Another Clutch, Clutch Wizards Shot
Lost in the excitement of Caron's almost-buzzer-beater last night was an earlier shot, one with potentially more meaningful consequences, but one that, in a weird and twisted way, may have foretold Caron's heroics.
See, in the fourth quarter of Wiz games, the team brings down one lucky fan for a three-point attempt. Make it, and everyone wins a free Papa John's pizza. Miss it, and you will be mostly ignored. Air ball it, and you could potentially be booed.
Our plucky Wiz fans have had a rough go of it as of late; one team employee told me that the fans are 0-for-the-season, although I couldn't verify that. And so Caron Butler--who has learned from Gilbert that people will love you if you give them free stuff--hatched this plot: he would make a video with some three-point shooting tips, then he would make a three-pointer at the end of the video, then it would be shown on the 'Tron in place of the normal contest, and then he would have the VC staff give coupons for free pizza to everyone. I mean, these guys really get it, right? If you give 18,000 people free pizza, they'll love you for life.
(Also, if you give 25 people free Gilbert Arenas posters. That's the next blog item, promise.)
But right when Caron was getting ready to carry out this brilliant plan--which he still might do, last night notwithstanding--the game-day staff rings up Matt Staso for last night's challenge. Matt Staso being a sophomore utility man on the Mount St. Mary's baseball team, which, in honor of college night, was sitting as a group up in Section 401. Real nosebleeds. But Staso is, of course, an athlete, and he even played two years of high school basketball at Mount Saint Joseph in Baltimore, the school that produced George Mason's Will Thomas and Louis Birdsong, among others. Also, I don't think I'll be betraying anyone's confidence to say that a MSJ employee is a Local Poll voter. We're everywhere.
Anyhow, despite his athletic history (he also played high school football), the rest of the Mount St. Mary's baseball team wasn't necessarily filled with confidence.
"He's in front of all these people, it's far as hell, he came out cold," summarized MSM pitcher Bucky Kosyk. "There's no way. We play all the time in the gym, and he's no good in the gym."
While some teammates said they were confident, others betting on the odds of Staso air balling the shot. He said his heart "was pounding," that he was "trying to calm myself down." He lined up at the top of the key.
The shot was good from the time it left his hand. Drainage. Kept his hand up in the air, with the exaggerated follow-through. Then he started shooting his hands off his forehead, a la Quentin Richardson, who was actually in the house last night, although Staso said he was paying homage to Steve McNair. The crowd went delirious. Free pizza, after all.
"Ice water in his veins," third baseman Matt Eiden said.
"I had faith in him, he's a nice shooter," another third basemen, Bobby Plumb, said. "Swings a bat pretty good, too."
(Bobby Plumb! Almost Bobby Plump! Why didn't he take the shot???)
Anyhow, Staso understood the stakes.
"Everybody was ragging on me down there as I came in, they said 'Everybody air balls it, don't miss, we want free pizza,'" he said. "I knew if I didn't make it these guys would give me hell....It felt awesome."
The doors were soon ringed with ushers handing out free pizza coupons. And needless to say, Staso returned to section 401 a major hero. Provide pizza to the masses, and that'll happen. But, this being college night, Staso's baseball teammates really wanted to know one thing and one thing only.
"How'd you keep your concentration, I would have been staring at those dance girls the whole time," Kosyk said.
"What'd they look like?" outfielder Joe Hayes asked.
"They all gave me high fives when I came out," Staso said. "It was a good feeling."
January 18, 2007; 2:33 PM ET
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