1. Reminder: you are replaceable.
2. And now, in time of pandemic, there is such a good chance that you’ll become a pandemic casualty that plans must be made.
3. Anything you have begun must eventually be completed—if not by you, then by others.
4. (Anything you haven’t begun, anything you’ve merely dreamed about? Ha. It will never be done. You absolutely may not designate others to finish your unbegun dreams. That would be selfish—especially as you yourself were never going to begin them, let alone complete them.)
5. (For you are not your dreams: you are your half-finished projects, a sad person shuffling through all the garbled plans you’ve made.)
6. As you know yourself best, you may certainly designate your successors.
7. But we have recommendations.
8. You are a teacher. You “teach creative writing.” Okay, sure. The most important succession in times of pandemic is to designate the person who will take your place in the classroom—who will be taking your reins midstream, as it were. Designate who you will, of course. But we suggest Ross Gay. No, he doesn’t teach fiction, but he’s amazing, a huge inspiration to students. Or maybe Aimee Bender? Your students would be so thrilled!
9. (Don’t worry about finding a successor to mentoring your graduated students—mentors like you are easy to find.)
10. In terms of your, ahem, tennis playing. We understand you’re concerned about this half-started project—we’re less so, but fine. Let’s review: it’s true, perhaps, that you’ve made progress on your backhand. Why not designate Charles Pasarell (the youngest)? He doesn’t even have to think about the mechanics of his backhand, he just does it. (Which: wouldn’t that be better? To do, to act, without having to think?)
11. We think you’re making good progress so far!
12. In terms of calling your mother and sister and brother and their various partners and children to check in, to express your love, to be warm, to be caring, it shouldn’t be too hard to find a successor who can improve upon your work here. We think someone akin to Jim Hanks. (You met him the once, he read your story aloud in that bar, remember? Jim might do it—this is voice-work, his oeuvre, and he’s such a nice guy.) To be fair, the choice of person to carry on your so-so performance to this point as son, brother, and uncle is, of course, your own.
13. Just be sure to make it. By Thursday next week.
14. Onto your novel. Yes, you have a complete draft… but it needs a lot of work. Who wants to work on someone else’s mostly finished six-hundred page novel? Perhaps someone used to cutting things. Your cousin Mackenzie, the hairstylist—we suggest you give the novel to her. At least she’ll make it look pretty on the outside.
15. Who will pet Mishka in the morning? Who will chase Clancy around the house? Oh, you—many, many people are capable of these things. (This one’s that important to you? Interesting.)
16. Your high school friends will be just fine.
17. At this point we’re wondering: do you even do anything else? Watching and commenting on television is not something in need of replacement. Eating, no, we’re sorry. Drinking neither. Walking alone and “clearing your mind” to “find a way to gather up the experiences of life ‘in times of pandemic’ or really any times, all times” is also not something crucially in need of replacing. Sorry. Request for successors in these areas: denied.
18. Right, right, you give to charity. Ha. That’s fine, charity is covered. (You don’t give that much.)
19. Your wife, though—she will need someone else.
20. By Thursday, remember.
21. As you designate your various successors, you may feel a temptation to submit succession lines for other people. This temptation comes from bitterness—you’ll want to submit succession plans, mean and judgmental ones, for the very people who have asked you to create your own succession plan. Perhaps, you’ll write in these succession plans, ————- can be replaced by the greasy crumbs at the bottom of a bag of cheddar-sour cream potato chips, and ——- can be replaced by the headless body of a Bratz doll. Do not do this. They may find it threatening, and, worse, your actual goal – that they take a breath, step back, and reflect a moment on what they’re asking; that they consider their appalling lack of humanity in asking us all to understand that we’re all replaceable – and to designate our replacements – in a world where we’re all fearing and facing our own mortality: this will totally pass them by.
22. The good news! The good news is that you can do all this quite easily. What day is it today, you ask? It’s Sunday—you have until Thursday! And today’s not just any Sunday, it’s Easter Sunday! It’s a lovely day, a cool and drizzly morning. A quiet morning, a good one for working on your succession plans. You have no distractions—your students and families and friends are all off, without you, in secret unsanctioned gatherings, even in the time of pandemic, in the time of death, just as Easter is a time of death. Their conversations are hushed but almost hopeful: Has the curve flattened? Is the end, they ask in tentative voices, in sight?
