I’ve become quite accustomed to this hotel already. I guess I’m used to hotel rooms now. I can’t even imagine how much my dad misses home when he’s away if I already miss Connecticut and I’ve only been away for a week.
I went down to breakfast and was very pleased to see that in our hotel restaurant is an omelet station! I will be getting one of those tomorrow…that is, if I beat the team to it. They had it on lockdown this morning. After getting my food, I overheard the team asking JJ if the special bags from Nike had arrived. These bags, kind of like goody bags, are the way they welcome the teams to the Final Four. We had gotten a few really cool items last year, so the team was anxious to know what was being offered this year. JJ said that they couldn’t go up to see them without a key, since they were all in my Dad’s room. At this point, Dad had just come down to get food, and I was on my way up to his room to change my practice shirt, as my white shirt had become the victim of an exploding blueberry (next time I’m using my hands, none of this fork business). I looked over at Dad, who flipped me his key and said “You guys can go up with Ally, no problem!”
I practically had to fight them off as we went up to the room, and the way they treated the bags, you would think it was Christmas morning. The swag this year was pretty simple…shirts and a watch and some other items that I can’t really remember at this point in time. I think Nike’s trying to cut back on some of its spending due to the economy being so dismal. Good for them.
After that, we went on to film, and practice at a local junior college. At the beginning of practice, to warm up, the team runs two laps around the gym. Tahirah always wins. At the end of the lap, I went to highfive her, and she said “39-0, baby.”
Practice went pretty well, although the gym was stifling. Dad finally made his Lebron underhand shot! And Tahirah made a half-court bomb as well.
I wish I could say that the rest of the afternoon was just as exciting, but since I wasn’t needed at the Scottrade Center for the starting five/coach interviews, I went back to the hotel with the rest of the team and decided to check out the fitness room. As it turned out, Shea was in the workout room too, and I made the absolutely horrible decision to hop on the machine next to her, thinking that if I did that, I’d work harder. Boy, did I. If you ever get a chance to work out next to Shea Ralph, don’t do it. You will completely regret it because you will never ever work out as hard as Shea, or be as intense as Shea. I tried, and I almost fell off the elliptical. Lesson learned.
Tonight was the best part. We had the Salute To The Final Four presentation and buffet, and it’s always really fun watching the team get dressed up. Lorin, in particular, looked amazing, and I kept threatening her that if she put her jacket on and covered up, I would just come and take it right back off. The buffet itself was great, although it was a little difficult for me and dad to find food without meat in it (gotta love Lent). After walking around with Dad and debating the different options with him, I finally managed to dig the chicken out of a veggie stirfry and put it on top of salad, along with some fruit (I gave up dessert for Lent). I know that as Geno’s daughter, I shouldn’t even be fazed by famous athletes, but there were a few points tonight where I was taken aback by Courtney Paris, and Jayne Appel, whose performance against Iowa State has me just the tiniest bit freaked out about our rematch on Sunday.
There was a live band playing some great songs, and I can’t really go into exactly what transpired because frankly it defies description…but just imagine girls from Stanford, Louisville, Oklahoma and UCONN doing a massive Electric Slide, and you’re halfway there. Even Dad got into it. Oh, he didn’t leave his seat, but he knows how to dance sitting down like very few do. And there’s really nothing like the sight of Desiree Byrd and Tina Charles having a dance off. Something similar happened last year on the boat during the Tampa Final Four Salute, although that was really between just us and LSU. Needless to say, we won.
The presentation was nice and understated, but the real thrill for me was seeing Jackie Joyner-Kersee, who came to speak as a representative celebrity of St. Louis. She gave a short but effective speech about how the Final Four is a ‘gateway’ to opportunities, something that was reiterated throughout the night. I think they’re beating the whole ‘archway’ thing a bit to death, but it’s still a good metaphor.
Tomorrow promises to be a bit busier, but I think it’ll be fun. They’re announcing the WBCA All-Americans and the recipient of the Wade Trophy. Speaking of awards, congratulations to Renee for winning the Nancy Lieberman Award! The Lieberman, for those who don’t know, is the female equivalent of the Bob Cousy Award for the best point guard in America. Richly deserved, and couldn’t have gone to a greater girl.
More tomorrow, and the family arrives, including my beloved Nonna. We have adjoining rooms…hopefully she won’t yell at me for how messy mine already is…
PS. ESPN Classic is replaying a lot of classic games from the Final Four in the next few days. Next Tuesday, they’re replaying our 1995 game against Tennessee.