Welcome to 5 For Friday: the column in which Your Humble Author ranks or highlights five of a given subject. The inaugural edition — we’ll call it “inaugural” since I haven’t done one of these in a while — received too many great suggestions to limit it to one. So while the centerpiece ranks my five favorite college basketball courts, 5 For Friday gets rolling with a trifecta of topics.
If your suggestion did not make it this week, check back every Friday — and please keep the topics coming in!
Favorite College Basketball Courts
Thanks to @_2XL_ on Twitter for providing the centerpiece topic for this 5 For Friday. Picking favorite college basketball courts is no easy feat — especially considering there are so many I still need to visit. There are also omissions from this list, as the topic specifically frames home courts. The Palestra and Madison Square Garden are two honorable mentions, though I do not count either as true home venues; spare me your St. John’s argument for MSG.
Cameron Indoor Stadium
The entire Cameron experience is high on my sports bucket list, starting with a night camping in Krzyzewskiville, then being harassed by the jazz-hands of the Cameron Krazies from my seat on press row. Much of college basketball owes a debt of gratitude to Duke — begrudgingly, no doubt. But without its atmosphere, many of the student sections around the nation wouldn’t have had the inspiration for their own traditions.
Phog Allen Fieldhouse
History — and noise — radiates through the television monitor whenever a Kansas home game is aired. The Phog’s always-raucous crowds play a huge part in Kansas’ dominance of the Big 12 Conference, evident in the 54-game winning streak the Jayhawks had going into February of this season. Few college basketball courts can match the importance of The Phog.
New Mexico basketball hasn’t been much for a minute. When the Lobos are good, however, few venues in college basketball are more intimidating. Ironically, The Pit boasts the second-highest capacity of the five college basketball courts listed here. Those 15,000-plus seats aren’t just for show, either, as New Mexico routinely fills the place.
The name “The Pit” isn’t some forced nickname, either. The floor is quite literally underground, adding to the atmosphere and intimidating reputation.
Bonus points for hosting one of the greatest finishes in NCAA Tournament history with NC State’s 1983 national title win. Double-bonus points now that UNM’s Pit is the only one in college basketball. Oregon’s McArthur Court shared the nickname, but was closed in 2011 when UO opened Matt Knight Arena.
A sentimental, possibly homer-ish pick? Undeniably. The first basketball game I ever attended was at McKale Center, located on the eastside of the University of Arizona’s campus. I attended and later counseled at camps in this arena. I had season tickets in the student section while an undergrad at UA.
Nevertheless, statistical evidence supports my emotional attachment. McKale Center has hosted winning streaks of 71 and 49 games in its time, and holds a remarkable 33-year streak for best attendance in the Pac-10/12.
Any college basketball fan or cinephile can tell you the epic finale of Hoosiers is shot at Hinkle Fieldhouse. That alone scores Butler’s home court points.
Albums from the ’90s
This topic comes courtesy of @Athens_Grease, one of my favorite follows on Twitter. This is right in my wheelhouse as a child of the ’90s. I have vivid memories of saving up allowance money and my payment for doing odd jobs around the neighborhood to purchase vastly overpriced CDs from Hastings, later graduating to a Columbia House membership. I was still receiving Columbia House CDs well into the era of Morpheus, Lime Wire and Kazaa.
Dr. Dre, “The Chronic”
I wasn’t old enough to know nor care about hip-hop in the early 1990s, when the genre was really starting to blow up in the mainstream. The Chronic had been out for a few years ago when I purchased my copy, so I already knew the album’s staples. Hearing the entire thing, however, I was blown away. I can see how this became the album to launch West Coast gangsta rap into the stratosphere.
Notorious B.I.G., “Ready to Die”
Aside from Shaquille O’Neal’s “Shaq Diesel” (don’t judge me), I credit Ready to Die as the first album to turn me onto hip-hop. “Big Poppa” was all over MTV in the spring of 1995, at a time when a young me was beginning to transition from boyhood to that awful, awkward stage of being a dirtbag adolescent.
2Pac, “All Eyez On Me”
My transition into a dirtbag was complete in the summer of 1996, when I purchased All Eyez on Me. I hadn’t listened to 2Pac’s earlier work at this point in my life, and knew nothing of Digital Underground. I just knew of “California Love” and “How D U Want It?”, and understood my mission was clear: I must own that album.
Guns ‘n’ Roses, “Use Your Illusion, Vol. 1”
Early in my life, I lived on a block completely devoid of kids. With a brother six years older — more interested in getting his license and meeting girls than playing with action figures — I spent a lot of time on my own. But one spring, a family moved in with a boy in my grade. He came to our small, mountain town from Los Angeles, giving him instant cred.
We did the usual 10-year-old stuff together, like ride bikes and stage massive Ninja Turtle battles, but he also had a cassette tape of Guns ‘n’ Roses. I knew of them: My parents told me they were bad. Then I heard “November Rain” and was immediately hooked.
Green Day, “Dookie”
I had my first “girlfriend” at 121/2. A relationship at that age is sorta hilarious, but the angst you feel following your first break-up is real, dammit. She was the Topanga to my Corey! When it ended, I channeled my rage through songs like “Basket Case,” the meaning of which I clearly didn’t understand.
Favorite Fiction Books
Adam Burke, host of Bang The Book Radio, provided this topic. I am a voracious reader, though I do not read much fiction. It’s not by design, necessarily. I simply gravitate toward non-fiction books. Nevertheless, I have a collection of fictional literature with a special place in my heart. The following are all books I have read at least twice.
A Confederacy of Dunces
Comedy doesn’t often translate well to literature, but A Confederacy of Dunces navigates the difficult translation expertly. In fact, I would venture to say this book made me laugh out loud more than any movie or TV show ever has. Attempts to adapt it to film have been made, but it carries something of a curse: John Belushi, Sam Kinison and John Candy were all rumored to have been tied to adaptations at various points.
I don’t pine for a movie, though. I don’t see any way an adaptation can live up to the original.
John Steinbeck is my favorite fictional author, and Cannery Row is my favorite work of his. The detail of California’s coast strikes a special chord with me, and the story itself has a great, tongue-in-cheek humor to it.
Bang The Drum Slowly
Told from the first-person perspective of a starting Major League Pitcher, Bang The Drum Slowly follows a fictional team through a pennant-winning season. Really, though, baseball only provides a backdrop for a stories of friendship and tolerance. I won’t spoil it — even though it’s a 60-year-old book — but I must confess that the ending made me cry.
Another confession: I read Mario Puzo’s novel The Godfather before seeing any of the films. Now, the movies are a rare instance of finding ways to improve upon the source material — anyone who’s read the book should be able to guess I’m referring specifically to a sub-plot centered around a side character’s anatomy. However, an important caveat to the previous sentence is movies, plural.
The Godfather Part II includes the story of Don Corleone’s rise to power, an integral part of the novel. I’m glad it did, as that adds such a riveting element to the book.
A Farewell to Arms
In the great debate of America’s preeminent 20th Century novelist, I prefer Steinbeck to Hemingway. That said, Earnest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms might be my single favorite work by either writer. The anti-war message inherent in setting the scene for the novel’s love affair resonates a century later.
The tragic ending also sheds some light onto the depression that plagued Hemingway throughout his life.