What, on Easter, is the end? We’re glad you asked! Let us show you. Come here, come this way. We have prepared for you a nice dark room. Lie down here. It’s a nice quiet space, isn’t it? Almost, even, cavernous. We’ll shut off that light in the doorway, we’ll roll the stone into place—and then, out there, beyond this dark quiet space, the world will go on. We thank you for being so amenable—for understanding that without you, life will just be life, as if you weren’t ever even there. We thank you for helping us to prepare for the un-you of it all (by Thursday, remember). It’s not so hard—it’s almost, even, easy.
Don’t you feel better now?
Good. Have a nice long fucking nap.
So—you have created a despair machine!
Why? Why did you create for me a despair machine?
Did I look like I wanted a despair machine?
Maybe so, maybe so. Fair enough.
There are rules for the despair machine.
Despair is not allowed outside the despair machine: the despair machine needs all the despair.
One may sit in the despair machine on non-consecutive days only.
(This takes some getting used to at first.)
You may spend no more than six minutes in the despair machine.
(Mornings being recommended over evenings.)
(Don’t despair in the evenings, if you can help it.)
(Nightfall being kin to despair.)
The despair machine roams the country, avoiding the agents of the FCC.
The agents of the FCC hate and fear the despair machine.
Do you need the despair machine?
Here—send up this signal flair to attract the despair machine’s attention.
Here comes the despair machine! The despair machine is here for you.
Yes: the inside of the despair machine is surprising to everyone.
Being, as it were, transparent:
what you see inside is what you saw outside:
Be sure to be gentle with the despair machine.
Don’t ever strike the despair machine.
Oil the despair machine’s joints monthly.
Be sure to disinfect the despair machine after each use.
All despair smells different.
The mixing of despair smells is too tragic for words.
Poor despair machine.
Of course the despair machine is tired.
Wouldn’t you be?
The despair machine feels so low.
Late at night, sometimes, the despair machine goes inside itself.
Then what happens? You know—you built this goddamn thing:
Everything in existence becomes despair.
The six minutes elapse: the room closes.
The despair machine emerges.
It’s a cool and quiet night.
Are there stars in the sky? Yes, yes. Don’t mind if I do.
March 27, 2020
LOS ANGELES, Ca. – After unlikely occurrences in their first- and second-round games, Arizona players and coaches might have even been more pleased with what didn’t happen on the Staples Center court Friday night than they were with what did.
“Just basketball,” said Arizona coach Sean Miller.
Riding key three-point shooting and another great game by freshman forward Zeke Nnaji, Arizona used an inside-out attack to take an early lead against BYU, one they wouldn’t relinquish the rest of the night, winning by a final score of 72-61.
“We were up early,” said point guard Nico Mannion. “Coach says not to let up. We didn’t. We shot well, played well.”
“Solid game,” said fellow guard Josh Green, who added, “Maybe a little boring after those last two.”
The game began slowly, as neither Arizona nor BYU was able to score on their first three possessions, despite several wide-open looks. Consecutive BYU three-point misses, both taken by former Arizona guard Alex Barcello, led to long rebounds that Mannion was able to push into transition opportunities, and both he and Arizona forward Stone Gettings each made a three-point basket.
After the game, Barcello, who shot 1 of 8 from the field, was despondent. “I’m disappointed,” he admitted. “You always want to have a good night against your former team.”
“Alex is a great kid. He did fine. He’s made the most of his opportunity here,” said BYU coach Mark Pope. “Tonight just wasn’t our night.”
BYU, one the nation’s best three-point shooting teams, ended the game 12 of 42 from behind the three-point line. Arizona also shot with low efficiency from three-point range, going 9 of 28, but fared far better on the interior, led by Nnaji.
After the two early three-pointers by his teammates, Nnaji scored on three consecutive positions despite facing an aggressive BYU double-team.
“San Diego State was a little more physical than these guys,” Nnaji said. “This game was a little lighter.”
Nnaji finished with game highs of 24 points and 13 rebounds.
“Because they’re so white,” he added.
By the under-16 timeout, Arizona led 14-3. The game was essentially even after that, as the gap between the teams never grew larger than 15 and never closer than 9.
Gettings said, “You get to thinking that something interesting is going to happen. The unexpected, when it happens enough times, becomes the expected. Which is a strange phenomenon. But then it doesn’t happen, and since you’re expecting it, the nothing that happens instead is sort of a letdown. Who knows what’s going to happen Sunday. Nothing? Something? It’s weird anymore.”
