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OFFSEASON CONTENT GENERATOR: An analysis of a college basketball fan’s offseason through T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land”

This is pointless.

Buffalo v Texas Tech Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

It’s the offseason, which means this blog has unleashed a flood of offseason content generator posts. From the great staff that brought you “mid-major teams as Asian restaurant items” and “times to eat lunch, ranked”, we are proud to present the college basketball offseason, as seen through the lens of T.S. Eliot’s poem “The Waste Land”

I. The Burial of the Dead

April is the cruellest month, breeding

Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing

Memory and desire, stirring

Dull roots with spring rain.

Clearly a reference to April mostly lacking college basketball and most mid-major teams’ inability to make the NCAA title game or even the Sweet 16 (ditto with “memory and desire, stirring/dull roots with spring rain”). Or, perhaps, maybe some random book written by Geoffrey Chaucer. The “dead land” refers to all the schools that saddened us: Wofford, Buffalo, Gonzaga, etc. Dull roots with spring rain refers to Virginia.

Winter kept us warm, covering

Earth in forgetful snow, feeding

A little life with dried tubers.

Summer surprised us, coming over the Starnbergersee

With a shower of rain; we stopped in the colonnade,

And went on in sunlight, into the Hofgarten,

And drank coffee, and talked for an hour.

College basketball and winter did keep us warm, paradoxically, even if it was fed by “dried tubers”, which is an accurate description of Bennett-ball. And now we are surprised by summer. The Starnbergersee is a lake. I believe “stopped in the colonnade” is a reference to Zion Williamson’s block against UCF.

Bin gar keine Russin, stamm’ aus Litauen, echt deutsch.

And when we were children, staying at the arch-duke’s,

My cousin’s, he took me out on a sled,

And I was frightened. He said, Marie,

Marie, hold on tight. And down we went.

In the mountains, there you feel free.

I read, much of the night, and go south in the winter.

This is clearly a reference to earlier seasons, when teams like VCU, Loyola Chicago and Butler made deep runs in the NCAA Tournament. They were wild rides, much how Marie goes down on a sled in the poem.

What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow

Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man,

A clear reference to mid-major conferences like the SWAC, America East, PAC-12 and the MEAC, which sometimes grow branches.

You cannot say, or guess, for you know only

A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,

Here we should replace “broken images” with “blog posts”.

And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,

And the dry stone no sound of water. Only

There is shadow under this red rock,

(Come in under the shadow of this red rock),

And I will show you something different from either

Your shadow at morning striding behind you

Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;

I will show you fear in a handful of dust.

It’s getting more speculative, but I think this whole section is a reference to Porter Moser leaving Loyola. Something about the “red rock” and “show you something different” seems to be a warning against Porter Moser leaving. Who knows though? That’s just one interpretation.

Frisch weht der Wind

Der Heimat zu

Mein Irisch Kind,

Wo weilest du?

“You gave me hyacinths first a year ago;

“They called me the hyacinth girl.”

This is clearly a reference to the Madonna song “Material Girl”, but Eliot screwed it up.

—Yet when we came back, late, from the Hyacinth garden,

Your arms full, and your hair wet, I could not

Speak, and my eyes failed, I was neither

Living nor dead, and I knew nothing,

Looking into the heart of light, the silence.

Oed’ und leer das Meer.

This is a reference to Fletcher Magee after the Kentucky game, I think. Poor Fletcher.

Madame Sosostris, famous clairvoyante,

Had a bad cold, nevertheless

Is known to be the wisest woman in Europe,

With a wicked pack of cards. Here, said she,

Is your card, the drowned Phoenician Sailor,

Madame Sosostris = Jon Rothstein? He is referencing the firing of a coach. Perhaps Chris Mullin. Perhaps something else. Regardless, the drowned Phoenician Sailor isn’t coming back.

(Those are pearls that were his eyes. Look!)

Here is Belladonna, the Lady of the Rocks,

The lady of situations.

