Daily Archives: March 29, 2012

20 years later, a great book about the Laettner shot. A brilliant solution to the peanut-butter jar problem. And “The Wire” vs. “The Sopranos” an impossible decision

Twenty years later, I can still remember where I was when Christian Laettner hit “The Shot.”

Lying on the floor of my then-stepmother’s basement in Queens, N.Y., watching the greatest game ever played and rooting like hell for Duke to beat Kentucky in the 1992 NCAA regional finals in Philly.
It looked good for the Blue Devils for a while. Then, not so good. When Sean Woods hit that crazy running bank shot to put Kentucky ahead with 2.1 seconds to go, I cursed and couldn’t believe that a team of “rejects” who nobody else wanted when UK basketball went down in controversy after a cheating scandal was about to beat the defending national champs that I loved so much.

Then Grant Hill threw a beautiful pass, Laettner caught it, and the rest is history.

It was 20 years ago Wednesday, and it capped what is almost-universally acclaimed as the greatest college hoops game of all time. I got to relive a lot of it recently through Gene Wojciechowski’s fantastic new book “The Last Great Game.”
A longtime newspaper sportswriter, Woj does a terrific job telling the backstories of how Duke and Kentucky got to the game. So much of it is fascinating: How Rick Pitino never wanted to leave the Knicks and come to UK after the program was destroyed by scandal. How Laettner was an even bigger jerk than we thought, tormenting teammates and being an incredible pain in the ass to everyone. How those UK players (which featured only one future NBA player, Jamal Mashburn) were immortalized for coming so close, and for restoring glory to a once-proud program.

The only downside to the book in my eyes was that considering the title, the author doesn’t spend that much time talking about the actual game. But the details he does give are riveting (I still can’t understand why Pitino decided not to guard the in-bounds pass at the end).

Of course Duke fans will enjoy the book, and Kentucky fans too, but really, it’s a great story for any fan of basketball. The title is misleading; Duke-Kentucky 1992 was not the “last great game.”

But it was the best one ever played, and I highly recommend reading it to get even more of a flavor of March Madness.

**Like just about all of you, I’ve at one time or another suffered from the peanut butter jar problem. You’re trying to make a sandwich, but your peanut butter jar is mostly empty. So you reach in and try to get some out with a knife, only to smear Skippy’s or Jif all over your sleeve or hand.
It’s just the cost of doing business, you tell yourself later when you enjoy your PB & J.

But my friends, you and your sleeves will suffer no more! Check out this pretty awesome invention by Darren Kramer, a minor league hockey player for the Ottawa Senators. He’s come up with the “double twist-off jar,” and here’s a video (above) showing how it works.
Very, very cool. I totally hope this hits the mass market.

**As far as smart television fans and critics go, there’s been a long-running debate about which television drama was the GOAT (Greatest of All Time): “The Wire” or “The Sopranos.”

I was a huge fan of both, but to me it’s not that close of a contest: Both “The Sopranos” and “The Wire” were transcendent, groundbreaking television, but “The Wire” was superior. It had better acting, better writing, and told better stories. (Plus that final scene of “The Sopranos” still pisses me off, all these years later.)

But don’t take my word for it. The good people at Vulture.com have done a comprehensive breakdown of the two shows, comparing almost every last detail.

A fascinating read if you have the time.