By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Jouranl
TUPELO – In journalism parlance, we call it a “lede” – the first sentence or paragraph of a story. And I had what I thought was a really good one written in my head.
It was the night of Feb. 16, and Mississippi State was playing then-No. 2 Kentucky. It was a charged atmosphere – made more so by the exchange of pleasantries between MSU fans and Wildcat freshman DeMarcus Cousins – and the Bulldogs ultimately fell in an overtime thriller.
So what bit of journalistic gold did I have in my head? Honestly, I don’t recall. I never wrote it down, because I was on my back in a hospital bed, still recovering from a Feb. 1 car accident that many of you by now know about.
Five weeks after an inattentive motorist sent me spinning down Highway 45 – I was en route to Starkville for a weekly basketball press conference – I came back to work on Monday. Now, the words in my head can make their way onto the page, and for that I’m extremely thankful.
As my time of convalescence proved, you can’t keep a writer from writing, and you can’t keep a sports writer from working, even if only in his head. I kept close track of MSU from my hospital bed, and then from my recliner once I went home Feb. 18.
I saw State nearly get the elusive marquee win (Kentucky) it so needed for its NCAA tournament resume;. I saw the Bulldogs bounce back from that with three nice victories against LSU (OK, that one was ugly), Alabama and South Carolina. And I saw them slide off the bubble with two bad losses last week.
I’ll have to watch their efforts in the SEC Tournament from afar, as my return to work is in a limited capacity. Don’t worry, Parrish Alford will have things covered. I owe much thanks to him, as well as Paul Jones and Todd Vinyard, for helping keep y’all up to date on MSU sports.
Should MSU manage an NCAA berth, I hope to follow them wherever the selection committee sends them. Have to get travel clearance from the doctor and my wife first, of course.
So, if I were to write a story summing up the past month-plus of MSU’s basketball season, what would it say? Probably something like this: Blame the NCAA or blame injuries if you want, but ultimately, the Bulldogs’ 2009-10 campaign has ended in disappointment, an unfitting conclusion to the illustrious careers of Jarvis Varnado and Barry Stewart.
Remember last spring, when Renardo Sidney signed with MSU? Sidney and his new teammates dared to utter the words “Final Four” and “national championship.”
Then the NCAA began investigating Sidney, and then backup point guard Twany Beckham had season-ending hip surgery, and then backup post player Elgin Bailey was sidelined with a nagging ankle injury. MSU was suddenly a thin team, both in terms of depth and its frontcourt.
It just goes to show that you never really know what will happen next. That’s true in sports, and it’s true in life. I sure as heck didn’t expect to be laid up for weeks, unable to do that which I love.
But such uncertainty isn’t always a bad thing. As dim as things look for MSU right now, who knows, we could see a repeat of 2009, when it unexpectedly won the SEC Tournament to earn an NCAA berth.
So maybe the Bulldogs can rewrite the story of their season. They do that, and I’ll be sure to come up with a suitable lede.
Brad Locke (firstname.lastname@example.org) covers Mississippi State for the Daily Journal and blogs daily at NEMS360.com.