Here is the man with three staves, and here the Wheel,

And here is the one-eyed merchant, and this card,

Which is blank, is something he carries on his back,

Belladonna, the Lady of the Rocks, is a reference to Arike Ogunbowale of Notre Dame, the acknowledged “lady of late-game situations.” “The man with three staves” is a three-point shooter, likely Matt Mooney or some kind of three-point shooting grad transfer (think Toolson brothers or Hauser brothers). The “one-eyed merchant” is obviously Tom Crean.

Which I am forbidden to see. I do not find

The Hanged Man. Fear death by water.

I see crowds of people, walking round in a ring.

Thank you. If you see dear Mrs. Equitone,

Tell her I bring the horoscope myself:

One must be so careful these days.

Oh no, I see, the scene has transitioned to Belmont/Maryland. There are “crowds of people, walking round in a ring”, and we are in trouble. Sigh. “One must be so careful these days” when drawing up plays. At this point, I think what we’re seeing is T.S. Eliot is angry at the end of the season, so he’s watching random highlights throughout the year. He is a Loyola Chicago fan, a real one from before Sister Jean and all that, and he’s angry that St. John’s would dare contact Porter Moser.

Unreal City,

Des Moines, Iowa, site of an NCAA Tournament game.

Under the brown fog of a winter dawn,

A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,

I had not thought death had undone so many.

Sighs, short and infrequent, were exhaled,

And each man fixed his eyes before his feet.

Actually, London? Oops. I didn’t think the end of the season had undone so many either, and yet the coaching silly season and grad transfer market never ends.

Flowed up the hill and down King William Street,

To where Saint Mary Woolnoth kept the hours

With a dead sound on the final stroke of nine.

There I saw one I knew, and stopped him, crying: “Stetson!

Now he’s watching the Stetson Hatters. A strange choice, but acceptable on this blog.

“You who were with me in the ships at Mylae!

“That corpse you planted last year in your garden,

“Has it begun to sprout? Will it bloom this year?

Stetson went 7-24 last year. It has not begun to sprout.

“Or has the sudden frost disturbed its bed?

Yes.

“Oh keep the Dog far hence, that’s friend to men,

“Or with his nails he’ll dig it up again!

“You! hypocrite lecteur!—mon semblable,—mon frère!”

How depressing.

II. A Game of Chess

The Chair she sat in, like a burnished throne,

Oh, so T.S. Eliot is watching Game of Thrones now. That’s good, because what the Internet really needs is a blog that combines sports and pop culture.

Glowed on the marble, where the glass

Held up by standards wrought with fruited vines

Cersei’s a real piece of work, eh T.S. Eliot?

From which a golden Cupidon peeped out

(Another hid his eyes behind his wing)

Doubled the flames of sevenbranched candelabra

Reflecting light upon the table as

The glitter of her jewels rose to meet it,

From satin cases poured in rich profusion;

In vials of ivory and coloured glass

I’m sure this has something to do with Game of Thrones.

Unstoppered, lurked her strange synthetic perfumes,

Unguent, powdered, or liquid—troubled, confused

And drowned the sense in odours; stirred by the air

That freshened from the window, these ascended

In fattening the prolonged candle-flames,

You know, what we really need is a website that only focuses on the intersection of sports, pop culture and technology. And it really needs to write about Game of Thrones a lot. That’s what T.S. Eliot and people in the 18-35 demographic want.

Flung their smoke into the laquearia,

Stirring the pattern on the coffered ceiling.

Huge sea-wood fed with copper

Burned green and orange, framed by the coloured stone,

In which sad light a carvéd dolphin swam.

Euron Greyjoy? Miami Dolphins? Is this an NFL Draft, college basketball and Game of Thrones crossover?

Above the antique mantel was displayed

As though a window gave upon the sylvan scene

The change of Philomel, by the barbarous king

Night King back.

So rudely forced; yet there the nightingale

Filled all the desert with inviolable voice

And still she cried, and still the world pursues,

“Jug Jug” to dirty ears.

And other withered stumps of time

Uh...

Were told upon the walls; staring forms

Leaned out, leaning, hushing the room enclosed.

Footsteps shuffled on the stair.

Under the firelight, under the brush, her hair

Spread out in fiery points

Glowed into words, then would be savagely still.

I think this is the end of the Game of Thrones discussion. He’s changed the channel now. From the line “glowed into words”, we can deduce he’s lying in bed checking his phone.

