Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Transitions

As we bridge the gap from basketball to baseball season, I have to pause a minute and tell you about a new book. Finished it last night; it's a good one.

Those who saw him play say Pete Maravich was something else. Gangly, awkward, droopy socks, shaggy hair. Pure athleticism, unbelievable moves, maybe the best shooter ever.

Mark Kriegel trains his journalistic eye on the enigmatic, troubled Maravich in an engaging new book, "Pistol."

At its heart, Maravich's story is a father and son tale. Press Maravich was the teacher, the immigrant baptized into basketball after a missionary handed him a ball. Pete was the son, the anointed one, the talent by which Press would realize his dreams.

And that's the sad part of this uniquely American tale. Pete never had a chance to just be Pete Maravich. He was always what someone else wanted him to be --- the Pistol, the Great White Hope, Press's boy, the NBA's star attraction. Showtime, they called him.

His mere presence put LSU basketball on the map. His mere presence also built the Omni in Atlanta, put butts in the seats at the Superdome and caused TV basketball ratings to shatter records.

But then there were those haunted eyes. The injuries. The failure to win a championship. The inability to go out and get a beer without somebody picking a fight or bumming an autograph.

As Kriegel says, the Pistol was the Elvis of his time, a superstar trapped in the bright lights of his own success.

Hey, Vol fans, perk up. Ray Mears is mentioned here, too. The legendary Tennessee coach's trademark mind games had a particular way of getting under Press's skin. It started when Press coached at North Carolina State. Something about Mears calling a time out in the waning seconds of a Vol victory. Press never forgot it.

His son didn't like facing the Vols either. Writes Kriegel, "As a sophomore Pete averaged 19 points against Tennessee -- but 45.8 against everybody else."

Says Mears, "I put in a lot of time figuring out how to give (Pete) trouble."

"Pistol" is a tragic tale of unfulfilled dreams, of grabbing the brass ring and then having it become trapped in one's grasp. It's a good read, well worth the few days you spend with it. I enjoyed it even better than Florida's national championship win Monday night.

But now it's April. Time to put the basketball away and grab a ball and bat.

After work today, I ducked down to Tyson Park and caught the No. 1-ranked Tennessee softball team's 12-0 win (in five innings) over Tennessee Tech.

UT junior Tonya Callahan set a school record with her 31st career home run in the fourth. Junior Megan Rhodes pitched a beaut, a complete game one hit shutout. Rhodes (10-1) struck out 12. The Vols (40-2) don't lose much.

Yet another beautiful night here in God's country. Guess we'd better enjoy it. Gonna be downright cold this Easter weekend, they say.

So one season passeth away as another one cometh. Let's just hope this weekend is the last of the 28 degree weather.

Cause, after all, you can't play baseball when it's freezing.

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