before, of course, but this wasn’t the Aldrich Kansas could lean on just yet.

Tyshawn Taylor and the Morris twins were enigmatic at best. Brady Morningstar and Tyrel Reed hadn’t become the ultimate glue guys and so on.

So against Syracuse, he tried a little too hard. Jonny Flynn made him. Flynn plays basketball with what the players like to call swagger.

Nobody outswaggers Collins, and he wanted to prove it. He did in the first half, scoring 15 points to Flynn’s eight. Then Flynn started scoring and talking and running with a little more energy. He scored 17 points the rest of the way.

Collins tried to keep pace, and made just one shot in the last nine minutes of regulation. At one point, he tried driving on Flynn, who stripped the ball, and Syracuse then went on a 13-2 run.

Kansas had a big lead. It lost in overtime. And it was easy, and probably rightful, to blame Collins.

A month later, he shot the ball too many times against Massachusetts. Kansas lost again.

Then came the Tennessee game. Bill Self said then that it was the kind of victory that could turn around a season. And something changed in Collins, too.

This was the first time since the Massachusetts debacle that Kansas played a tight game. Collins could have reverted to old form and tried to do too much. He didn’t.

In the last five possessions, the last few minutes, he got to the free throw line, and he passed the ball inside to Aldrich. The occasion called for that, and he delivered.

Of course, the occasions change. That’s why he shot and made all those three-pointers against Oklahoma. That’s why he came in at just the right time on Saturday against Kansas State. That’s why, though he could put 25 up if he wanted, sometimes he lets the Morris twins and Xavier Henry do most of the work in other games.

It goes back to his natural ability to respond to situations. He understands the subtleties of the given game and then delivers.

***
Go turn on ESPN. You may have to wait a few hours, or likely just a few minutes, but at some point on any given day, a talking head will gush about John Wall.

Everybody loves John Wall. Did you know he hit a shot to beat Miami of Ohio? Did you know he may or may not have feuded with his hot-headed coach over the weekend?

Wall averages gaudy numbers. He deserves much praise. But he gets it largely because of the numbers and general freshman hype.

Collins doesn’t always put them up. Against Missouri, he hardly scored. He really didn’t have to.

Last night, against Colorado, he hardly cared in the first half. He didn’t have to. Then in the second half, he erupted.
Collins just does what he needs to do, reflexively.

“The kid’s legacy to me is, there’s been a lot of good players here,” Bill Self said, “and he’s gonna win more games than any of them.”

Self said that to the Kansas City Star the other day, and I think you can read even further into the quote.

Collins isn’t just some guy who ends his career with a bunch of victories because he played on good teams.

Of all the recent Kansas players and all the college basketball players in general, no one does more to get his team those wins. There’s no other player who wins games like Collins.

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One confused cat…

This thought came to me slowly.
It came to me as I was reading another take on Tiger Wood. Another attempt at making sense of the whole situation. More words devoted to analyzing Woods thoughts and motives and psyche.
 
More noise. Lots and lots of noise.
 
And for a second, it was all too much.
 
The greatest athlete in the world is mired in one the most bizarre stories of the decade.*
 
*OK, so this decade is over. Now what do we call it? The aughts? The 2000s? The aughties? More on this later.
 
And this story has everything. And, of course, we don’t know what is true. We don’t know what to believe. There are things that are plausible. And there are things we want to believe. And there are things that are hard to believe.
 
And then, there’s this: This whole Tiger story could be the biggest sports story in the world right now. At the very least, it’s the most fascinating. And it’s definitely the most bizarre.
 
And the one place that seems to be grabbing every morsel of information… the one place that seems to be breaking every new scoop is … wait for it … TMZ.com.
 
TMZ? You know what’s funny. Until about two days ago – when I was researching information about this Tiger story for work – I had know idea what TMZ stood for.
 
Funny, I always just figured the “M” stood for media. You know. It was a gossip site. It had lots of funny pictures of celebrities doing weird stuff. It was kind of like Deadspin.com for girls. So “M” must stand for media, right? No. It actually stands for Thirty-Mile Zone, a nickname for the area around the Hollywood studios. Ain’t life great?
 
The story is nearly two weeks old now. It seems like every few minutes, we hear about another woman – another mistress – who claims to have been with Tiger for two months or 21 months or three years.
 
This will probably continue until TMZ and E! and all the other gossip-hounds call off the dogs.
 
Like Andy Dufresne in Shawshank, they are swimming through a river of (stuff). But this river is flooding and even Tiger can’t fix the levees.
 
But you know what? From the beginning, I didn’t care much about the (stuff).
 
Yes, it was scandalous. And yes, the details of Tiger’s car accident were more than bizarre. And yes, people are drawn to affairs.
 
We want to know why people cheat. Why would this guy cheat? And yes, we probably all had these thoughts.
 
But for the majority of people, I don’t think this Tiger story was about the river of (stuff).
 
For most, this story has been about Tiger.
 
And perhaps you can’t separate the two — the (stuff) and the man — but that doesn’t mean we aren’t trying.
 
And I think that’s been the story the whole time.
 
How would he handle this? What would he do next? Where will this story go?
 
And for me, it all comes back to one thought…

The Machine is mauling Tiger Woods.
 
The Machine… is winning.
 
*****
 
This is the thought that has been marinating somewhere in the back of mind for the past week.
 
We all know the basic story of Tiger Woods.
 
We know he was child prodigy and he became an amateur champ and he went to Stanford. He turned pro and he won the Masters in ’97 and he became an international icon – and advertiser.*

 *(I am Tiger Woods.)
 
But of course, we didn’t know much more about the guy.
 
