Monday, March 30, 2009

Terp Women Eat Kids -- And Birds

Grilled Cardinal Edition

Let's prepare for this evening's Rumble in Raleigh (Maryland's Elite Eight game against the Cardinals of Louisville) with a few glances back (over our Shoulders, as it were) at Saturday's stunning come-from-behind win over Vanderbilt.

First, in case you missed it, here are court-side interviews with Marissa "Shoulders" Coleman and Coach Brenda Frese from ESPN's broadcast of the game. We love watching Coach B standing in the background with a proud smile on her face while Coleman talks about how much she wanted the win:

Next, we've got several new candidates for the Sportswriters' Epic Simile of the Year Contest (trademark RW Enterprises, LLC), as reporters strained their brains (and, one imagines, Google) in their efforts to describe Shoulders' breathtaking 42 point/15 rebound performance. Just like Shakespeare, only with a distinct odor of gym socks in the air, the sportswriters sit themselves down to ponder the eternal question, "Shall I compare thee to a . . . ?" and the results of their pondering are:

Mike Wise in Wa Po sticks mostly to the world of sports as he endeavors to capture the scale of Coleman's accomplishment, though he tucks in a gratuitous rock 'n roll reference (to Bruce Springsteen, whose E Street Band reunion tour in 2000 played in the same arena, Raleigh's RBC Center, where the game was played). Wise compares Coleman's performance to Michael Jordan scoring 55 points against the Knicks in Madison Square Garden or to a 15-year-old Jason Kidd lighting up the house in Northern California prep championships and concludes that "Coleman's sublime game ranks alongside both of them among the greatest individual performances I've ever covered." Oh, in addition to epic similes, Wise offers the poignant news that Coleman's own mother, Joni, missed her daughter's whirlwind feat because she got so nervous when the Terps fell behind that she couldn't bear to watch (which also happened during the Terps' 2006 run for the championship:

"I was too worried. I had to leave the arena and plug my ears when they started losing," Joni said. "I didn't see the comeback, I admit it. But I'll say this: I know how bad she wants it. And I know what she can do."

"She did the same thing in Albuquerque," Marissa said, shrugging and grinning. "My mom . . . she gets so nervous."

Meanwhile, over on ESPN, Mechelle Voepel reaches into the domain of Cold War politics for a comparison that makes Coleman both a superhero and a freedom fighter. Reading it, one imagines Tom Cruise improbably cast in the role of Marissa Coleman in the film Voepel would make of this year's women's tournament:
It seemed like nothing short of the old Berlin Wall could have stopped [Coleman] -- and we would have given her pretty good odds of scaling that, too, on this day.
Nice try, Mechelle, but the winner of Moose's battered old Roget's Thesaurus, at least for this round, is Rick Maese of the Baltimore Sun, who reaches for the sky in a desperate bid to try to convey the scale of what Shoulders did in the last several minutes of the game:
[W]hat Coleman did Saturday afternoon is hard to quantify with numbers and difficult to capture with cameras. She could've started flapping her arms at midcourt and floated to the rafters and it would have been easier to rationalize than the closing minutes of Maryland's emotional 78-74 come-from-behind win over Vanderbilt.
It's a bird! It's a plane! It's SHOULDERS! Maese is so taken with his metaphor that he returns to it for the ending of his column:
After what she did Saturday, nothing she does should surprise. If she does start flapping her arms, it might be wise to look up. Coleman's capable of anything.
Dear Rick,

Love you. Mean it. You're one of our favorite sportswriters, and we give props to the Sun for its coverage of Maryland women's b-ball. Wa Po's got nothing on you in this department, despite the excellent work now being done by Camille Powell. We have great sympathy for American sportswriters, who seem doomed by the culture to interpret everything that happens through the "thrill of victory, agony of defeat" formula established decades ago by ABC's Wide World of Sports. And metaphors of flight are, of course, an apt and handy way to capture the transcendent qualities of exceptional athletic feats. In such moments, the athlete is ourselves perfected, ourselves above ourselves, soaring Icarus reaching for the sun, while we sit on the couch eating potato chips. We get it, Rick, but we still think you went a little over the top in those weird images of Marissa flapping her arms. The image is more comic than epic to us, and it captures nothing of the grace of Coleman's powerful athleticism. We think you should keep your eye a little closer to the ground as you watch the game tonight. Remember, the only birds in the house will be the Cardinals -- and we're hoping Shoulders and her pals will be feasting on them.

Yours sincerely,


  1. Hey Rox,

    I LOVE all of those over the top metaphors and the gratuitous reference to the Boss in Wise's column. But Marissa Coleman was the Boss of that court Saturday afternoon.

    Oh MIGHTY TERP WOMEN, one more win and you are going to the Final Four. We're sending all of our good energy down there to Raleigh. And remember what Roxie says: play like terriers and you'll have your feast!!!

  2. I’m still stunned by Coleman’s performance. I watch a lot of ball and didn’t just start this week and I know that was one of the greatest individual performances I’ll ever see. Truly inspiring. I’m more excited about the game tonight than the men’s final four.

    But the defense has me terrified; they play none. Jump the cutter, block the lane, and someone tell the weak side defender that it’s okay to take a charge every once in a while! Vandy had 3 players on the floor who didn’t even have permission to shoot outside of 5 feet and MU still couldn’t stop anything.

    Although if they clear out the right side and run the two woman game with Coleman and Toliver, I don’t think anyone but UCONN can outscore them. But some D would make it a whole lot easier.

    So what’s Coleman’s story? Is she going to try the WNBA? If the Fever drafted her I’d become a season tix holder.

  3. You are not alone in your concerns about defense, Spudz. The basketball geek the moms watch a lot of games with has long maintained that Coach B's Terps think they can neglect defense and win by outscoring everybody on dog's earth. That strategy serves them pretty well, but they are vulnerable to really smart defenses that can slow them down and shut them down. That's what has us nervous about tonight's game. Louisville is a great defensive team, and Jeff Walz knows the Terps and their game well, since he recruited Shoulders and Toliver when he was one of Coach B's assistants. Should be a great game, but let's hope it's not as much of a nail-biter as Saturday's. I'm not sure the hearts in Roxie's World can take it!

    Oh, and Coleman is definitely NBA-bound, but we're hoping she'll stick around DC and join her old teammate Crystal Langhorne on the Mystics!


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