Are you tired of looking out the window and seeing all the snow? It looked great in December. Who doesn’t want a white Christmas? It’s now February, which isn’t that long of a month, and March is just around the corner. Did you know golf’s first major, The Masters, is only 51 days away? Pitchers and catchers are beginning to gather in Florida and Arizona for spring training. I have cabin fever, but not for the obvious reasons. I’ll give you an idea of what cabin fever means for a college basketball coach.
Scenery – When basketball season begins with the first official practice in October, the leaves are just beginning to change colors. The grass is green. Getting in a bus and traveling anywhere provides great scenery for the rider. It doesn’t last long. By the third week of the season, everything is brown. The leaves have long left the trees, the grass is brown, the countryside is brown, college lawns are brown, UPS drivers are brown…I hate brown.
Maybe there’s another reason I hate brown. When I was a little kid, one of my first memories is being with my grandmother. Of course, I took full advantage of being away from my parent’s discipline (I was a very naughty kid). My grandmother kept telling me the Boogie Man would get me if I didn’t behave. That usually shut me up since I didn’t want the Boogie Man anywhere near me. After several dozen threats, I started to doubt the existence of the Boogie Man. One day when my behavior was especially rotten to my grandmother, she throws the Boogie Man threat at me. Bravely, I say, “I bet there isn’t a Boogie Man!” My grandmother looked around. We were on Main Street of Clatonia, Neb., a thriving metropolis of 220 people. The only stranger she could see was a telephone repair man. Grandma stuck her finger in the air, pointed it right at the repair man, and said, “Oh yeah, that’s the Boogie Man right there.” That repair man was a nasty looking man. It scared me to death that the Boogie Man was only yards away. Do you know what he was wearing? He wore a BROWN uniform. For years, I avoided men in brown uniforms for fear of the Boogie Man. Now, I hate anything that’s brown including the Missouri landscape. Who knows where you’ll find the Boogie Man?
Coaching Gear – At the start of every basketball season, I drag out my old coaching gear. I haven’t worn it for about seven months, so I don’t mind putting it on for the first day of practice. Also, you always try to throw in a new coaching shirt, sweat pants or coaching top for your wardrobe. Now you’re ready for anything the new season can throw at you. You mix and match your coaching gear for the first month. Then games begin. If you win all your non-conference games, the coaching gear is still comfortable. However, if you lose a game, you wonder if maybe the new coaching gear has jinxed you. Superstition is alive and well with basketball coaches. Christmas arrives and to your dismay, there’s no new coaching gear under the tree. Did Santa know you yelled at your poor players in practice? So now you’re stuck with the same coaching gear the rest of the year. At the end of January, the sweat pants begin to feel a little tight around the waist. Maybe I left it in the dryer too long. Maybe it was all the buffets! Now, it’s the middle of February, and I’m sick to death of all the coaching gear. Everyday is the same thing. First, you have to find a pair of sweat pants that’s still comfortable. Your choice has now narrowed to two pairs. Don’t rub up against a dirty car or you’ll have to do some laundry on your day off. The shirts have slightly faded and nothing matches as well as it did in October. They do say black is slimming, right? Let’s go with black and maybe my weight gain won’t be so noticeable. I can’t wait until shorts weather, although they probably won’t fit either.
Bus Temperatures – This may seem like a very small link in the chain of symptoms that can lead to cabin fever. If you rode a Bearcat bus as much as we do, you would understand what I mean. The bad thing about bus temperatures is what’s comfortable for the team isn’t necessarily comfortable for the driver. Take for instance a very cold night on the road. The air temperature is somewhere below 20 degrees. It doesn’t take long for that bus to really get cold inside. To warm it up for the passengers takes a long blast of dry, forced, hot air from the bus’s heater. However, 70 degrees for the passengers means 85 degrees for the driver, who is enclosed in his little area up front. A late night bus ride in 85-degree temperatures would make anyone sleepy. No one wants a sleepy bus driver, so we compromise by wrapping ourselves in all types of blankets. Should we be lucky enough to get a nice day in the 50s or higher, you would think cabin fever would subside for a while. You’re very wrong if you assumed cabin fever ever takes a vacation. Now, the bus is steamy hot for the passengers. The bus driver sends us a shot of cool air. However, that means frigid air for the driver. What’s worse, a sleepy driver or one who can’t feel his toes? Our normal driver, Doug, has been sick lately, so his body temperature has been off the chart. He’s a great driver, but it’s not a terrific profession when you have the chills. The temperature inside the bus gives me the Heebie Geebies. The Heebie Geebies aren’t as bad as the Boogie Man, but its close. The Heebie Geebies is an adult form of the Boogie Man. If the bus is too hot, my toes have to wiggle so I take off my shoes. Then the bus gets cold and I put the shoes back on, only to find out my toes are now accustom to the freedom being barefoot provides. Maybe I should wear brown socks.
Baseball and Softball Coaches – I really shouldn’t complain about parts of the Northwest coaching staff. Darin Loe, the baseball coach has his office right next to mine. I love to talk baseball with him. He played in the minor league for the Seattle Mariners before injuries forced him into coaching. If I could ever pick a profession change, anything I wanted, it would be a career in baseball. Every summer, I have a radio in my ear listening to the Kansas City Royals. Hope springs eternal is what the poem Casey at the Bat tells us. It’s never true for a Royals fan. Every summer vacation is to a new major league city, chosen by my baseball crazy son, Sam. However, Darin still gives me cabin fever.
So does our softball coach, Ryan Anderson. Don’t get me wrong, Ryan is a great guy. Last fall, I tried to start a fall baseball league for Sam and his Maryville friends that included clinics and games. I had a problem finding affordable facilities. Ryan allowed me to hold clinics and games on his softball field. He even opened the press box and had us use his sound system for the last game of the fall. Ryan, like Darin, is guilty for bringing on cabin fever. It begins with envy. As our basketball team is finishing January practices, there is Darin or Ryan working out their teams in a big room adjacent to the weight room. Then February rolls around and they begin to plan their trips. They check weather reports to Arkansas or Florida. Then, just as another February snow storm approaches, the baseball and softball teams jump on a bus for warmer climates. My envy has now turned to hate. I can’t really show it or Darin won’t talk to me and the softball field will be off-limits next fall. So I just smile and say, “Have a nice trip.” I don’t mean it.
Sure, there are other factors to cabin fever for basketball coaches. Coaching practices in wet socks because you just sloshed through the latest winter blast is pretty high on the list. Next week, we’ll jump on a bus for a trip to Truman State University. I’ll stare out the window, watching the brown countryside pass by. I will wear sweat pants on the bus for comfort, knowing full well they were more comfortable in the fall. I’ll loosen my shoes, then I’ll take them off in an effort to avoid the Heebie Geebies. My mind wonders to nice, warm spots where our baseball and softball teams are playing on green fields and under sunny skies. Cabin fever is building. Where’s the Boogie Man when you need him?