In the lead-up to the 2013-14 NBA season, Grantland will examine key players — X factors — for contending teams. Shea Serrano talked to James Harden and Jeremy Lin about Lin’s role this season.
Me: Yo. Harden: Nope. Me: Dude, come on. Real quick. Two things: Harden: go fast Me: got it. One: Do you have Jeremy Lin’s number? I’m working on this thing and I need to ask him some questions. Harden: Is it weird? Me: what? No. it’s about the x factor on championship contenders, which you guys are this year. Harden: OK. I’ll send you the card. Me: thank you. And the second thing. Harden: uh-huh Me: how many times have you been in the middle of lovemaking and had a small woodland creature crawl out of your beard? Me: does that happen a lot? Me: and when it does happen does the girl freak? Me: or is she cool about, like, “oh hey. What’s up, tiny adorable squirrel?” Me: because my dad always said that a girl that’ll stand by after an animal has crawled out of you is worth marrying. That’s how him and my mom got together.
[No response.] Me: hello?
[No response.] Me: OK cool. Thanks for Lin’s number.
Danny Margolis, drums: A sophomore political science and government major from Teaneck, New Jersey, Danny runs a campus neocon blog called Francis Fuk-ya-mama. Traffic is light, but the commenters are all intelligent, thoughtful people. He listens to Immortal Technique in the gym because it’s important to consider the other side of things. Also, he has learned, like all Harvard grads, that sometimes the best way to appeal to the common folk is to wrap oneself up in delightful high-low contradictions. His favorite drummer is Mick Green of the Rollins Band.
Tabitha Engstrom, cymbals: A junior linguistics major from Glenview, Illinois, Tabitha, known as "Pithy Bithy" to her friends, wrote and directed 15 plays during her three years at Glenbrook North High School. Seven of those plays featured a protagonist named Tabitha Engstrom and all 15 took place in the late '50s. She is one of six people in the Harvard band who wears a cape around campus. During the spring of her freshman year, Tabitha tried acid for the first time and wrote a long, meandering letter to Jeremy Lin in which she tried, unsuccessfully, to defend the People’s Revolution. Lin never responded, but a love for basketball was born in Tabitha’s heart.
A few minutes before 8 a.m. yesterday, the line extending from the LVH sportsbook stretched back about 50 yards from the sign above its entrance. Those making up its tail end exchanged knowing looks as each new member asked the obligatory Is this the line? before taking his or her spot in front of the trio of blackjack machines on that end of the casino floor.
Seventy-five minutes before tipoff, this was the queue to make bets at the country’s biggest sports book on the country’s biggest sports day. The wait time stood at about 45 minutes, and as gamblers slowly rolled forward, faux-knowledge slowly rolled back. Someone a bit further up would mention that Bucknell on the money line looked attractive, and in a degenerate game of telephone, the conversation would trickle to the rear. An hour or so before tipoff, a man in a red UNLV T-shirt, who’d clearly been there before, but clearly never on this day, said what so many others were thinking. “This is fucking unbelievable.” Actually, it’s the first day of March Madness.
Oklahoma State and UNLV spent earlier parts of yesterday becoming the latest victims in the history of 12 seeds beating 5s, but the biggest upset of the night came amid a wave of blowouts during the last set of games from the opening day of the NCAA tournament. The trendy upset picks — Davidson (still don’t know how they lost) and Saint Mary’s — had already failed in their quest for a Cinderella moment, before lowly Harvard, the Ivy League afterthought, finally toppled a giant. With a 29-5 record that earned them a no. 3 seed, New Mexico was ranked 72 spots ahead of their opponent according to KenPom.com’s rating system and was considered a sleeper pick for a Final Four berth in the West region.
On paper, this was a terrible matchup for the Crimson. Their frontline rotation contained no one taller than 6-foot-8 to match up to the Lobos’ twin towers of Cameron Bairstow (6-9) and Alex Kirk (7-0). Given such a disadvantage in size, it was quite shocking to see head coach Tommy Amaker ask his Harvard big men to battle Bairstow and Kirk one-on-one all night in the post. But it was that decision that swung the entire course of the game.
In case you were the one guy in the office who was actually working yesterday, here's what you missed in sports on Thursday.
Break up the Crimson! Harvard mounted the biggest upset of the first day of the NCAA tournament, beating New Mexico, 68-62. Harvard coach Tommy Amaker was near tears after the game, saying, "No one thought New Mexico could be beat. No one. But we took a ragtag bunch of kids with no futures, and we brought down Goliath. No one will hear 'Harvard' and think second-rate any longer. This changes everything."
Davidson's bid to upset Marquette fell just short as a late turnover doomed the Wildcats to a 59-58 defeat at the hands of the Golden Eagles. "Not hands — talons," said Marquette coach Buzz Williams after the game, who credited his team's victory to their "unnecessarily specific mascot name. The Wildcats never had a chance."
Harvard, y'all! Let's make a bunch of nerd jokes while we can, because the 12th-seeded Crimson face Vandy, a 5-seed, in the first round, and my dad told me to take the Commodores. Also they will all be our bosses one day, and then these jokes won't be nearly as funny.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Tuesday.
According to sources, the Indianapolis Colts will release Peyton Manning after 14 years of service. Team owner Jim Irsay informed Manning of the decision on Monday night, after which the two flew together to Indianapolis, where they'll announce the news at a press conference later today. "I promised myself I wouldn't cry," said Manning, "because then I'd have to touch my head to wipe the tears away, and that is so, so painful. Wait, why are you don't write that down. I'm fine. I'm good to play football."
Harvard has long been ranked as one of the country’s best schools for higher education as well as one of the premier colleges to have a billion-dollar idea for a social network stolen. But it broke new ground this week by being ranked in something that has nothing to do with intellect, rowing a boat, or spontaneously playing chess with (possibly homeless) strangers at a nearby café — men’s basketball. After cracking into the rankings for the first time in school history Monday, the 24th-ranked Crimson went on the road to face the defending national champion UConn Huskies on Thursday night. In the end, no. 9 UConn proved to be too much for Harvard to handle, as the Huskies rolled to a 14-point, 67-53 victory and secured their most impressive win of the season. But while UConn dominated for most of the game and it never really seemed like Harvard had a chance, there were both positive and negative takeaways for each team. Let’s get the negatives out of the way first so we can wrap everything up on a high note.