If these walls could speak ...

By Mechelle Voepel
ESPNET SportsZone


MARCH 17, 1998

OK, maybe this was a dream, but it seemed so real. There was this teleconference, except it wasn't coaches or players or officials or bigwigs talking.

It was buildings. Arenas in which the home teams had lost during this NCAA Tournament: Stanford's Maples Pavilion, Texas Tech's Lubbock Municipal Coliseum, Iowa's Carver-Hawkeye Arena and Iowa State's Hilton Coliseum.

  Jayme Olson
Iowa State senior Jayme Olson couldn't prevent the Cyclones' loss at Hilton Coliseum.

I think I was the only human on the phone besides the operator, who sounded a lot like Lily Tomlin. So, I guess this is an exclusive. Unless it was just my imagination.

Operator: Thanks for joining our teleconference. We know this is a difficult time for you. May we have an opening statement?

Maples: Well, I don't know about everyone else, but I'm eager to talk this out. I can't sleep.

Mechelle Voepel: Buildings sleep?

Maples: Of course we do. Frankly, I was in a coma Monday night for the second-round game between Harvard and Arkansas. You think my Stanford fans enjoyed that? Maybe if we'd given away cyanide Kool-Aid at halftime.

MV: Uh, that's really tasteless don't you think?

Maples: Don't know, I've never tried it. Buildings don't drink. But I tell you what, if I could I would, after seeing my own bouncy floor wasn't enough to keep Kristin Folkl from hurting her ACL. I was so devastated, I wanted to burn myself down.

Lubbock Municipal: Uh, can I join in? You think you've got it so bad, Maples? I've got three more games here this season, and my Texas Tech team isn't gonna be suited up for any of them. I watched Texas' Frank Erwin Center blow it last year, allowing Notre Dame to beat its Longhorns on St. Patrick's Day in the second round. And I said to myself, "Ain't no way those Irish are coming back here to the Lone Star State and knocking one of our teams out of the NCAAs.''

Maples: Right, and now look at you.

Lubbock Municipal: Exactly. I was feeling so low, I actually called Frank Erwin. You know what it said? "Maybe we Longhorns and Raiders hate each other most of the time, but I feel for you. I don't know if you remember, but I had to have a Final Four here on my floor without my Longhorns in 1985. I considered letting my roof collapse so they'd have to move it somewhere else.''

Maples: Hey, didn't Kemper Arena's roof collapse once? Think that could happen this season and they could cancel the Final Four? I just can't stand the thought of having one without my Cardinal.

Lubbock Municipal: Oh cry me a river, Maples. Do you know what it's going to be like for me to have the Midwest Regional semis and final here without 8,000 people being able to shoot off their little imaginary guns?

Carver-Hawkeye: If I could interject, just briefly, I guess what we're all feeling is a real sense of failure. I thought Iowa could pull out a second-round victory against a young Kansas team, and then having done my home-court duty, I could absolve myself of any further responsibility for their success. But Sunday night, jeez, some of my Hawkeyes shot like they'd never seem my rims before, and ...

Hilton: You know, I'm feeling bad because Monday I didn't give Jayme Olson a friendlier bounce on that free throw near the end and Rutgers beat us.

Operator: Excuse me, but we have a late addition to the teleconference. Caller, state your name, please.

Coleman: Uh, my name is Coleman Coliseum, home of the Alabama Crimson Tide.

Operator: Well, this teleconference is for buildings whose teams lost.

Coleman: Yeah, I know, but ... I think my team did lose, except there were a couple of, um, teensy glitches at the end of the game, see. And, um ...

Hilton: Yeah, we saw it, Coleman. Just curious, how'd you pull off that clock trick?

Coleman: Hey, it wasn't my fault. I don't think it was anyone's fault, exactly. It's just, you know, a couple of mistakes were made. But they were, like, BIG mistakes and ... well, I tried to call Pauley Pavilion to apologize, but it won't speak to me.

Operator: Mechelle, are you still with us? Plan on asking any more questions or are you too busy trying to think up an "FFFF'' for Allison Feaster?

MV: That's reserved for my fellow Missourian. I think Feaster deserves something of her own.

Maples: I'll do it. I have to admit, she was awesome. That's it -- the "AAAA:'' Awesome Allison Accomplishes Ambush.

Carver-Hawkeye: Maples, that almost sounded a tiny bit cheerful. You know, I was thinking about getting through disappointments, and I remembered one of my old players, Toni Foster.

Hilton: Hey, how about this imaginary team: Feaster, Foster, Folkl, Frese and ... um ... Fijalkowski!

Carver-Hawkeye: We'll call it "F Troop.''

Hilton: That would be Fine. You know they all can Finish. Har-har.

Lubbock Municipal: All right, that's enough. First of all, the name's wrong because F Troop was totally incompetent, and second, why are we joking around here? We're all miserable, remember?

Maples: Well, you know, I am still upset. And I am worried about my players who are injured. But as far as the games go, maybe you look at them and say, "Well, nobody wins all the time, except 'Matlock' and 'Perry Mason.''' And they made up that stuff. We're watching stuff that really happens, and sometimes the favorites don't win.

Lubbock Municipal: So maybe I should say, "Well, dang it, that hurts,'' and feel depressed but then after a while realize how lucky I was to watch Alicia Thompson for four years? And think of all the good times my Raiders had out on my floor?

Carver-Hawkeye: Hilton and I have just been talking, and that's the way we're going to try to approach it. Say thanks for the memories to Jayme Olson, Janel Grimm, Tangela Smith, Nadine Domond, Tiffany Gooden, Shannon Perry, Malikah Willis and Angela Hamblin.

Maples: OK, and I'll remember all the fun stuff, too, like Vanessa Nygaard chest-bumping the Tree.

Operator: Now, does everyone feel a little bit better? Mechelle, you have any final questions?

MV: Well, I was wondering ... about the Tree. Since apparently buildings can talk, does the Tree talk, too?

Maples: I hate to break this to you, but the Tree is just a college student in a costume. Of course, when you wake up, you're not going to remember any of this.

Mechelle Voepel of the Kansas City Star writes a regular women's basketball column for ESPNET SportsZone. Her e-mail address is mvoepel@kcstar.com.