Thursday, November 19, 2009

JTG 11/18/09

Jay-Talking Guy column from the Omaha CityWeekly 11/18/09 - 11/24/09


Cover Story: Happy Blue Year, 2009!
Creighton men’s basketball off and rolling at the Qwest Center
By: Patrick Runge
Issue: November 18, 2009

Can you hear it? Can you hear the thumps and the squeaks echoing from gyms around the country? That’s right, college basketball is once again upon us, rescuing us from the interminable wait between football and baseball seasons.

Put down that bracket. Even if you’re Joe Lunardi, it’s too early for that.

My name is Patrick Runge, and you may have seen my Law-Talking Guy columns gracing the pages of this fine publication. But this season, the City Weekly has given me the great honor (or been desperate enough) to allow me to be your Jay-Talking Guy guide through the Creighton basketball season.

Now, those of you who know me might be a little confused. Yes, I am a die-hard Nebraska football fan. Yes, I am a die-hard Creighton basketball fan. And yes, you can be both.

Take a look at the picture. That’s me on the left, with my father, getting ready to head to the Civic Auditorium for another Bluejay adventure. When I was a kid, growing up and learning about basketball, I learned through the lens of the Bluejays. When I came home from YMCA basketball practice, I listened to Bluejay games. When I dreamed of hitting the winning shot in my driveway, I hit that shot for the Bluejays.

I even remember my father telling me about this guy from Indiana State who was supposed to be really good. His name was Larry Bird, or something like that.

One of the great joys in sports is having an allegiance that is passed down to you. When I cheer for the Bluejays, in some small way I am tapping into those happy childhood memories of time spent with my father, wearing matching sweatshirts, eating hot dogs and cheering for the Bluejays. To this day, I can spend autumn and winter evenings with my father talking about Creighton’s over-reliance on perimeter shooting, their lack of developing a true big man, and whether Dana Altman has what it takes to make Creighton a legitimate national program. It’s cliché, I know. Father and son bonding over sports. But it’s cliché because it’s true. Part of the reason I devour all I can about Creighton basketball is because I’m excited about the chance to share those thoughts with my dad.

And being a sports fan in itself isn’t all that rational. In a sense, it’s emotional gambling. You pick a team to support, and you gamble that the excitement of your team’s success will outweigh the disappointment of its failures. But you don’t make that decision consciously. Only when you’ve locked in to “your” team and stay with them through thick and thin can you really understand the joy of long-awaited victories. The price of unabashed euphoria that comes from a big win is all of the heartache and disappointment that comes from losses in the past.

Ask any Nebraska fan who has been waiting for eight years for a game like Oklahoma this year.

So, call me a “Jaysker” if you will. My dad and I will just laugh at you later, anyway.

I promise in the coming weeks I will actually talk about the 2009-10 team, but I thought you should at least know where I’m coming from. At the time of this column, Creighton is 0-1 after a 90-80 loss at No. 21 Dayton. Creighton really got dealt a bad hand, missing three critical players (Justin Carter, Casey Harriman, and Chad Millard) for various reasons. CU had a five-point lead at halftime and led by double digits at one point in the game.

Unfortunately, Dayton’s depth caught up, and Creighton was unable to finish the game. The Bluejays did get solid contributions from newcomers Wayne Runnels and Darryl Ashford, which bodes well for conference play.

Given the absences, it’s hard to know how much to take from this opening loss. Given CU’s absence from the Big Dance in the last two years, it is important for Creighton to make noise on the national stage this year in order to maintain their momentum as one of the mid-major teams to watch. That buzz is important for recruiting and for perception come at-large selection time.

Over Thanksgiving, Creighton will play in the Old Spice Classic, which will give them their best opportunity for a solid resume-boosting non-conference win or two. The Bluejays will have warmups at home against Florida A&M and Arkansas-Little Rock prior to that tournament. Assuming Creighton is able to put out a full squad, we’ll know a lot more about what to expect from the Bluejays after Thanksgiving.

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