Hurry up and wait. Then wait a little bit more and after that, you can probably just hang out and wait longer. That's what today has been like for G (my photographer) and I. We had to check out of our rooms at noon but the games here don't start til after 5. That's a lot of sitting around and waiting.
We did a lot of our waiting in the hotel restaurant bar, eating lunch and watching basketball. Well, we managed to make most of the bar a little upset when we asked the bartender to switch the tv over to the Shockers' game. It was overtime we couldn't miss it! Turned out to be a great game and the people weren't too upset, but you could tell they were quite a bit annoyed that we were making them watch and NIT game. I'm really excited for the Shockers though. For fans who don't know, playing the College of Charleston will be a pretty bitter game for Charleston fans. When Coach Marshall was at Winthrop he actually accepted the Charleston head coaching spot in 2006. An hour later, he went back to Winthrop. Funny how Wichita State coaches have a habit of doing that (ahem, Gene Stephenson).
These are the latest start times for a Sunday during the tournament since 1990. I was asking the KU players about that yesterday. After their practice they still had 28 hours to do exactly what I've been doing all morning. The good thing is, Bill Self is a discipline oriented guy. These Jayhawk players have every minute of their day planned out, doing something, so they don't lose focus and get out of whack. Tyshawn Taylor and Tyrel Reed told me yesterday they're just going to be doing a lot of resting and that is dangerous for Illinois.
Kansas already has ridiculous depth. Thomas Robinson said yesterday that he believes they have 9 starters on the team, and he's right. If the twins need a rest Mario Little and T-Rob provide great talent and extremely great physicality in their place. Little and T-Rob would be starters if the Morris twins weren't there. Taylor and Elijah Johnson are both insanely aggressive and will wear other guards out running the floor and hounding them on defense. Brady Morningstar and Tyrel are excellent on defense too and if/when they get hot, lookout. Kansas is just so amazingly balanced and versatile that it's hard to game-plan against them.
Demetri McCamey is one of the best point guards in the nation and he's always setting up his teammates for success. But I think he'll be too disrupted by the 'Hawks defense to make too much happen.
Kansas is 8.5 point favorites going in to this game but I think they'll win by more than that. First half may be close, but as usual I think KU will wear Illinois down and pull away easily.
I forgot my pens this morning in my hotel room, also left my headphones back there and I'm being forced to work during the Gator game. Things could be worse. For example I could be back in Wichita and not getting to stay on the road to get paid to watch NCAA tournament games in person! Yup, no matter the bad things I still love my job.
Today is another practice day, although practices are closed to the fans and to the media. We'll just do interviews, turn a couple stories and be on our way. Hopefully we'll get our work done in time to watch the Kstate Wisconsin game!
The big story today will be about Coach Bill Self going up against his former team, Illinois. Coach Self had a great run with the Illini and took one of his teams to the Elite 8. He's said before the timing is never good to leave but he felt KU was the best decision for the long run. And what a run Self has had with the Jayhawks, right?
Self said on Wednesday night when the team arrived at the hotel that the selection committee has an interesting sense of humor. I always say that the journalism business is a small world (reference an earlier blog) but the coaching world is also tiny. Lon Kruger, current UNLV head coach, was a coach at Illinois and Bruce Webber, current Illini head coach, took over for Self. Well, Self took over for Kruger and all three were in the same side of the bracket. Crazy.
So of course that's all that Coaches Self, Webber and Kruger have been asked, for the most part, during these press conferences.
Score alert: Florida is currently tied with UCLA in the first half.
Bill Self is a likeable guy and a loveable coach. Always affable, never condescending. He runs a great program, he always says the right thing and he says it with a smile on his face. That's what Illinois fans say about him. They weren't bitter that he left, it was more like a tough break up where they felt like they just weren't wanted anymore. Getting dumped by the guy they loved for a more attractive offer.
It'll be interesting to hear what the fans have to say tomorrow during the game. Which is amazingly late by the way. I hear it's the latest Sunday start in the NCAA tournament since 1990! Which well, is not good for my photographer and I. We won't get back to Wichita til about 3 am on Monday morning.
But again, no matter what goes wrong at this tournament I sit back, smile and remember that I get paid to be a part of the Madness :)
Game Day (3/18)
It's game day here in Tulsa and I woke up really excited to get to the BOK center and relax in my seat and watch some great hoops. But nothing ever really works out that well does it? I get to my media spot for the start of the Texas Oakland game; halfway paying attention to the game and halfway writing out my stories for the early shows. There was a gentleman sitting behind me, a fan, who decided I was his new best friend. Now, if you know me, you know I love talking to people. I love getting to know new people and chatting and making friends. This morning however, I really just wanted to chill out and get lost in the game. This man wouldn't stop talking to me. I finally got up and left after this nice little exchange:
Guy: Are you wearing Victorias Secret perfume?
