Thoughts On The Dead

Musings on the Most Ridiculous Band I Can't Stop Listening To

Tag: basketball

Hell In A Bracket

At first, there was no basketball. Then, suddenly: there was. It was cold in Springfield, Ohio, and the all the town’s boys were stuck in the gym. A man named James Naismith said to the boys, “Let’s go outside and stick our dicks in the snow,” because he was from Canada. The boys, Americans all, demurred. Naismith came up with a game for them to play in the gym, and he called it European Handball. The boys said, “Were you not reading the part about us being American? Get that weirdo bullshit out of here.”

“I have another idea,” said Naismith.

And thus basketball was born, or at least a primitive form of it in which there was no dribbling and you got a point for pegging an Irishman in the head with the ball. Over the years, the rules were refined and shorts were invented. One day, a guy showed up with a sweatband wrapped around his giant afro, and the game achieved a new paradigm. Today, basketball is the second-most popular sport in the world (after soccer), and this is possibly due to its duality: you can watch it or you can play it. You need a ton of people and equipment and room to play baseball, let alone tennis or golf or speed-skating, but you can play hoops anywhere. The sport is also amenable to wagering: there’s a billion permutations to bet on in every game, and then you can combinate the permutations and get yourself flat-busted in no time at all.

Next weekend, we will see the Final Four. Having been 64 teams, now only 4 remain; they shall battle, and the winning team shall be permitted to breed. This strengthens the genome.

But for whom should the conscientious Enthusiast root? (This is, of course, assuming that you didn’t attend any of the colleges. After all, alma mater is Latin for “institution whose tee-shirts I wear to bed.” If you went to one of the Final Four schools, you are exempt from this.) Which of the four teams is the most Grateful Dead?

We examine the question:

Kansas The Dead played the state of Kansas nine times, and four of those shows were in 1979: two in February and two in December. Does that seem like the best use of time, hitting Kansas City with double-barrels? Couldn’t they have gone when it was warmer? Kansas in February is so cold that it fired its Secretary of State by tweet.

Not only did the Dead play Kansas City (the city), but the Dead played Kansas City (the non-city). Bobby sang the Lieber/Stoller composition twice in concert, once on 10/28/85 at the Fabulous Fox Theatre in Atlanta. Was the other performance of Kansas City in Kansas City, you ask? Are you new here? Of fucking course they didn’t play it in Kansas City. They played it in Worcester, Mass. Of fucking course they did.

However, the college is in Manhattan, which is over a hundred miles from Kansas City (regardless of the fact that a hundred miles isn’t all that far in Kansas) and so Kansas is eliminated from contention.

Villanova The Dead played in Philly a shitload, but never at the suburban school known for basketball and its world-class motel management program. It is a Catholic institution, and several Grateful Deads were/are Catholic. Beyond that, I got nothing.

Also: they’re the Wildcats. If you’re not going to try, I’m not going to care, Villanova. Put some effort into your mascot.

Michigan Twice in ’71–two superb shows from December–and once in ’67, the Dead played the town of Ann Arbor; in ’79 and ’89, though, they played the Crisler Arena on campus. Unlike Villanova, the U of Michigan is not a Catholic school, and in fact contains many Hebrews. Similarly, Dead audiences contained many Hebrews. I’m gonna bet that Michigan had a rather healthy Deadhead frat. Also in Michigan’s favor: they are playing basketball and not football, and therefore no Gruden is involved.

Looking good for the Wolverines so far.

Loyola Listen, we all know the previous 600 words have been utter horseshit, and you don’t have a soul if you’re not rooting for Loyola.


  • Cinderella story.
  • They are from Chicago, and Barack Obama is from Chicago, and everyone misses Barack Obama but I don’t think he misses us.
  • It is a Jesuit university, and Jesuits are Catholicism’s version of warrior-poets.
  • Karla DeVito went there!
  • You know Karla DeVito, even though you don’t know it.
  • This is her:

  • Karla fucking DeVito!
  • (She’s lip-syncing. Ellen Foley sang the part on the record, but still: Karla fucking DeVito!)
  • “Loyola” also sounds like a noise a very fancy gambler would make as he threw a pair of dice.
  • “Here we go, here we go, LOYOLA!”
  • Maybe it’s just me.
  • Oh, and Sister Jean.
  • I don’t wanna hear any cynical bullshit about Sister Jean.
  • She’s all right.