And that was fine. Because he won four majors in a row. And he won the U.S. on a broken leg.
 
He was a the Terminator with a 5-wood, a golfing savant who could dance out of trouble on the golf course with the flick of the wrist. 
 
And this was all we needed. Yes, he was a golfing cyborg. But maybe he had to be, we thought. After all, who has a better chance against the Machine than another machine?
 
*****
 
 And we are, back to the Machine. 
 
And when I think of the Machine, I think of Earl Woods.
 
Most people seem to know the basics of Earl Woods.
 
They know he was Tiger’s father, and that he raised and molded the greatest golfer of all-time.
 
Most seem to recall that he served as a green beret in Vietnam.
And they remember that Earl gave his son the name. Tiger.
The name, of course, was the nickname of one of Earl’s army buddies — a colonel in the Vietnamese army named Vuong Dang Phong.
 
But most people – even people from the Kansas – seem to forget that Earl Woods was a Kansan.
 
They forget that he was raised in Manhattan in the late 30s and early 40s. They forget that he was the first black baseball player at Kansas State, the first black player in the history of the Big Eight.
 
They forget that Earl Woods is buried in Manhattan. His childhood home… and the place where he learned the brutal truth about discrimination.
 
But years after Earl Woods suffered the racial abuse. Years after he was barred from staying in hotels in small Midwestern college town. Years after all that, Earl Woods would give birth to a son. And he would teach his son the game of golf.
 
And 20 years later, in 1996, Tiger Woods was on the verge of conquering the world.
 
He was the greatest talent the game of golf had ever seen. And now that the world was getting to know Tiger Woods, Earl wanted the world to know this:
 
Tiger wasn’t just a golfer. He was going to change the world.
 
*****
 
And he we are, back to the machine…
 
So, yes, we’ve been thinking about Tiger and the women and Earl.

But this thought keeps weaving its way back to the words of Gary Smith.
 
Smith, of course, is the brilliant senior writer at Sports Illustrated. In most circles, he is the best sportswriter in the country. And he may well be the greatest non-fiction writer of any kind.
 
Well, in 1996, Smith crafted a complete manifesto on Tiger’s battle against the Machine.
 
Smith, like everyone else, wondered this:

Could Tiger come through? Could he meet expectations? Could he maneuver through the media, overcome fame’s temptations, and grind against the spoils of money and power? Could he dodge the grenades that are heaved at our most revered celebrities?
 
Could he live up to Earl’s vision?
 
Here is an excerpt from the story:
 
It was ordinary. It was oh so ordinary. It was a salad, a dinner roll, a steak, a half potato, a slice of cake, a clinking fork, a podium joke, a ballroom full of white-linen-tablecloth conversation. Then a thick man with tufts of white hair rose from the head table. His voice trembled and his eyes teared and his throat gulped down sobs between words, and everything ordinary was cast out of the room.
 
“Please forgive me…but sometimes I get very emotional…when I talk about my son…. My heart…fills with so…much…joy…when I realize…that this young man…is going to be able…to help so many people…. He will transcend this game…and bring to the world…a humanitarianism…which has never been known before. The world will be a better place to live in…by virtue of his existence…and his presence…. I acknowledge only a small part in that…in that I know that I was personally selected by God himself…to nurture this young man…and bring him to the point where he can make his contribution to humanity…. This is my treasure….
 
Mr. Woods? Do you mean more than Joe Louis and Jackie Robinson, more than Muhammad Ali and Arthur Ashe?
 
“More than any of them because he’s more charismatic, more educated, more prepared for this than anyone.”
 
Anyone, Mr. Woods? Your son will have more impact than Nelson Mandela, more than Gandhi, more than Buddha?
“Yes, because he has a larger forum than any of them. Because he’s playing a sport that’s international. Because he’s qualified through his ethnicity to accomplish miracles. He’s the bridge between the East and the West. There is no limit because he has the guidance. I don’t know yet exactly what form this will take. But he is the Chosen One. He’ll have the power to impact nations. Not people. Nations. The world is just getting a taste of his power.”
 

*****

And here we are, back to the machine.
 
The thought has been stewing in mind for days. Dancing somewhere in the back, then coming to the front whenever another woman came forward with another story — another steamy allegation.
 
And then I opened Sports Illustrated.
No doubt, Smith had been paying attention to the story, to the details, to the battle that Tiger was losing.
 
Smith wanted to weigh in – he had to weigh in.
 
And so he wrote this:
 
“…For 13 years Tiger beat the machine. Sort of. He kept it backpedaling, never giving it much to grasp and grind. But to do that he had to hide in front of the world’s eyes, seal himself in a bubble. His humanitarianism manifested in efforts to help children and fund a cutting-edge academic complex in California, and his domination of a pale-faced sport opened millions of eyes. But world-altering? Unless Tiger figured out how to change humanity without showing his own, Gandhi and Mandela were safe.
 
“…Perhaps there was a price to be paid for sealing himself in that bubble, dark energies that built up and had to find release. Tiger’s response thus far has been to reseal and retreat even further, but the machine, at last, is rallying, its molars multiplying with every mouse click.

 
****
 
And he we are, back to the Machine.
 
And we don’t know what’s coming next for Tiger. We can’t know.
 
We hear so many things and so many stories. And how can we know what is true, and what is false, and what is located in that fuzzy gray area in between.
 
Tiger will hit more golf balls. He will win more majors. He will still be the greatest golfer of all-time.
 
And perhaps that is enough.
 
But here it comes again. Here comes the Machine.
The one obstacle he couldn’t climb… the one opponent he couldn’t outlast… the one rival he couldn’t conquer.
 
And from the looks of it, the man never had a chance.

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