Me: Uhh, it's lotion.
Guy: Oh lotion...I like lotion.
Thoroughly creeped out Me: Uh huh (gets up and leaves).
So with the games on in the background of the media workroom I finally got down to the business of writing my stories. There is a seriously cool story you have to watch at the start of our 5:30 show tonight. The head coach of Boston University, Patrick Chambers, didn't decide to become a basketball coach til he was 31 years old. He was a wealthy salesman who had everything material you could want in life. Then he was out one with in Philadelphia, met up with a couple of girl friends and one of them had her husband with her. The husband, who was drunk and who Chambers thinks was also high at the time, thought Chambers was hitting on his wife and proceeded to stab him in the neck with a broken bottle. Chambers survived and had an epiphany. He quit his sales job, started coaching a high school basketball team and hasn't gone back to that old life ever since. There's another cool aspect of the story in my actual piece for 5:30 so definitely check it out.
The other big topics of the day have to do with feet. The Terriers' star player and America East Conference player of the year John Holland rolled his ankle pretty badly in practice yesterday and will most likely not be 100% for tonight's game. Of course, the Jayhawks' Tyrel Reed hasn't been 100% since Christmas and he's still averaging double-digits scoring for KU.
The key for Kansas will definitely be to slow the game down a little and get the ball in the Morris twins hands as much as possible.
In a few minutes I'll head out on the court and cut my standups for tonight's stories. Until then, I'm gonna try to do what I wanted to do this morning. Zone out and watch some basketball. This time avoiding the creepy olfactory senses of once certain basketball fan in Tulsa.
In Tulsa (3/17)
This is the story of my life. This, this small small world. These weird things that always happen. My roommates and I like to call them 'God Winks', I simply call them, the story of my life.
Ok so I like to get my days started early. Seriously, I wake up at 4:30 am on a consistent basis to workout. Like I've said before, I'm a little crazy. I woke up at 5:45 am today with every intention of going on a 4-5 mile run before I headed to the BOK center. Well, considering it was still dark I stayed on the safe side and ran on the treadmill at the gym. Had a lovely run, ordered an egg white omelette and sat and watched some Saved By the Bell. The Johnny Dakota 'No Hope with Dope' episode was on. Essentially, the start to a perfect morning for one Jenn Bates.
So, I finished my lovely omelette with pineapple and orange and wheat toast and went about finishing getting ready. I opened my door and bent down to set my tray to the side. As soon as I stood up I heard the most horrible noise ever. It wasn't a crying baby, it wasn't a scratch of a nail across a chalkboard; no, no it was much worse. As I stood up I heard the click of the latch as my hotel room door closed behind me. I locked myself out of my room. I was wearing my grey sweatpants, a blue workout t-shirt and no shoes. It took me a second to actually realize what I had just done. I actually tried the door handle a couple of times. Really Jennifer, really? I repeated that to myself a few times and then put together a plan of action. I walked around. Great plan, right? Well, eventually I heard two ladies chatting and I knocked. Thankfully the two ladies in the room were kind enough to open their door to my 'please-let-me-use-your-phone-I-locked-myself-out-of-my-room' sobs. I'd like to give props to the security lady Gina who let me back into my room. I consider it a skill that I can talk to anyone for 5 minutes or less and figure out most of their life story. Well, turns out Gina works two jobs to put her daughter through college, at Kansas no less. Her daughter runs track for the Jayhawks and used to date, get this, 'that point guard, Shawn.' I said, Sherron? Sherron Collins? Your daughter used to date Sherron Collins? Gina replied, 'yeah she used to. Not anymore though. She's just like her father, too picky.' God Winks.
Well, eventually I got back into my room, finished getting ready and headed to the arena. I was the first media member to arrive because, well, it's always a madhouse on the first day. rMedia members from Wichita, Topeka, Lawrence, Kansas City, Dallas, Austin, Phoenix, Chicago etc. all in house to follow their respective teams. I was the first one there to claim a spot. Thankfully so, because before I could blink there were hundreds of media folk clamoring for ethernet cables and SD/HD feed spots. Press conference priority or game priority? That's a huge question. It all worked out and eventually my photographer Greg and I went back to the hotel for lunch where he devoured the largest pot pie I've ever seen in my life. Check out my facebook if you don't believe me! Small world.