And, finally, the Dead’s connection to the school: on 11/17/78, in the afternoon, the Dead (most of ’em, anyway) played an acoustic set in something called the Rambler Room, which was just a provincial name for the Student Union. Billed as the Bob Weir Band, they performed eight or nine tunes real loose-like. It looked like this:

As is customary, there are nothing but questions. This clearly wasn’t planned–Phil’s playing a borrowed Fender Precision and half the band is absent–and the band had no overt ties to the college. In addition, they literally never did this. What the fuck is wrong with you, Grateful Dead?

Disregarding the mysteries, we must award a thousand bonus points to Loyola for the uniquity of the occasion. Also: Sister Jean.

We are rooting for Loyola, Enthusiasts.

Spanish Jam

These are Lithuanians, Young Enthusiasts; they’re supposed to look like that. This is 1992, and the Soviet Union had just broken up–it was a mutual decision–and so this would be the first time that Lithuania could have their own basketball team in the Olympics, and that was important to them because Lithuanians are nuts for basketball, and they’re good at it, too: in 1988, four out of the five starters for the Soviet Olympic team were Lithuanian.

Commies were all about the Glory of Sport: their athletes were selected at young ages and trained in academies; they may also have been educated. Drugs and beatings and (I’d wager) uncountable acts of child abuse and punishment for losing. In Soviet Russia, the cover of the Wheaties box went on you.

What does that mean?

Shh. I’m talking about history. Anyway, the Soviet system was basically a gulag archipelago of gyms, but there were also perks. Winning had its rewards, comrade. A new Lada. Dacha on the Black Sea. Extra potato. Or, maybe, you could get a ticket out from behind the Iron Curtain. The Ministry of Sport–seriously, it was called that–promised the four Lithuanians on that ’88 basketball team that if they brought home gold for Mother Russia, then they could go play for the NBA. (They’d have to send all the money back home, but it was better than nothing.)

The NBA’s the important part here, Younger Enthusiast, because it serves a position in the story of both carrot and stick. The Lithuanians’ desperation to get to the NBA led to them beating the United States and taking home the gold. Said beating caused America to stand up from its chair, shivering with rage and aching with fear at the terrible thing that it knew it must now do.

“Release the Jordan.”

And so in 1992, you had the Dream Team–Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Charles Barkley, and eight other Hall-of-Famers who weren’t Isiah Thomas–and no matter what you promised a Lithuanian, no one was beating them.

I’m ahead of myself: remember how those rotten, collectivist, turnip-fucking cossacks promised the noble, brave, hardworking Lithuanians that they could go to America and play in the NBA in return for the medal? They lied. Only one guy was allowed to go, a 6’5″ shooting guard named Šarūnas Marčiulionis, and he ended up on the Golden State Warriors, who play in the city of San Francisco. This was ’89. Couldn’t speak the language, but he was outgoing and friendly and so he ended up going out with his friends a lot. Some of his friends were associates of a certain semi-defunct, choogly-type band.

On Christmas Day, 1991, the Soviet Union fell. (And God bless us, everyone.) Marčiulionis had one goal: put together a Lithuanian national team to compete in the Olympics, and kick the shit out of the Russians. He had the players, but not the money, and so he started asking around town. Up and down Market, and all around Lombard, and door-to-door in the Castro. He even brought his beggar’s bowl to Front Street.

The Dead sent a check, and a couple boxes full of shirts and shorts. These were men who had grown up under Soviet rule: they were not familiar with tie-dye. The bright colors seemed right, though. Marčiulionis and the Lithuanians made it through the qualifying rounds, and went on to Barcelona. They played the Dream Team: 127-76. The score makes it seem closer than it was, but that wasn’t why they went to Spain.

In the bronze medal match, Lithuania beat Russia 82-78.

By now, the team had attracted sponsors and they had fancy workout clothes, but they wore their tie-dye onto the medal podium, both to show their national colors and to thank the Dead. Skully–that’s what they named the slam-dunking skeleton on the front of the shirt–is in the Basketball Hall of Fame, right alongside all the members of the Dream Team. We really are everywhere.

It is not clear whether or not the team’s fanny packs were provided by Bobby.

