A Youtube (Kinda) Close Reading is where I kinda close read a Youtube video. For clarification’s sake: close reading is that thing you do in the Humanities where you dive into a text and analyze like why the author used each little piece of punctuation or why a historical figure chose a specific word in a speech. What’s it mean, you know?
So this is like that, kinda, but not nearly as intense. Basically I’m gonna look at a video, not really do any research about it, talk about what I remember, and do some kinda close reading of the material.
Remember when you had section in college and the TA asked you to analyze the reading but you only read like one page so you really just dig into that one page void of any context? This is sorta like that.
The Set Up
A 2005 NCAA Tournament First Round matchup between #4 Syracuse and #13 Vermont.
Syracuse is Syracuse. They were still in the Big East back in 2005. This was before they sold out and joined the ACC so they could make beaucoup bucks from having a shitty college football team no one cares about instead of being part of the best pure college basketball conference in the country. Jackasses.
Carmelo had led Syracuse to the National Championship like two years earlier. Hakim Warrick’s name gets mentioned in this video, and he’s the dude that had a huge blocked shot in the National Championship game, so their squad definitely still had some good dudes on it.
Vermont was the America East champion. Same conference as the famous UMBC Retrievers. It’s um, not really a powerhouse. But they had a bunch of seniors, including the pride of Pawtucket, RI – T. J. Sorrentine. Rhode Island does not churn out a ton of D-1 college basketball players, so Rhode Islanders were pumped about this dude. I mean, we don’t really churn out a ton of anything because we’re a tiny-ass state, but you know what I mean.
Honestly, there’s not a ton of action in this video. But the waiting is sorta the best part.
DCU Center in Worcester, MA as indicated by the Holy Cross decals on the floor, the big ass DCU Center logo in the middle of the floor, and the letters that say WORCESTER on the baseline.
Note: I realize the quality of these screengrabs is not great. But I mean it’s 2005 video footage and I don’t have access to actual archives so I mean really just bare with me.
This was apparently before the NCAA went all hyper-corporate/fascist and put NCAA logos on the center of the court and tried to make each court look identical from television.
Side-note: Let’s look at this logo.
Why the hell isn’t this shit centered? I don’t care if this is like a high-minded design choice based on like what our eyes see or un-see or pretend to see. This is bad.
A close look at the video evidence tells me the game is in overtime.
Also that score is hellishly low. Oddly comforting to know some things never change. 13 years later Syracuse is back in the tournament still just refusing to score points.
Sorrentine Shot Ready
Five seconds into the video, Sorrentine gets a pass. He’s vaguely near the three-point line, so dude gets ready to fire.
Anyone who played youth basketball had the triple-threat position drilled into them. That’s where you catch the ball and immediately get to a position where you can either shoot, dribble, or pass. This is like that, except it’s a one threat position and that threat is to shoot the rock. I am so into it.
But Sorrentine doesn’t shoot here. He and Germain Mopa-Njila kick it around a bit, and Mopa-Njila buries a three to put Vermont ahead. Huge.
Let’s check out the bench’s reaction:
Holy shit this team is so white. Also I’m kinda into the silky button down Nike warm-ups. Snap buttons just scream late 90s slash early-aughts laziness. Why utilize any effort in pulling a warm-up shirt over your head when you can just unbutton it, right?
Jim Boeheim Whines
Jim Boeheim has been coaching at Syracuse for a long-ass time. He had already been coaching at Syracuse for a long time in 2005 when this game was played. Dude’s been whining the whole time, probably.
Syracuse gets the ball back, and hero Mopa-Njila comes up with the steal.
For the record – dude hits the go-ahead three and come up with a game-changing steal in back-to-back plays, but is not the title of the Youtube video or the player anyone remembers from this game, which is pretty effed. Big ups to Germain Mopa-Njila. Dude got a raw deal. Let’s find a picture of him looking sweet as hell to make up for it.
So Germain makes a steal, and Boeheim is not having it. Let’s peep him on the sidelines.
I zoomed in on him to show the classic palms out, “are you kidding me?” look of exasperation. A true beauty. So angry about a 100% clean play.
Now this is really the meat and french fries of this video. Vermont gets the ball back with 1:40 left on the clock, up by one. Sorrentine takes it over half court, throws a pass to another guard with like 26 seconds left on the shot clock. That guard kinda freaks out and throws it back to him immediately, so Sorrentine gets it back with 24 seconds left on the shot clock. Time to call a play, run your offense, make something happen.
At this point, take a look over at the bench for the coach’s instructions.