You see though, this is where things get weird. Well, not like E.T. weird or Killer Clowns from Outer Space weird, but just, well, weird. This business is terribly small. When I knew I was coming to Tulsa I automatically called my friend Keith. He and I worked in the same market in Washington State and now he works as a sports reporter in Tulsa. I saw Keith immediately, gave him a big hug and eventually would meet up with his wife Sivy as she watched practice from the stands. Then, setting up next to me in the media room was a reporter out of Tucson from KOLD. I said to him, 'Hey, did you work with Jenny Anchondo?" He said yes, and they missed her. Jenny was one of my co-anchors in Tri-Cities and she now works in Indianapolis. Tiny world.
Well, no sooner had I started working on stand-ups and the like for the early shows than Greg and I had to head down to the KU locker room to talk to the players. It was about the temperature of the sun inside that room so Greg and I got in and out as fast as we could. We didn't have time to wait for Coach Self to get down to the locker room so we started to walk back to the media room. While I'm talking to Greg about what sound I am planning to use for the early shows I hear a guy yell, 'BATESY!' I look up and respond, 'No way you are here!!' (definitely need to use double !! right there). The man yelling at me was none other than James Bates, middle lineback for the University of Florida on the 1996 national championship team. I ran the camera and did production for James' Gatorzone show when I was in college. We determined we were long lost cousins based solely on a few facts: we both have blonde hair and blue eyes, we have the same last names, our dads are from the Detroit area and we both LOVE Sublime. Anyway, I got to catch up with James who is one of the best people I've ever met and I hadn't seen him in quite a long time. Miniscule world.
After the long work day is done we media folk need to relax. I found chatting with columnists Pat Forde and Jason King to be one heck of a way to chill out. I told Jason I was from Florida and he asked, what city? I said Pensacola. He responded, I sat next to a girl from Pensacola on my flight here today. God Winks.
Do you ever just know that you're supposed to be somewhere? Do you ever just get that feeling that what you're doing, at that precise moment, is exactly where you need to be? That's what today felt like. Hopefully, the Kansas Jayhawks felt the same way today and feel the same way tomorrow against Boston.
On an actual game-related note, John Holland, America East Conference player of the year, rolled his ankle at practice and may not be 100% for the Terriers come Friday night. But according to everyone here that doesn't really matter much, because Boston never had a chance anywway. Well, neither did UNI. God Winks.
Travel Day (3/16)
A lot of people call me crazy and I can't say that I blame them. Cross country road trips? Done that three times. Rock climbing? Child's play. Waking up at 4:30 am three times a week for an hour and a half kickboxing class despite working til 11 pm the night before? Well, that may actually prove people's points.
See, I woke up at 4:30 this morning because I am going to miss my kickboxing class the rest of the week. But I had a few errands to run before heading in to work, had to finish packing and I needed to get all of my gear together before I got on the road to Tulsa. That means, I didn't get my usual extra 4 hours of sleep from 7:30-11:30 am. However, I definitely won a few battles already today. The guy at Starbucks put soy in my triple grande skinny vanilla latte and as he handed it to me he admitted his mistake and was in the middle of making the correct drink for me. 3 free shots of espresso? Definitely a win. (props to the folks at the Starbucks at Rock and 29th)
It's nice driving a station vehicle every where I go. Not only is gas on KWCH but so are tolls. Well, tolls in Kansas that is. Coincidentally I was thinking that I should've gone to the ATM before I left Wichita, right as I was rolling up to a Tulsa Turnpike toll booth. I had zero cash on me. ZERO. Luckily, the kind lady manning, err ladying, the booth paid a dollar so I could exit and drive 5 miles south to the closest ATM. Welcome to the turnpike near Stillwater and Ponca City. 15 minutes later I was back in line to pay for the toll and the kind lady only charged me $1.25. I guess that was a loss of time but a win in kindness!
After a thrilling conversation with my mom (where she continuously sang the tunes to Mamma Mia because she's going to see that show tonight) I rolled into Tulsa around 2:30. I gotta say, the media digs are pretty sweet. My room overlooks the pool which is where I plan to be at some point to darken up this pale pale skin. If I don't burn, that's definitely gonna get chalked up as a win.
The true win for me this week, though, will be seeing KU win both their games and advancing to San Antonio. You see, I believe I'm a curse. Every team I cover in the post-season ends up losing. For example: KU last year to UNI, KState in the Pinstripe Bowl and WSU baseball in their regional in Norman a couple years ago. I have a bad track record. So not only are the Jayhawks trying to overcome the 'curses' of Oklahoma, 'B' teams and President Obama's national championships choice, I'm trying to fight through some superstitions too. So if the 'Hawks win both of their games I will consider the matter over. If they lose, well, let's just say I'm avoiding fans of the Crimson and Blue for quite some time :).Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times