Thursday, March 27, 2008

52 52 52 Week #6: Nebraska

In which I examine crappy local sports journalism on a state-by-state basis, progressing through the states in terms of an alphabetical ordering of the heights of their tallest points. Because I can.

Ah, sweet, sweet Nebraska, the state I've never visited. Its rolling fields, its bizarrely overrated football program, its pre-Sideways Alexander Payne movies...what is there not to love? Especially when its highpoint is Panorama Point, which rises to a surprisingly robust 5,424 feet. According to Wikipedia, here are some facts...

1. It's not a mountain.

2. It's not a hill.

3. It's a low rise on the High Plains. That's all it fucking is. A low rise. So move the fuck along.

OK, I screwed you a little on the facts front, so here's a link to an amusing account of some people trying to "climb" the thing in 2001. It's worth a glance, if only for its somewhat inexplicable detour into the ill-fated George Mallory expedition up Mount Everest. What can I say? If there's one thing I love, it's irrelevant tangents.

Hey look, a bear!

I liked the part where it made me buy salmon.

In any event, this week I'm going really local by picking on the Kearney Hub, which, according to its website, "provides award-winning local news coverage for south-central Nebraska and is the most efficient advertising vehicle for businesses to reach a market area that covers all or parts of 10 counties and more than 68,000 adults." I would snicker derisively, but then I'd be fucking ecstatic if this blog was read by 68 people, let alone a thousand times that. Eh, who am I kidding? If I had 6.8 readers, that'd do just fine. But then, at least I don't spend any money on this thing, unlike the dudes at the Kearney Hub. Nah, I just spend hours and hours writing a book's worth of material on why Ray Ratto is sorta weird. Let's just move on.

The problem with newspapers this local is that they really don't have the resources to employ hack columnists who do nothing but spew out tired, reactionary opinions. Instead, they have a bunch of staff writers write human interest pieces that, in their desperation to be even mildly interesting, overstate the importance of their painfully mundane topics so completely that they're...well, they're kinda funny. Kinda. Here's a survey of what the Kearney Hub has to offer...

First up, an article by Seth Blank about a really old bowler. I'm pretty sure all you need to know about the state of Seth Blank's soul is summed up by his headshot:

I feel for you Seth, I really do. But you know what I'm not feeling? Your title:

Come on Elleen: Age just a number to Broken Bow bowler

Datedness of that reference: 26 years. Which I think makes it only about a decade out-of-date by Nebraska standards. Although I'm pretty sure that reference would be totally current in one of those crazy Balkan cities like Ljubljana, capital of Slovenia. Maybe even a couple years ahead of its time.

Childbirth couldn’t do it. Neither could a stroke or a heart attack. It seems as if nothing can stop Elleen Hall.

Childbirth and a stroke/heart attack: roughly equivalent, apparently. What is this, preindustrial Europe?

Hall, who turned 83 this week, made history Sunday at the Big Apple Fun Center by bowling in her 59th straight Nebraska Women’s Bowling Association State Tournament.

Hall’s 59-year streak eclipsed Omaha’s Helen Zentz’s mark of 58 years although Hall was quick to point out Zentz’s streak wasn’t done consecutively.

Elleen Hall is one hell of a sore winner, apparently, if after setting a new record she feels the need to shit on the previous one. 83 or not, Elleen, a little class goes a long way.

Hall’s first state tournament was in 1950 in Omaha where she took home her only state tournament top-5 finish.

Only one top-5 finish? This clearly isn't the Cal Ripken of Nebraska women's bowling we're talking about here; hell, I'm not even convinced she qualifies as the Julio Franco of Nebraska women's bowling. This is just a woman with a lot of free time who has entered an open tournament for six decades, isn't it? ISN'T IT?!


Julio Franco's comparables for the 2007 season, according to Baseball Prospectus's PECOTA projections:

Satchel Paige, Strom Thurmond, George Blanda, Harriet the Galapagos Tortoise

Let no one say those BP dudes don't have a sense of humor. Although, for my money, that foul-mouthed parrot that everyone naturally assumed belonged to Winston Churchill should have made the cut.


In any event, I guess it's at least impressive she had to keep herself in good enough shape to keep bowling that long.

But the pace of her ball has slowed since then — not just because of age, but because of a life-threatening stroke and four-way bypass heart surgery.


“I always said my favorite things in my life were babies, bowling, and bridge, in that order,” said Hall.

Ten bucks she said "bridge" just to keep up the alliteration. Shitty alliteration, to be sure, but that's still why she said it. I mean, come on...everyone knows Nebraska is canasta country.

After giving birth to a daughter on March 4, 1952, Hall made sure she didn’t miss the state tournament as she traveled with her mother and her team from Broken Bow to tournament host Grand Island.

