League investigators have been busy trying to tracking down the answer to one simple question: what the hell was going on last week?
In the night’s opener with the Gray Ghosts pitted against the Red Devils, jaws dropped in disbelief just 46 ticks into the game as Kevin Kelleher stepped to the foul line and put up a free throw which traveled 14 feet 10 inches. Had he put two inches more of mustard on the shot he might have caught iron. But alas, it was nothing but air. Usually such disgraceful ineptitude is followed by whoops of delight from the crowd. Instead, perhaps because the air ball was delivered by one of the more reliable shooters in the league, the place fell eerily quite. In the distance you could hear the mournful howl of a dog. The blood curdling moan had to be from one those cemetery-guarding hounds from hell in "The Omen." Dry, silent lightning lit the foreboding sky; the lights flickered and the place dimmed. In the shadows, startled fans cowered as a figure---was it Lucifer himself?--- darkened the entranceway. Just as panic was about to overrun the gym, the lights steadied and a collective sigh of relief blew through the gym. It wasn’t Lucifer---just that friendly menace: Take it to the Hole Joel, a late arrival.
Still, things didn’t seem right. The first half ended with Gray holding a 29-21 lead. Kelleher missed three of four from the foul line and Bugsy Goldberg missed both of his. Bugsy did dial up a three from long distance, though, which only added to the weirdness.
The Red Devils did their part to make the game unearthly. Like what? Like GI Joe Farrell didn’t take a single shot in the first 20 minutes. Long Haired George did not commit a foul (ok, there’s a difference between committing a foul and being called for it but still…. The referees might do well to ask Billy Collins about eye surgery as LHG managed to go the distance without a foul). What else was wrong with this picture? The 21 points Red had scored by half-time. That ’s not only weird---it’s pathetic.
Oh, and we almost forgot. Steve Stathis----climbing ever upward in the critical eyes of Dick Bogard---got the league’s first ever 5 second call as he put a defensive lock on Chris Boyle. Steverino also looked positively smooth on a corner jumper---now that’s spooky.
Everything returned to Pleasantville in the second half. GI Joe came out in full metal jacket to score 16 in the second frame. He also celebrated the arrival of the uniform shorts with pockets by picking Bugsy’s twice for back-breaking lay-ups. Wide body Jim McCool came to life, crunching his way to nine points as the Red Sea surged. Much of the Red reversal came with high-scoring Chris Boyle riding the pine. Apparently Boyle needed some quiet time after Bugsy swatted his effort on a breakaway. Big Bob Risi, vying for Most Improved Player, did nothing for his cause when he offered a late game air ball from the charity stripe (no, Bob, hitting only the backboard doesn’t get you off the hook).
Just when F-Troop seemed back to normal Sean "The Mummy" O’Leary delivered a Chilla Theater finish as 3-pointer at the buzzer. Fans predict a sequel later this summer.
The night’s feature game matched the Green Envy against the Dark Blue Bruise Crew. This game echoed with X-File overtures, too, as Green’s Dan Leary delivered an absolutely other-worldly performance.
Both teams started out colder than a Mrs. Graybeard 2 a.m. greeting. When it looked like a pitcher’s duel might last the whole half, both teams suddenly got tepid. Green took a 30-23 lead into the lockerroom.
In the week preceding the game, the Blue Bruisers had convened to devise a game plan. After getting input from outsiders Bugsy Goldberg and Dan Edwards, Blue decided to let Machine Gun Kelly shoot to his heart’s content. But the plan backfired as Kelly foiled the plan by banging in absent for the game. The move was not only sneaky but brilliant as it allowed Dan Leary to shoot more. With Kelly AWOL, the Blues had to quickly devise a seat of the pants (with pockets) plan and they settled on assaulting and battering Leary, challenging him to make his free throws. Apparently, nobody told Blue you don’t tug on Superman’s cape. Time and again, Dan the Man stepped to the line and converted, making 10 out of 11 on his way to a majestic 37 for the game.
Leary’s dazzling performance in the 67-57 Green win was not, however, the topic of conversation among the wounded Blue, lingering on the sidelines following the game. To a man they all said, "It’s just not right" that Machine Gun Kelly missed the game. "If we meet in the playoffs he damn well better show up," said a teed-off Richie Ryan. "He doesn’t show and everybody notices the way I shoot. That ain’t fair," said Louie (The Lazer) Pastina.
Although the Blue Bruisers agreed on Kelly, there seemed to be some disharmony regarding erratic substitutions. With just two players scoring in double digits it looked like most Bruisers spent the game trying to warm up---before getting yanked.
The one big exception (big emphasis on the big) was Billy Armstrong. Never comfortable with his 90s nickname, Shaq, Bill’s goal all year had been to reclaim his 70s moniker back when Billy was, uh, younger. Mission accomplished. With three sweeping moves to the hoop, Billy "The Whopper" Armstrong was born again. The Whopper, indistinguishable from former Nets center Billy Paultz, muscled his way to six points without denting the backboard. At the post game news conference, sitting just below the ABA logo, Whopper gave credited to the new gym shorts. "It’s not just the pockets---though they’re good for holding Twinkies---these shorts are cut so much better than last year’s," said the formerly gym-short challenged Armstrong. "And the mesh really lets Little Whopper breath," he added gratuitously. Egads. Please. Stop. He promises (threatens?) to wear both his shorts and socks higher in homage to the 70s. And his dutch boy haircut is coming in nicely.
Now the only safe way to view the Whopper in full regalia is the same as taking in a solar eclipse: punch a hole in a shoe box and only look at the shadow. Do not, under danger of blindness, look directly at it.
Some league gripers have likened the Graybeard administration to the Giuliani administration. They point to Rudy’s pettiness and heavy-handedness. Like ticketing people for jay-walking and not having bells on your bike.
How unfair! We have yet to demand payment for jay walking) and if you watch Jack Weber play defense we even allow people to get away with murder.
But rules are rules and it’s no excuse if you don’t read The Wave. You shoot an air from the foul line….you get a tech…you foul out….or you score more than 30--- you gotta pay the man. Last warning to deadbeats: pay up or have this column mailed to your neighbors.
By the way, most teams are chipping in for their stars. If a player’s on his way to 30 and victory’s in sight teammates are making clear that the cost of the case is shared.
With new contenders coming on the scene every year, it’s not easy to repeat. So it is said with awe: Jack Weber has once again earned the title of Last Man to Score. (Next year the next to last man to score will have to ante up---‘cause Jack’s a shoo-in).
**Comedy fans in the bleachers almost came to blows as a "less-filling/tastes great" type of argument broke out when someone observed the puffiness of Whipper Stathis’s hair. It seems the harder he works on defense the more he looks like Larry Fein of the Three Stooges---or say some, Harpo Marx of the Marx Brothers. Funnybone fans were arguing about which sounded better: Moe, Whipper, and Curly---or Harpo Stathis. (Good thing Whipper doesn’t read The Wave).
Julia of Mister Rocco’s may be called in to help.
Jimmy "Gettin’ It" Dunn has had a tough time converting his patented laser beam bank shot. Dunn claims that, "Somebody stole my mojo, baby." Like Whopper Armstrong, he wants to go back in time; he wants to recapture his stolen essence. Uh, Jim, have you been to the movies lately?