Friday, January 24, 2014

On This Date in 1999 (January 24)

Well, I didn’t get much of a start yesterday. Having to get ready for Andy’s basketball game interrupted my progress.

Our weekend has completely revolved around basketball. Friday evening I dropped him off at his 6 o’clock practice, then returned home to keep Eddie company until JoAnna returned home from the health club. By then, it was time for me to make the rounds for dinner – McDonald’s for Eddie, Grand China for JoAnna, Pasqual’s for Andy and me – before picking up Andy, his cheeks full of color after an invigorating 90 minutes of drills, running, and a scrimmage.

One of the reasons yesterday was such a lazy day is that our primary focus was Andy’s basketball game, a later start than usual. 4:15 p.m. Plus we had a half-hour drive to Stoughton in less than ideal conditions. When we left the house, a crusty frosting of snow covered the streets and sidewalks in our neighborhood, but the main roads were more passable, fortunately.

Andy’s team got off to a sluggish start, scoring only 4 points in the first quarter, and trailing by a score of 17-11 at the half. They kept themselves in the second half of the game with some aggressive defense and improved shooting. The final score was 31-30, an absolute thriller of a game, with Middleton able to hold onto a one-point lead for the final 30 seconds of the game. They held Stoughton to a single point in the 4th quarter. Andy played well, grabbing his usual numbers of rebounds but he didn’t score any points.

Once we returned home, we ordered pizza and sat in the front of the TV for the Wisconsin-Iowa game. The Big Ten is very competitive this year, with seven teams in the Top 25 rankings, though none of them in the top ten. Iowa and Wisconsin are ranked 14th and 15th, respectively this week, so this game was built up as a major showdown, as well as being a battle for sole possession of second place in the conference standings. An additional element of drama was the presence of Sam Okey, former Badger who now plays for the Hawkeyes. Okey was the most highly-regarded and sought-after Wisconsin high-school basketball player three-four years ago, and the fact that he chose Wisconsin made a lot of people think that our years of basketball mediocrity were over. A funny thing happened on the way to the NCAA Final Four. It turned out that coach Dick Bennett and his highly regarded recruit didn’t get along. Most of the blame has to be placed on Okey, a prima-donna type of player who craved the attention that came his way but didn’t know how to effectively deal with it. He left the team in the middle of last season, a disastrous one from start to finish for the Badgers. This year, without Okey, the team is playing as good if not better than the expectations that were pinned on them three years ago.

Last night, Okey got the crowd fired up with an early slam-dunk, but otherwise the game was all Badgers, who rolled to a very impressive 72-52 victory. They might finds themselves in the top ten in next week’s poll.

More basketball today. But first we went to church, 11 o’clock mass at St. Bernards and attended their spaghetti dinner afterwards. We had about an hour and a half of “free time” before traveling to Andy’s game. I stretched out on the coach and continued reading the book of short stories I started last week, The Summer Before the Summer of Love, by Marly Swick, a very observant writer. She creates some wonderfully interesting characters in these stories. I must admit that I dozed off for about 20 minutes, which left me just enough time to complete one story.

Another exciting game today. This was a rematch with Verona, whom Middleton beat handily (40-17, I think) in their first game of the season. Verona looked much improved, although Middleton did built a ten-point lead by half-time. Verona chipped away determinedly, but either a turnover by them or a key basket by Middleton allowed us to maintain at least a 5-point cushion. In fact, that was the margin of victory, 37-32. Andy played a lot of minutes, the entire first quarter, in fact. He grabbed 8 or 9 rebounds and scored 4 points on the boards. Only his defense in the last minute of the game looked a little suspect. He let his guy drive by him and score a basket both times. Overall, though, it was the best game he’s played this season so far.

I guess I started supper too soon. Everything was ready 15 minutes ago, but JoAnna and Andy haven’t returned from the health club yet. I baked boneless chicken breasts, brushing two of them with soy sauce, since the two side dishes I’ve prepared are rice and a Birds-Eye stir-fry vegetable medley, an item that a newspaper coupon encouraged me to buy. Everything’s on warm, so I’m sure it’ll taste all right. The boys will probably eat just the chicken, although I think Andy has tried rice before without grimacing.

We’ve had more snow today, close to an inch, enough so that I’m going to have to shovel off the sidewalk and driveway later this evening. The dirty gray snow that made everything look so ugly has now been covered by a thin blanket of white.

It’s Monday morning, with no time to add anything substantial to this letter. I want to get your belated card in the mail before I go to work, but before I do that I still need to take a shower, get dressed, and rouse the boys out of bed.

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