Coach L's World Ball
Briefly leaving the world of Redskins and Ashburn for the world of Patriots and Fairfax, I arrived at George Mason just in time for the post-camp geography quiz this afternoon.
"What's the biggest state in the United States??!!?" Mason Coach Jim Larranaga was asking 267 youth basketball campers. "California, ehrrrr, wrong answer. Texas, ehrrr, wrong answer. Alaska, yes! How many states begin with the letter M? Three, ehrrr, wrong answer. Who actually knows and is not guessing? Four, wrong answer. C'mon!!!! 'M,' how many? Five, ehrrr, wrong answer. Eight! Eight is correct. Now tell me what they are."
I tried to run through that old song in my head--"Maryland, Massachusetts, and good old Michigan; Minnesota, Mississippi....something something something"--but just then they started handing out the World Balls, which had brought me here. From the release:
"Together with Coach Larranaga, [Geography Dept. Chair Allen Falconer] developed the idea for the World Ball--an NCAA-regulation basketball that is also a globe providing a scale representation of the location and areas of the continents....Mason partnered with the National Geographic Society and the Geographic Information System (GIS) software company ESRI to ensure that the ball is both an accurate scale globe and an official NCAA basketball."
Yeah, this is basic free publicity, but you should see this thing--bright blue, with neon compliments. It's weird enough to merit free publicity. It took 16 designs until National Geographic was satisfied with the accuracy of the balls. They ordered 1,500 with the Larranaga camp logo, and 1,500 with the George Mason logo, for Geography Dept. propaganda purposes. Media covering the event were given a press kit containing the "Coach L. Quick Quiz," and a World Ball. As the kids maniacally dribbled them in circles and Coach L called for no dribbling, Mason players John Vaughn and Jordan Carter spun the ball on their fingers.
"He's been bugging [campers] about states and countries every morning," Vaughan told me. "I don't know half the answers."
(Yeah, me neither. I would have flunked on both the second-smallest and the second-largest countries in the world.)
"The most important thing for you to realize growing up is that you must develop your mind and your body in a collaborative effort," Larranaga said. I asked whether he'd be making the Patriots use the World Ball in practice; "they're outdoor balls," he pointed out, which was a great excuse.
And when I asked Falconer whether geography majors were known for their basketball skills, he told me that Michael Jordan was a geography major, which was news to me. "Me, I'm useless at basketball," he continued. "I need to go to Coach's camp."
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