I’m a huge fan of trash talking, gamesmanship, and head games. If you’ve ever played basketball with me, you know just how much I love trying to get inside someone’s head, seeing if they can beat me mentally as well as physically. Over the years, I’ve learned that true competitors have a truckload of mental strength and the ability to both give and take a little verbal jousting.
That’s why I loved the trash talking at this year’s Masters.
Whether or not you’re a golf fan, you have to appreciate the gamesmanship that goes into the sport’s biggest competitions. Maybe it’s not as openly shared as the trash talking on the basketball court or football field, but pro golfers are masters of getting into their opponent’s heads (and sometimes getting into their own!). Playing golf at this level requires enormous physical talent, but if your head’s not in the game you don’t have a chance.
This is something veteran golfer Rory McIlroy knows well.
Forget the big name schools who will be there, the most talked about team in this weekend’s NCAA Tournament Final Four has to be the Loyola-Chicago Ramblers. From clutch wins to the storyline of two players who have been teammates since third grade to the legend of their beloved 98-year-old team chaplain, Sister Jean Dolores-Schmidt (she’s even getting her own bobblehead doll!!), the media just can’t get enough of the fourth 11th-seeded team to make the Final Four. And rightly so. The Ramblers are an incredible story.
But the figure in the story that hasn’t gotten the attention he deserves is Loyola coach Porter Moser. Since 2011 when he took over as coach, he’s affected a culture change throughout the organization that has led to the Rambler’s first NCAA Tournament bid since 1985. It was evident from the first time I watched this team in November through last weekend that Moser loves his players and that he’s taught them to love and trust each other.
As I’ve looked at this team, two things stand out most about Coach Moser and the Ramblers.
Put most of us in an empty field house, with complete quiet and nothing to disturb us, and almost none of us could make 34 straight free throws. Now, head to the court, heart pumping, the deafening cheer of the crowd and television cameras watching every move, and many of us couldn’t even hit two in a row! It takes a special talent to sink 34 free throws in a row. It takes an even more impressive kid like Jordan Bohannon to miss the 35th.
University of Iowa point guard, Jordan Bohannon, was on a roll. He’d hit 34 straight free throws and was at the line to sink his 35th in a tight game against Northwestern on Sunday. His next free throw wouldn’t just extend the Iowa lead, it would also make history. That was the problem.
In 1993, Iowa Forward Chris Street set the school record for consecutive free throws made at 34. Street would have tried to top that number, but the night before his team was scheduled to play again, Street’s car hit a snow plow, killing him and injuring his girlfriend. His free throw record stood for 25 years, until Bohannon had the opportunity to break it. In a world where everyone wants their name in the record books and clamors for individual validation, Jordan Bohannon went the other way.
He chose to miss.