He smiled. “But I mean, I’m glad we won.”
“Just basketball,” said Arizona coach Sean Miller.
Arizona plays No. 4 seed Oregon on Sunday in Los Angeles in the Midwest Regional finals.
March 21, 2020
SACRAMENTO, Ca. – Sometimes it takes a body blow to wake a team up. Sometimes it takes a concerted effort from its fans.
If you get both? Chances are, you’re moving on.
“That’s two. Four more to go,” said Arizona coach Sean Miller. “But we take each game one game at a time, so one more to go, and so on, four times. If we do this thing of one at a time for four more times, for a total of six times, it’s this one, this time, that will stay with us for all of time.”
Early on, San Diego State looked like the same veteran team that had gone undefeated until late February, bullying the younger Arizona squad while racing out to a sixteen-point lead.
“Malachi Flynn is real good,” Nico Mannion said of his point guard counterpart, the Mountain West Player of the Year. “He’s probably one of, what, a dozen guards who’s played pretty well against me this year.”
For much of the first half, San Diego State used its size and strength to out-rebound and generally out-tough Arizona. Junior Flynn hounded Mannion with full-court defense, turning Mannion over four times. Fellow junior guard Jordan Shakel made four three-pointers in the opening minutes to help shoot the team to an early lead.
Then Matt Mitchell, San Diego State’s bruising junior power forward, took over.
“He’s a beast,” Arizona forward Zeke Nnaji said. “A mean one.”
Mitchell collected two early fouls on Nnaji, converting both into three-point plays and sending the talented freshman to the bench for the rest of the half. When Coach Miller countered by subbing in seven-foot Christian Koloko, Mitchell continued to have his way, showing off an array of low-post moves en route to a game-high fourteen point first half.
“We knew going in we were stronger than them,” Mitchell said. “Just not, you know, that much stronger.”
The game turned when Coach Miller called on a player who had, of late, fallen out of his rotation: fifth-year forward Chase Jeter.
“We’re going to have to re-spell his name for the statue they’ll put up,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said. “It should be Charge Jeter, not Chase. He might be remembered in Tucson now.”
Following Arizona’s season-high fourteenth first-half turnover, this on a drive into traffic by guard Dylan Smith that ended with Smith face-planting into Mitchell’s chest, bloodying Smith’s nose, San Diego State rushed out in transition. After Flynn made a nifty open-court spin around Arizona defender Josh Green, only one obstacle remained in his path: Jeter.
“Chase really liked taking charges,” Arizona guard Josh Green said.
Flynn made a no-look pass to an in-stride Mitchell, who rose up for the dunk. Jeter, awaiting Flynn in the hopes of taking a charge, never saw Mitchell coming.
“After that point,” Miller said, “I was impressed with our team. They focused, put forth the right energy. They really got back into the game.”
“Yeah, the Jeter death,” San Diego State coach Brian Dutcher said. “That was a big play. I mean the crowd got ornery, it felt more like a road game. We missed a lot of easy open shots in the second half. You could say it was the fans. You could say it was their defense. Guilt at killing one of their players, maybe, sure.”
His players agreed. “Really hostile in the second half,” said Flynn. “Especially when they did the, ‘U of A, U of A,’ whatever letters they were saying.”
After the Jeter play, the Arizona fan contingent, seated primarily behind San Diego State’s second half offensive basket, became loud hecklers, jeering at the San Diego State players and waving certain items of distraction during free throws, including unflattering fat-head faces of disturbed-looking men and even the iconic face of the global economy.
KJ Feagin, San Diego State’s senior reserve guard, was repeatedly serenaded as “Recalled Mayor,” a nod to former Sacramento mayor and Phoenix Sun point guard Kevin Johnson. Feagin shot 1-6 from the free throw line in the second half.
“It gets to you,” he said. “The energy was weird in there.”
San Diego State senior center Yanni Wetzel turned the ball over four times.
“I know it rhymes with pretzel,” he said. “I’m not stupid.”
Each time Shakel touched the ball, Arizona fans chanted in gravelly voices the name “Missus Torrance,” a fusing of the guard’s hometown and Shelley Duvall’s role as the wife in the 1980 film The Shining. Shakel said it impacted him. “I mean, I shot six airballs. That’s weird. I’m not saying a ghost was out there blocking shots, but….”
Hearing this comment, Mannion laughed. “Nah, Ghost Chase wouldn’t block nothing, he’d just keep taking charges.”
