sports (2005-47)

Buzzed Out

Analyzing the behavior of a UT hoops coach

by Tony Basilio

I grabbed my Metro Pulse a couple of weeks back, and it hit me like a ton of bricks. I’m a victim of Tennessee basketball. On the cover was new UT basketball coach Bruce Pearl. The feature story was an interesting read on the man entrusted to revive what’s left of the Big Orange hoops program. I consider myself a basketball lover, which means I should be excited about the game coming back to life.

Having to talk about what is, was, and what has become of UT men’s basketball on a daily basis is enough to give a person a serious Buzz! That’s the kind of Buzz—for people experienced with such things—that can cause people of a similar stripe to behave in different ways.Some people with a Buzz become fervent and hungry. That is apparently what happened to the 17,000 plus who greeted Bruce Pearl in his first game as UT’s head coach when the season opened on November 18 versus ETSU. They’re ready to get on Bruce’s Big Orange Bandwagon. Wish I could say the same, but I’m still Buzzin’.

My Buzz has rendered me lethargic and unmotivated. When it comes to UT Men’s hoops, I feel like I’m missing the parade. I’m 35 years old, living in my mother’s basement while the rest of the world is making a contribution to the Orange Nation. This is what UT basketball has done to me. This was once a time of the year that was cherished on my calendar. Midnight Madness (or Midnight Sadness as it’s called in these parts) used to be like a holiday for me. Remember when the Entertainment Sports and Programming Network brought Jay Bilas here back in the late ‘90s celebrating another season of Jed Ball? The high hopes and promise of the future went up in flames in, appropriately for my Buzz, a place called the Tommy Bowl.

Tennessee hoops mattered to me back then. I was on the ball! Now, Mom is asking me to turn down the new Steppenwolf as I watch Springer with subtitles. There are run of the mill side effects to this affliction like the munchies, and then there is this Buzz I’m dragging around. Oh, I’m hungry as I type, just not for UT basketball.

It’s a four year cycle here in Knoxville. Year one sees us coronate coaches with big contracts and undying adulation. Bruce Pearl is currently in this phase. Supernatural powers are assessed to the new guy by the fan base. Then year two brings reality. Like somebody in a blissful manic relationship wrought with trauma looking at their partner one day and exclaiming, “How in the world did I ever choose you? I mean, how did I ever think I could count on you to get it done? How could I be so stupid as to entrust my heart to you?” In other words, by that second year it’s not “if” as it relates to the new UT hoops coach—a.k.a., Schlep of the Moment—but when. Year three brings denial and the hopes of patching things up. It’s Dr. Philville here. We’re hoping he’ll change. Maybe he’ll start doing the little things to make this work. Maybe he’ll actually act like he wants to be successful. 

Year four simply brings the louder drumbeat of the death march. When March comes, we give him the glue gun. Then we show him the door. Our hearts are broken, depleted of the wasted energy on loving something that refuses to love us back. The split-ups at the end of the term are usually messy with words exchanged in the press. He gets slammed on talk radio and in the Internet and we get creamed by the regional and national media. “How could you do that to a guy who won so much?” they ask. “How could UT do that to such a great guy?”

When it comes to UT hoops and the Bruce Pearl era, here I sit in Mom’s basement with Kiss Alive II blaring from my 8-track in quadraphonic stereo. While it sounds pretty good after all these years, it sure would be nice to get back into life. I was once a productive member of the Big Orange Basketball nation. 

I keep telling mom that I’m going to get off the couch and look for a job. I hear they have about 14,000 openings nightly at Thompson Boling Arena. I hope to get there before Christmas, only I fear that another broken heart could wreck me for good this time. In other words Bruce Pearl gets it done or I’m done!

Listen up! Tune in and talk sports with Tony Basilio weekdays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on ESPN Radio WVLZ 1180 AM.

© 2005 MetroPulse. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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