... or, at least, of 2009.
I'm taking the plunge, everybody. On Thursday, Dec. 3, at 5:30 a.m. (-ish), I will be on the road traveling to the mecca of college basketball. Nope, not Chapel Hill, N.C., or Durham, N.C., or Lexington, Ky., or even Westwood, Calif. Nope, I'm speaking of Grinnell, Iowa, where David Arsenault and the boys open Midwest Conference play this weekend with back-to-back set of games against Beloit and Ripon.
From my location in God's country (Rockingham, N.C.), I figure it's close to a thousand miles one way, give or take a hundred or so, and it should take about 15 hours. I found a person willing to make the ride with me, and he even volunteered to take his ride. How clutch is that? You da man, Tim!
But I digress ....
When I've mentioned to people around town where I'm going, and more importantly, why, I get the same question: Why? Why travel that far to watch a college basketball game, or even two games? Don't you get enough hoops on TV?
I don't know if I can explain my fascination (read: obsession) with Grinnell hoops. Yes, it all stems from how excited I was back in the day to discover Loyola Marymount doing its thing under coach Paul Westhead (did you know he was now coaching the women's team at the University of Oregon?). That was 1989, around this time, and when I think about checking a Grinnell box, or watching one of its games on the Web, I get that same feeling I had 20 years ago. It's almost as if I'm discovering something fun and unique for the very first time. That make sense? I didn't think so. I'll try again.
In most sports, I love offense. I'd rather see Texas Tech put up 70 points than watching Ohio State beat someone with four field goals and a safety. I'd rather watch the Minnesota Twins hit five home runs and total 20 hits than watch a no-hitter. And I'd certainly rather watch the Pioneers roll up huge numbers on both sides of the scoreboard than watch the majority of college basketball teams walk the ball up the court and milk the shot clock.
It's basketball at its purest, getting up and down the floor, scoring points, making it thrilling for the fans and players alike. Sure, it doesn't always lead to victories: Coach A and Grinnell have lost their past four games after a season-opening victory over Waldorf, finding it very difficult to replace John Grotberg, Bobby Long and the maestro, young David Arsenault. Incidentally, the son now is working with his father as an assistant coach, no doubt planning to take over the reigns of the program in a few years.
This still is the best way to play, and I've recently discovered that the Pioneers aren't the only team using "The System." Through a message board on Yahoo! called "Run-and-gun," which I joined, I saw many other coaches have made the switch from a conventional style. This includes high school and middle school, boys and girls. Reading about them and their passion for this brand of basketball has given me renewed fervor for it, as well. Hopefully, this weekend at Grinnell is only the start of my viewing pleasure of the best show around.
I plan to regularly update this blog from the road, so check back soon. It should be a blast.