San Diego State’s first half star Mitchell also had a second half to forget: after shooting 87% from the line this season, he missed three consecutive front-ends of one-and-ones late in the second half. He said that the crowd also got to him.
“They say ‘nice shot, buddy,’ but they’re lying. It ain’t a nice shot, and I ain’t their buddy.”
In the game’s final ten minutes, Arizona outscored San Diego State 33-6, coasting to a 12-point victory, the final margin being 81-69. Overall, it was a team effort for Arizona, as five players scored more than 14 points: Green, who led the way with 18, Smith and Mannion and forward Stone Gettings with 16, and fourteen each for Nnaji and reserve guard Jamarl Baker.
“We hung in there,” Miller said. “To lose a player with the caliber of Chase while still going on to win a game like this—it might cause mixed feelings, sure, but I think it’s the right mix of feelings for this one. But this one is just this one. We’ll see what happens in the next one.”
Arizona plays No. 6 seed BYU on Friday in Los Angeles in the first game of the Midwest Regional semi-finals.
No. 7 seed Arizona squeaks past No. 10 seed Texas Tech 70-69 behind familiar freshmen trio—and one surprise contributor
March 19, 2020
SACRAMENTO, Ca. – In the opening game of the Midwest Regional, it was a battle of big versus small—and, finally, the littlest guy of all came through.
Led by Zeke Nnaji and his talented fellow freshmen, Arizona charged out to a twenty-point first half lead. But Texas Tech went small-ball in the second-half, coming all the way back to take a 69-67 lead with nineteen seconds left.
“I told the players not to give up, to never give up,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said. “The social distancing measures maybe helped a little on that last play—but it was more about our guy showing to everyone that we have the heart of a champion.”
That player was grad transfer Max Hazzard, the game’s shortest-statured player, who’d returned to the team just hours before the game after a weeks-long absence due to an ongoing family situation. “We wanted another ball handler out there in case they trapped Nico,” Miller said, explaining why he put Hazzard into the game for the first time on the final play. “And, just, wow. Best call of my life.”
After Josh Green was unable to directly in-bounds the ball to a teammate, he flung it randomly downcourt to avoid a five-second call.
“That was a pretty stupid play I made,” said Green.
But it worked. Hazzard, coughing vehemently as he ran, was first to the ball. Without any resistance from the worried Texas Tech players, Hazzard calmly dribbled behind the three-point line, and, to the consternation of Texas Tech coach Matt Bell, licked all over the ball. (Asked for comments after the game, Bell said only, “I can’t even. I can’t.”)
Then Hazzard took the shot.
No other player was willing to go after the ball, so the rebound was left to Hazzard, who still had plenty of time to shoot again. Which he did.
And missed, again.
Hazzard released his third and winning attempt just one second before the shot clock sounded.
“Am I sick?” he said after the game, grinning. “Sick at shooting, maybe.”
The first half was all Arizona. Zeke Nnaji bulldozed his way to a game high 34 points and 17 rebounds in the best statistical NCAA Tournament game ever by any Arizona player, and he was supported by the steady hands of Nico Mannion and Josh Green, both notching seven assists in the game against zero turnovers.
“We played sound basketball tonight in the first half, guys doing their thing, locking up on defense, making the right plays. But the second was rough. Ira sort of killed us,” Mannion admitted.
An accidental highlight came midway through the first-half when Arizona forward Ira Lee missed a left-handed windmill dunk. The ball bounced high into the air, and Green soared over Texas Tech player Davide Morretti, clearing him entirely, then snatching the ball and throwing it down.
“That play was a little better than his last pass,” Miller deadpanned.
It was Coach Bell’s shift to small ball in that second half that brought Texas Tech back into the game. Guards Morretti, Kyler Edwards, and Jahmi’us Ramsey pestered Arizona’s big men on the interior, causing a string of seven turnovers during a hectic four minute sequence late in the game, during which Texas Tech trimmed away all their deficit.
Also a talented freshman with NBA potential, Ramsey led Texas Tech with 22 points. “I thought we had it, I thought we had a chance,” he said. “Until that whack came in.”
It’s just the first round of the tournament, but Arizona’s heralded freshman trio is playing as advertised—and getting the kind of help that teams need for a deep March run.
“This,” Hazzard said, “is just the beginning.”
Arizona plays No. 2 seed San Diego State on Saturday.