The Bullet Points
- Come with me for a moment on a trip back in time. Specifically February 21st, 2015, at the stately and not at all ludicrously named Taco Bell Arena in Boise, Idaho. With their season already circling the drain and Marqueze Coleman and another teammate not playing due to the old “undisclosed violation of team rules,” the results were predictably embarrassing. 78-46 embarrassing. Nothing went right for the Pack in a game that saw their second-lowest scoring output of the year, and another lopsided defeat was added to a season already full of them. Nearly 9,000 fans were in attendance, both to witness the inevitable on-court de-pantsing, and to see the Boise State football team at halftime, because this is Boise, and of course anything worth seeing in Boise has to involve Bronco football in some way. For Nevada fans, the whole affair was soul-numbing to witness: another two hours of game film to delete and (hopefully) forget as quickly as possible.
- Flash forward to last Wednesday at Lawlor, the very next meeting between the two teams. The head start Leon Rice enjoyed in building up his program to respectability was clear, and ultimately too much to overcome on this night. But many things were starkly different from the last time around. Their six prior home wins were only one shy of their entire total from the previous season. There was determination and vigor in this Wolf Pack team absent for too long before. Down by eleven at halftime, a superhuman effort was needed to bring them back in to the proceedings. They made it so, twice cutting the visitors’ lead to three, to the ecstatic approval of a newly swollen home crowd. And from the circus-style pre-game warmup, to the resurrected play on the court, to that same throng of converts both old and new, virtually all of it could be traced back to the new faces stalking the Nevada sideline. Normally, the hyperbole I write in this space is meant for laughs, with tongue firmly in cheek. But it’s getting harder to overstate just what Eric Musselman is imbuing the Wolf Pack with: not just optimism, but life. People continue to ask when Nevada basketball will be good again, and I’m here to tell you it’s already happening. The conference titles and NCAA tournament appearances aren’t back just yet, but don’t let that blind you to the miles they’ve already progressed.
- In the more recent present, the next challenges for the team will be a road game at Wyoming after having to cool their heels for a week, followed by a home date with a formerly comatose UNLV team. The Cowboys had the distinction of becoming just the second Mountain West team to lose to San Jose State since the Spartans joined the league (thanks, David Carter), then decided a few days later that it’d be really funny to royally confuse everyone and beat New Mexico in The Pit. Meanwhile in Nevada’s dirty south, the Fightin’ Simons kicked off the Lobos’ bad week with their own surprising win and followed it up with an even more thorough dismantling of Air Force. Dave Rice's firing was announced mere hours after I submitted last week's column for publishing, and that was probably for the best: the reports of UNLV's demise may have been premature. The unpredictability of both opponents makes a good showing in this week’s games imperative.
- The next chapter in the ongoing saga “As The Kap Turns” kicked off with Chip Kelly being introduced as the 49ers’ new head coach, and only its head coach. That distinction is important, as Kelly won’t have GM duties like he did in Philadelphia, where he was unceremoniously dumped shortly before his Bay Area predecessor. On the surface, the hurry-up offense and newly healed up quarterback with strength and speed seems like a great match. While it’s still unclear just what, if anything, he has in store for Kaepernick, his prior interest in him is probably a good sign. But it still throws a curveball into what was already shaping up to be a contentious offseason. The biggest wild cards in all of this are whether CEO Jed York and GM Trent Baalke have learned anything from the Tomsula Experiment, and how Kap chooses to handle his flip-flopping bosses.
Great Basin 2015 Mayan Maybe Not Old Style Ale (Sparks, Nevada) ~ The 2015 edition of Great Basin’s now-yearly Mayan-inspired concoction defies conventional descriptions, and isn’t in line with what’s commonly called an old ale today. It poured brownish-black with a head barely noticeable in a glass. The first smells were of bittersweet cocoa nibs, smoked malts and chili peppers, blending together in a surprising way. Those pepper smells turn out to be habanero and jalapeño when tasted, but they don’t overpower the palette. Other tastes include the cocoa and malts, as well as some corn, vanilla, sweet molasses and a hint of honey. If all of that sounds weird together, it definitely is. It’s singular, it’s distinct, it packs a punch (10.3% ABV), and it’s unlike anything else you’ll probably ever drink. Even though it’s not for everyone, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give it a try. Quite the opposite. Whether you end up liking it or not, it’s an experience to partake in. I’ll definitely come back to it when it shows up in stores at the end of another calendar year. I give it four tipsy Wolfies out of five.
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