OK, here's where it's revealed Elleen Hall is a damn dirty liar. Basically, the 1952 trip got snowed in and she was away for a long time from her husband and newborn daughter. This, as you can probably imagine, didn't thrill her husband, but Elleen gives the following response:

“And I said, Jim what could I do with my mother along? …I couldn’t get rowdy.”

But then - IN THE VERY NEXT SENTENCE - she drops this bombshell:

While she didn’t party at that state tournament, Hall said it was part of the experience. She added being with her team, which includes two of her daughters.

“I think the girls on the team keep me younger because they’ve let me go along every year and party. We’ve had some wild parties,” Hall said with a chuckle.

So it's impossible for people to party with their mother along...unless they party with their mother along. She's hiding something, I fucking know it.

You want to know what I think? I think this is the tip of some massive Nebraska women's bowling scandal of wild sapphic parties that'll make those two Carolina cheerleaders look like fucking nuns. And not naughty nuns, either. As you can imagine, I'm already finishing up the screenplay. Paul Verhoeven is attached to direct.

Since we're already on the topic of Nebraska-style sexiness - which is to say, not especially sexy, you know, at all - here's another gem of a human interest piece, this time from head writer Buck Mahoney. If any of the sportswriters I viciously and unfairly lampoon ever feels like kicking the shit out of me, I can only hope it's a man with a name as unspeakably manly as "Buck Mahoney." I'm pretty sure being able to claim "Buck Mahoney beat me up" is roughly equivalent to "I beat up Mitch Albom" on the badass scale. I'm just saying is all.

Anyway, the article is about the South Dakota Coyotes women's basketball team, which made the Division II Elite Eight. The team happens to have not one but two sets of identical twins on its roster, and Mahoney is profiling the more talented pair, Jenna and Jeana Hoffman...

They started playing in kindergarten, on tiny basketball hoops in the garage.

They’ve played together ever since.

I think it's been well-established that I'm incredibly immature. So...the sentence "They've played together ever since", when applied to a couple of identical twins? Let's just say I'm inappropriately snickering.

The Coyotes will play Washburn in the 8:30 p.m. game, the last game of the quarterfinals, and Washburn’s players can be forgiven if they think they’re seeing double.

The Hoffmans are identical twins. So are USD’s Ashley and Amy Robinette.

"I'm seeing double! Eight Hoffmas and Robinettes!"

Sorry, I couldn't resist. Sometimes the obvious Simpsons references are the best.

“For me, they’re my fourth and fifth sets of twins,” said USD coach Chad Lavin. “All five sets have been great. … Every set of twins I’ve had have been fun to have around.

University of South Dakota coach Chad Lavin? SMARTEST...MOTHERFUCKER...EVER. Seriously, he apparently is just running the basketball program so that he can meet identical twin coeds. I think Bruce Pearl may be hiring a new assistant real soon.

“These two are pretty similar to the other ones. Their personalities are a lot different, but they look the same.”

Really Chad? These identical twins look the same, yet they're also distinct human beings? Someone's got a medical background, quite clearly.

The easiest way to tell the Hoffmans apart, Lavin said, is that Jeana shoots left-handed, Jenna shoots right-handed.

Yeah...but he ain't talking about basketball. AW SHIT!!! LAVIN BE A PLAYA FO' LIFE!!!

I can't wait for the probably inevitable day when my parents discover this blog. I'm sure they'll be thrilled.

Thankfully, this article veers beautifully between Chad Lavin the probable sexual genius and Chad Lavin the apparent idiot when it comes to pretty much anything else.

Lavin said he has seen their ‘ESP’ at work.

“It’s got to be something. I know we won a game at Winona State where I couldn’t figure out how. We were going to Jenna and she got taken away. And somehow or another, she found Jeana for a three,” Lavin said.

So, Jenna showed good court vision and made a great pass, and since it happened to be to her sister...that means she's telepathic? I'm pretty sure it's that standard of evidence that led to people getting burned at the stake.

One last juvenile double entendre, then I'll get to the other major reason why I wanted to deal with this article...

“Our one-on-one battles are pretty even,” Jeana said.

Wait for it...

“I usually have to try to take her down low or post her up,” Jenna said.

Wait for it...

“She’s usually right in my face and I don’t get a lot of shots off. When she has the ball, she always likes to pull up … I try to get a hand on the ball. But she’s pretty tough to guard one on one.”

Almost there...

Often, the Robinette twins join the fun.

Heh, heh...heh.

Anyway, there happens to be a picture of one of the twins accompanying the article.

So, as you can see, that would be a photo of Jenna Hoffman, number 23. Just one slight problem...

That's right - they mixed up the twins in the accompanying fucking photo. I honestly just checked the roster on a whim, never for a second thinking they actually would have fucked it up. I mean...that would have just been too ridiculous, right?

I guess it's true what they say: sometimes, every once in a great while, something perfect happens. Thank you, Kearney Hub, thank you.

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