March Madness Without Research

  • I know I usually cheat a little on the tenets of Without Research, but I promise not to this time, mostly because I sincerely don’t give a shit.
  • It is a basketball tournament, but LeBron is not in it.
  • Florida is (was?) in it, and number 11 on that team is a young man named Josh Jackson who has an immense upswoop of afro; he looks like Huey from The Boondocks.
  • Brother on the Dead went to U of F, so I root for the Gators when it comes to college sports.
  • My alma mater did not have sports, unless you count experimenting with heroin and homosexuality a sport.
  • So I just root for BotD’s school, and I noticed Josh Jackson on the teevee; I was like “Yay, Josh Jackson,” and then I saw something about him the internet and I think he may have shit on the hood of a woman’s Kia.
  • I have remained a fan of people who have done far, far worse things than that.
  • First there are 64 teams.
  • Then, 32.
  • After that is the Sweet Sixteen.
  • I think they want us to call this round the “Elite Eight” but that’s just horrible.
  • Finally, four.
  • The NCAA tournament is a reverse logarithm, if you think about it.
  • Did Bill Walton win it?
  • I’m going to assume that Bill Walton won it.
  • Duke.
  • Wow, am I not even going to attempt the coach’s name Without Research.
  • You know who I’m talking about.
  • University of North Carolina.
  • They are the Tar Heels, but I think they’re also a goat.
  • Xavier and Gonzaga.
  • Every fucking year with Xavier and Gonzaga, and I have absolutely no idea where either of them is.
  • I mean to look it up every year, but then I don’t because I just don’t care.
  • I do know that “Xavier” is not pronounced like Professor Charles Xavier, but like Xavier Cugat.
  • The X makes a Z sound.
  • Which is silly: just be Zavier, Xavier.
  • Stop confusing comic book fans.
  • There are seedings, and sometimes teams can be overseeded or underseeded, even though neither of those words are words.
  • A team will be deemed the Cinderella Story.
  • College basketball is broken into geographical groupings called “families;” and coaches have to swear a blood oath, or omerta, to the family and regularly kick up cash and teenagers’ knees.
  • I have been informed I am sort of talking about the mafia; I apologize for the mix-up.
  • There’s the SEC, which is in the South, and the ACC, which is not.
  • And the Conference of Champions, which is in the West.
  • (The conference probably isn’t actually called that, but I don’t know the real name of it and that’s what Bill Walton calls it.)
  • Is there a Big 10 for basketball, or is that just a football thing?
  • The tournament takes the best teams from each conference and pits them against each other in gentlemanly, amateur competition until we know who the victor is; sport at its purest.
  • Nah, just shittin’ ya: the whole shebang is just a reason to gamble.
  • You fill out your brackets, which are decision trees made up of the dreams of teenagers, and then you got yourself a one-in-a-quadrillion shot of getting it right.
  • Wait, I was wrong: one-in-14-quadrillion.
  • (Yeah, I cheated. I don’t care about the basketball, but the corruption and money are interesting.)
  • $10 billion every year, and here’s the fun part: only a quarter or so of that goes to American bookmakers; the rest leaves the country via the internet, and I’m positive that it only goes to the nicest people.
  • Obama used to love the tournament, and he would do a spot on ESPN every year about his bracket and what he thought of the teams.
  • He was witty and charming, and he could tell a joke or take one.
  • When they asked Trump to fill out a bracket, Kellyanne Conway stepped in front of the president, and then her face split open lengthwise and cancer flew out, and tuberculosis, too; all the pestilence of earth, foul and roaming, and Kellyanne shrieked Bii-YAAAAAALLL and the ESPN reporter was never seen again.
  • If you stop dribbling the ball, you cannot start dribbling it again or the ref will call you for a double-dribble, which is the least-imaginatively named penalty in sports.
  • (High-sticking is pretty on-the-nose, too, now that I think about it. TotD prefers that fouls be described more abstractly. “Icing.” That could mean, like, anything. Everyone’s on the ice at all times. “Balk” is a good one. Balk is an obscure verb, and it gets bonus points for being awkward to say.)
  • Is there a Final Four for Quidditch?
  • Fuck, I hope not.
  • You know people play Quidditch, right?
  • I despise these screeds from the pasty patsies at the Times (that useless Frank Bruni did one this weekend) about “the terrible state of our students.”
  • The kids are all right.
  • They got a reason to be pissed.
  • But when I see those little shits waddling around on broomsticks pretending to be wizards and shouting dog Latin at each other, I want to get the Time Sheath and have President Nixon call in the National Guard to their campuses.
  • Stop playing Quidditch, children.
  • If you want people to know you’re from the suburbs, then go buy yourself a frisbee and start an Ultimate team.
  • Do not Quidditch, children; we will not defeat Radical Islamic Terrorism that way.
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