Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Alma Step-Mater

My girlfriend and I went next door to a bar the other night to watch some of the BCS Championship game. We both went to the University of Florida as graduate students, and sitting beside some real Gator supporters while my girlfriend chanted “If you’re not a master, then mas-tur-bate!” got me thinking about a grad student’s ties to a big, spirited school like UF.

During my two years in Gainesville (2003-2005), I enjoyed baseball and softball games in pleasant weather, as well as the football team’s spring scrimmages, but I wasn’t a backer, despite the campus trashcans’ explicit exhortations to “Put it in the can, Gator fan,” which made me smile daily. When I taught undergraduates, the lure of the big game and my writing assignments vied for their time and energy, and my writing assignments, with no tailgating on offer, were the Prairie View of Undergraduate Time and Energy. The football players rode around on free mopeds while I labored for a salary that barely broke five digits. Worst of all was the basketball team, which, to the eyes of someone weaned on Michigan State hoops discipline (yes, Spartan discipline), was a pack of over-hyped gunners.

In my mind, though, the dichotomy wasn’t Righteous Scholars versus Jocks and their Ovine Admirers, Abundant Funding, and Kymco ZX 50 Scooters. (Though a scooter would have been pretty convenient, since I was riding a bicycle that was so undersized that I was described by one observer as “a giraffe pushing a rolling pin.”) The dichotomy was between the slick, successful new university and the erstwhile school in the middle of a swamp, stocked with oddballs, where professors held office hours in a seamy bar or a bowling alley hosting a party of mentally challenged adults, and where sporting events involved firearms, livestock, or competitive eating--the institution I wanted to attend, and did, on days I stayed off campus. The Authentic vs. the Synthetic, or something similar, awkwardly translated from the French.

Then I left Gainesville, and college’s natural de-selection of over-hyped gunners resulted in a scrappy UF basketball team that I kind of like, and Chris Leak showed up his own team’s fan base by winning it all, and I realized I’d oversimplified matters. The athletic department at your grad school is like inessential in-laws—your spouse’s cousins, maybe. You’re allowed to hate them as long as you keep it to yourself. And you do, until the day you hear they got together and worked night and day at a literal drawing board and figured out how to fit all twenty-eight of themselves into a Geo Prizm, and then they succeeded, and are now included in the Guinness Book of World Records, and you say to your spouse, “Spouse, I never liked your cousins (other than Vince Young) that much, their small stature and commitment to record-breaking always kind of creeped me out, but this demonstration of flexibility, endurance, and familial intimacy impresses me greatly.”

The equivalent cheer, with football substituted for fitting adults into a Geo Prizm, I hereby send out to the University of Florida!

1 comment:

DrGravitee said...

The Matt Walsh / Anthony Roberson Update:

Walsh came out early, went undrafted (the Nets apparently wanted him at 42 but wanted him to agree to go to Europe if he didn't make the team and he wouldn't do that), was signed by the Heat, played 2 minutes and 23 seconds over seven games, was cut by the Heat, was signed by the Arkansas RimRockers, averaged 8.4 points in 21.2min over 11 games, walked out on the Arkansas RimRockers. This year he played 1 minutes and 42 seconds for the Nets over two games before being cut. As far as I can tell he is currently out of basketball.

His RimRockers coach said this about him: Birdsong said Walsh never had the right attitude. But the general manager did praise former UF guard Anthony Roberson, who is also with the RimRockers.

"Matt didn't handle himself like a professional," Birdsong said. "I'm not trying to speak ill of him, but at times, he didn't want to practice, and he said he was hurt even though he wasn't hurt. He really just didn't want to practice. He's a very good shooter, but I didn't see him coming early or staying late to work on his game. He has to get stronger. He's not a good defensive player, his lateral movements are not that good, he's not strong inside and he never goes to the basket. No one is going to just let you stand out and shoot."

Still the Heat paid him half of his 1.2mil/2-year contract because it was guaranteed.

As for Roberson, he also went undrafted. Then he signed with the Memphis Grizzlies in August 2005. Throughout the 2005-06 NBA season, he split his time between the Grizzlies and the Arkansas RimRockers. In October 2006 he was was signed by Golden State. He was cut by Golden State a few days ago (Jan 5th, 2007). Before being cut, he averaged 5.6 points while playing 11.4 minutes. He actually was a bit unlucky, as he had a toe injury and was waived because GS would have had to guarentee his contract if he was still on the roster after Jan. 10th.

I understand why they went out for the draft as juniors: they were trying to avoid the Ryan Gomes effect, the Providence star who was considered a first-rounder as a junior but after his senior year he was end of the second round stuff. Gomes plays for the Celts now. Anyway, that's the Walsh / Roberson update.