A Father and Daughter Guide to Picking the NCAA Basketball Tournament

These seem to be the guidelines used by my six and three year old girls to pick basketball games:

  1. In general, pick teams located in states where family lives. According to the six year old, “There are a lot of Carolina teams.”  With grandparents and extended family in Indiana and North Carolina, this means watch out for the Tar Heels, Irish, and Hoosiers in the tourney.
  2. We like to go to the beach, so Long Beach State is going to the elite eight.  (Plus, Aunt Anne lives nearby.)
  3. For the five year old, two of the “First Four” game winners will advance to the second weekend.
  4. The three year old says “Cantucky” instead of “Kentucky.”  Because Cantucky is very fun to say, she’s got them winning the national title.
William Torgerson NCAA basketball final four

Girls' Basketball

My wife Megan deserves lots of credit. She clicked on the youngest’s picks and uncovered the nugget, “Cantucky.”

The youngest wanted to know, “What number am I on?”  Instead of, “What number is on my jersey?”

To Marry or Not? Finding Answers in Suicide Hill

It may or may not be obvious that stories can come from all sorts of places and get written for all sorts of reasons.  Take for example “Suicide Hill.”  It was the first story I ever mentally composed, (as opposed to writing it on paper or typing it on a computer) and I “wrote” it by saying it silently over and over again to myself as I proctored an end-of-course language arts test to middle school students in North Carolina.  The story was partly written out of boredom (what else to do?) but also for a more practical reason:  I had decided I wanted to earn a graduate degree in creative writing, and I needed a story to turn in as a writing sample.

William Torgerson, Bill, Torg, St. John's University, Cherokee McGhee Press

My Mental Setting for Suicide Hill: Crown Hill Cemetery in Winamac, Indiana

Back then–this was around the year 2000–the only other text I had written was a messed-up manuscript that represented one year’s worth of writing where each morning before school I typed up 800 words of whatever I could remember about getting divorced.  It was in fact the very manuscript that clued me in that I needed some help learning to write.  I didn’t really even know what getting help might mean back then, (now it means I had to learn how to read like a writer) but I’d read John Irving somewhere saying something about how Kurt Vonnegut had saved him a lot of time. (Vonnegut, I proudly remind you, is a fellow native of Indiana.)

According to Irving, Vonnegut had been able to teach him something that sped up the process of learning to write.  Perhaps even more importantly, I was beginning to believe that writing was something that could be learned sort of in the same way I’d learned to shoot a basketball:  with some of the right fundamentals, a lot of desire, and an enormous amount of regular practice.

Can you learn to write in the same way you can learn to play ball? Here I am in my younger days.

Next came the question that pops up every year or so for me:  what to write?  Back when I’d earned an MA in English Education, I participated in something The National Writing Project calls the summer institute.  Doing that, I’d prepared a teaching demonstration (think writing teachers writing together) that had emerged from my reading of Stephen King’s On Writing.  I had potential writers survey their life for details looking for subject matter they could bring into a story.  I applied that lesson to my own thinking and what I began to consider was that I was in a relationship that was teetering toward marriage, this even though I’d promised myself to never marry again.  Back then, I was in a relationship great enough that it was challenging my old promise to myself to keep to myself.  In writing “Suicide Hill,” I wanted to write a story that would tell me how to live my life.  It worked, but not in the way that I expected it to.

The Real “Cheese” Behind the Fictional One: Covington High School Coach and Olivet Nazarene University grad, Kent Chezem

Looks like Hoosiers Jimmy Chitwood?

In my novel Love on the Big Screen, the protagonist Zuke has a sort of love rival named “Cheese.”  It’s a name I took from real life from my friend and former teammate, Kent Chezem.  I remember that one of the coaches at Olivet Nazarene University where we were teammates used to always call Kent by the name “Jimmy,” as in Jimmy Chitwood from Hoosiers.  Kent was an excellent basketball player, the all time leader at Olivet Nazarene University in assists, and now he’s the head basketball coach at Covington High School in Indiana.  Kent has been a head coach in Indiana for seventeen years and last season he recently won his 200th game.  I asked him the following question about an event that I once witnessed when we were teammates: 

When I was on the Olivet Nazarene University basketball team, you became the all-time leader for assists.  I remember that when you broke the record, lots of students threw cheese slices onto the floor.  Was that the first time the students did that?   

Bill Torgerson Kent Chezem Love on the Big Screen Covington High School St. John's University Frankfort, Indiana Jimmy Chitwood

Looks like a young Coach Chezem?

No, I guess it actually started my freshman year before you arrived at Olivet.  As an ONU grad, you know that the best and worst part of being a freshman is living in Chapman Hall.  As much as I hated living in that old run down dorm, some of my fondest college memories originate from there.  Some of my friends in Chapman decided it would be cool to start throwing cheese when I was introduced during starting line-ups.  They stole the idea from Cleveland State whose student section did the same thing for their starting point guard:  Kenny “Mouse” McFadden.  Mouse McFadden had become famous for leading Cleveland State in an upset win over Indiana University and Bobby Knight in the NCAA tournament back in the 80’s.

What started out as a nice and simple gesture by a group of my friends (about 25 Kraft singles) grew quickly into a campus-wide fad.  Within a few games, it seemed like everyone was bringing cheese to throw during introductions.  By the end of the season, each home game started out with a “delay” prior to tipoff so that Godam Sultan (Birchard custodian) could clear the floor of cheese.  As much as I enjoyed the attention, the mess on the floor was really starting to become a problem.  At the end of the season, the conference instituted a rule declaring that a technical foul would be called at all future games where fans threw objects on the floor before or during the game.  That was the last of the cheese to be thrown in Birchard, at least that’s what I thought.

Bill Torgerson Kent Chezem Love on the Big Screen Covington High School St. John's University Frankfort, Indiana Jimmy Chitwood

Celebratory Confetti or Dangerous Projectile?

My buddies did bring back the Kraft singles one last time my senior year.   They knew that I was very close to breaking the school’s career assist record, so they came to the game armed with a “Cheese-O-Meter” to countdown the assists, and a whole bunch of Kraft singles.  After my roommate Mike Carr missed 3 consecutive chances to give me the record, David Grasse finally hit a jumper to push me over the top.  The student section let ’em fly.  As  expected, the referees did call a technical foul, but luckily we were well enough ahead that it didn’t have any bearing on the game.  I still remember having a conversation with one of the opposing players during the technical free throws about why our students were throwing cheese onto the floor during a basketball game.

Olivet was a pretty conservative place.  Am I right to remember that you got in a lot of trouble for painting a speed bump to make it look like a candy cane? 

Bill Torgerson Kent Chezem Love on the Big Screen Covington High School St. John's University Frankfort, Indiana Jimmy Chitwood

Candy Cane Speed Bump Prank?

Painting candy stripes on a speed bump would have been a funny prank, but you are giving me credit for something I didn’t do.  I am guilty of setting off fireworks in the quad, dropping water balloons out of dorm rooms, and among other things…dressing up in a gorilla costume and stealing candy from the girls’ dorms at Halloween.  I even remember a night that started with a bunch of my buddies, a few dozen water balloons, and a pickup truck.  It ended up with us getting hauled in to jail and Grover Brooks (Dean of Students) picking us up from the police station at 4 am!  That fiasco got me kicked out of the honors dorm for the remainder of the semester, but it was one of the funniest nights of my life.  Luckily nobody got hurt and nobody was formally charged with a crime.