Hard to make it out, but that right there is your entire coaching staff sitting down. One guy even has his face in his hands. These dudes are so nervous. They’re up by 1 against freaking Syracuse in an NCAA Tournament game, and they are straight up terrified. Like did the coach even call a play? You can feel them trying not to jinx anything through the video.
Sorrentine’s been dribbling the ball for about 11 seconds at this point, and the shooting guard at the top of the screen kinda shrugs his shoulders and throws his hands up toward the bench in like a bit of a “um idk what you want me to do right now but this dude is definitely not passing?” way.
Meanwhile, Syracuse, long as hell as always, is just sitting back in that 2-3 zone being like “you can try to move the ball inside but you know nothing good is gonna happen if you do.” I hate Syracuse and that damn zone.
Unclear if Vermont’s coach called a play and Sorrentine ignored it, or if the coach got nervous as hell and was just like “Ah dammit. Take ’em Teej!” Either way, Sorrentine dribbled the ball up by half court for like 16 seconds.
Try doing nothing for 16 seconds and see what that feels like.
Now imagine dribbling the ball at the top of the key in an NCAA Tournament game in Worcester, MA with thousands of screaming fans and that crazy Syracuse zone defense looking at you for SIXTEEN SECONDS.
Okay so after Sorrentine bounces the ball for like a quarter of a minute, he decides to shoot. When did he decide to shoot? Probably as soon as he got the ball, but obviously he wanted to kill some clock. It would probably be too obvious to wait until the last few seconds to shoot – the defenders would’ve mobbed him and made it a tough shot. And at this point we’ve established that no one else is touching this rock. He’s been going mama hen with the ball. So with like 8 seconds left on the clock, Sorrentine basically gives you the basketball equivalent of “fuck it.”
He pulls up from like 10 feet behind the three point line. If the college three point line in the video is like 20 feet, that makes this approximately a 500 foot jump shot.
This prompts one of the all-time Gus Johnson calls. Now everybody, myself included, remembers this as “Sorrentine from the parking lot!” But take another listen to the video. First off, right as Sorrentine releases the ball, Johnson says “Sssss” like he was about to say “Sorrentine” and stopped himself because he realized how freaking long this jumper was and what a ridiculous attempt it was. Then when it goes in, Gus goes full GUS JOHNSON and yells, “OH MY GOODNESS! Sorrentine hit that one from the parking lot!”
So I mean it’s a minor difference, but this is like the “Play It Again, Sam” line in Casablanca. It never happened. Or the Berenstein Bears actually being called the Berenstain Bears the whole damn time. Is this just an innocent misremembering? Or proof that alternate realities exist? I mean, I don’t know.
Either way, Gus Johnson is the freaking best. How can we not get him out of Fox Sports One jail to do a few NCAA Tournament games every year?
Same dude who was sitting on his hands like 30 seconds ago is now all “WOO! I CALLED THAT SHIT! COACH OF THE YEAR!”
Also, note the time on the clock. There’s still 1:08 left in the game. THAT IS SO LONG! This dude’s got hands over his head like he just won the damn tournament and there’s still a minute and freaking 8 seconds left and he’s only up 4 against a team that won it all like two years ago. Ballsy move. Tempting karma and whatnot. I’m very into it.
Really, I think we should all celebrate ourselves way more. You ever see a toddler complete a little toddler puzzle? Shit’s only got like 2 pieces but when they fit them together they get as hype as this coach got. From now on, I pledge to celebrate my accomplishments with toddler/Vermont-head-coach-circa-2005 level enthusiasm. Swiped into the subway on one try? Arms over the head. Made it through an interaction with a stranger without sounding like an alien who doesn’t know how to talk to other humans? Yippee!
Look at that sad ass dude in the orange headband. Arms are being thrust in the air all around him. Dude with the goatee is raising the roof. Place is loaded with UVM fans. My geography is famously mediocre, but Burlington, VT and Worcester, MA are like super close. So this poor dude from Syracuse is sitting in enemy territory, watching his Orange get beat by a 700 foot jumpshot in overtime. Tough.
Lots to unpack in this clip. An unsung hero in Germain Mopa-Njila. A shot-first point guard ready to rock at any moment. Gus being Gus. All the beauty of a 13 seed pulling off an upset and of Syracuse losing, two things we can all get behind.
Finally, let’s take a look at the graphic package CBS was running in 2005:
WHAT IS THAT SHIT! It truly looks 40 years old. The CBS eye going into the hoop, except wait, it’s not really going IN to the hoop if you really look at it, but rather it’s going right in front of the hoop? The whole thing just looks so clunky and gross and I feel like we’ve come a long way in 13 years.