“My nerves are bad tonight. Yes, bad. Stay with me.

“Speak to me. Why do you never speak. Speak.

“What are you thinking of? What thinking? What?

“I never know what you are thinking. Think.”

This is a conversation between Twitter users and their own consciences. He’s deep into checking Twitter now.

I think we are in rats’ alley

Where the dead men lost their bones.

Never tweet.

“What is that noise?”

The wind under the door.

“What is that noise now? What is the wind doing?”

Nothing again nothing.

“Do

“You know nothing? Do you see nothing? Do you remember

“Nothing?”

I remember

Those are pearls that were his eyes.

“Are you alive, or not? Is there nothing in your head?”

Never, ever tweet. He’s just looking up Game of Thrones reactions online. Can we go back to basketball?

But

O O O O that Shakespeherian Rag—

It’s so elegant

Damian Lillard? Is that the Shakesphererian Rag?

So intelligent

Yes, we all are.

“What shall I do now? What shall I do?”

“I shall rush out as I am, and walk the street

“With my hair down, so. What shall we do tomorrow?

“What shall we ever do?”

This is a description the Thunder post-Lillard. I see. Well, it’s the NBA and not college basketball, but it’ll have to do.

The hot water at ten.

And if it rains, a closed car at four.

And we shall play a game of chess,

Pressing lidless eyes and waiting for a knock upon the door.

I think this is a reference to Kingdom Hearts III. Uncertain. There are too many things in sports referred to as “a game of chess”, so maybe he’s going off-type and referring to a famous video game.

When Lil’s husband got demobbed, I said—

I didn’t mince my words, I said to her myself,

HURRY UP PLEASE ITS TIME

A warning about climate change?

Now Albert’s coming back, make yourself a bit smart.

He’ll want to know what you done with that money he gave you

A reference to the recent FBI college basketball trials.

To get yourself some teeth. He did, I was there.

“Teeth” metaphorical for dropping the bag.

You have them all out, Lil, and get a nice set,

He said, I swear, I can’t bear to look at you.

And no more can’t I, I said, and think of poor Albert,

He’s been in the army four years, he wants a good time,

And if you don’t give it him, there’s others will, I said.

Obviously a reference to bag men and the rivalries between shoe companies.

Oh is there, she said. Something o’ that, I said.

Then I’ll know who to thank, she said, and give me a straight look.

HURRY UP PLEASE ITS TIME

Overtime?

If you don’t like it you can get on with it, I said.

Others can pick and choose if you can’t.

But if Albert makes off, it won’t be for lack of telling.

You ought to be ashamed, I said, to look so antique.

(And her only thirty-one.)

I can’t help it, she said, pulling a long face,

It’s them pills I took, to bring it off, she said.

(She’s had five already, and nearly died of young George.)

The chemist said it would be all right, but I’ve never been the same.

You are a proper fool, I said.

Well, if Albert won’t leave you alone, there it is, I said,

What you get married for if you don’t want children?

This is a viscerally emotional scene that Eliot is describing or inventing to make a point about femininity, abortion and the pointlessness of life given the realities of death. The woman presumably took “them pills” five times in order to force an abortion, but they have made her old and jaded. In the context of British society of the time, this application of female agency is seen as depressing, but from another perspective—oh wait, right, college basketball. Uh, a reference to George Washington basketball, I think.

HURRY UP PLEASE ITS TIME

A clock. We’re back to college basketball. It’s the end of the game.

Well, that Sunday Albert was home, they had a hot gammon,

And they asked me in to dinner, to get the beauty of it hot—

HURRY UP PLEASE ITS TIME

HURRY UP PLEASE ITS TIME

Goonight Bill. Goonight Lou. Goonight May. Goonight.

Bill Walton, Lou Williams, Luke Maye. Maybe Teresa May. This is a Brexit podcast now.

Ta ta. Goonight. Goonight.

Good night, ladies, good night, sweet ladies, good night, good night.

I think he spells goodnight incorrectly because he is falling asleep and unable to text properly. And thus, the first two parts are complete.

If this is well-received, we will cover the rest of the poem.