Ostertageriffic!

Greg Ostertag fascinates me.I've been following Kansas University basketball for nearly 20 years now, and in all that time it's Ostertag who looms largest (pardon the pun) in my imagination. Sure, Paul Pierce was more athletic. Jerod Haase hustled a lot more. Rex Walters was a lot brainier. And Danny Manning made it possible for me - one of about three KU fans in the small Kansas town where I grew up - to get a bit of an upper hand over all the K-State fans who surrounded me. It's hard to trump a national championship.It's Ostertag, however, whom I find myself pondering from time to time.Part of it is the connection of age; we both started college in the fall of 1991. But part of it is the ineffable mystery of talent. I have no ability to play basketball or do anything requiring hand-eye coordination. When I see Greg Ostertag, though, I suspect that I could make $40 million if I were just a foot taller.That's not an insult, just the genetic breaks.I mention this because Ostertag got traded back to the Utah Jazz in the NBA last week, amid a chorus of grumbling about how he has never quite lived up to the promise of his 7-foot-tall body, how he's brilliant some games and takes others off. And we all remember how Roy Williams used to blame his gray hairs on the Big O.Those gripes make me feel a little sympathetic to Mr. Ostertag.Let's face it: there are days when we go to work and nothing can keep us down. And there are days when we get to our desk and can't quite figure out how to do anything right - or anything at all. We just hope that the good days are more frequent than the bad.And when the bad days come, well, we're not having them in front of 16,000 fans, or on television.I've never met Greg Ostertag, but it seems to me he is a regular guy. The problem is he's a regular guy in a very irregular situation. Sometimes that's a blessing; sometimes that makes the fans curse.¢ Last week, I pondered how folks survived hot Kansas summers before the advent of air conditioning. I soon got my answer.Marjorie Kincaid, of Lawrence, wrote to tell me about how she grew up on a farm near Washington, Kan., in the 1930s. Folks kept cool, she said, by taking dips in stock tanks, placing wet sheets in doorways, sleeping in hay racks and buying big chunks of ice.There was "nothing to even take the edge off the extreme heat," Kincaid wrote me. "Nevertheless, we survived, and mostly grew stronger as a result."I had suspected the older generation was made of sterner stuff. Now I know: I'm not nearly as tough as Marjorie Kincaid.

Comments

Anne Bracker 17 years ago

Whatever you think about Ostertag's playing abilities, you kinda have to admit he was really funny in the movie, "Eddie." Remember the movie with Whoopie Goldberg? He played Joe Sparks. Okay, so I have to reveal that I had to look up his character's name on imdb.com. However, that led me to also learn that he played himself on an episode of "Touched by an Angel" - wait, isn't there a law somewhere that says you have to always preceed the name of that show with the phrase, "a very special episode of..." ???

Seriously, though, the guy gave his sister one of his kidneys. That deserves some respect.

Hanluen Kuo 17 years ago

I agree about the Ostertag is a regular joe schmoe in a hollywood setting. Have you ever seen or been to an NBA game? It's basically a night club. Think about it, hot women dressing up like they're hittin' the town, people drinking champagne courtside, laser lights everywhere, dancers, see what I mean? And while this particular atmosphere fits Paul Pierce and yes, even our little g-boy Hinrich (we all know he likes to hit the town), Ostertag wants to just go home and watch Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, spend some time with the kids, and go to bed with his wife.

If there's one thing I give him is that he's never let the criticism get him down. You never hear him complain about it, you just see him suit and up and sweat his ass off.

I agree, I like him too and proud he's a Jayhawk.

cwrist 17 years ago

That takes some cajones to admit you actually watched the movie "Eddie." I can count the number of people on one hand that I know who've admitted to seeing it, and I still have three fingers left over.

Seriously, though, Ostertag is living the absolute NBA dream. Much like Jon Koncak, Ostertag's a guy who got locked into a big contract before anybody realized that he didn't have much basketball skill or work ethic. He just happened to land the big paycheck early enough and he has laughed all the way to the bank with it. But, I'd rather see him making the NBA cash than, say, either of the Hayley twins.

Joel 17 years ago

I saw "Eddie" in the theater. Don't ask.

chrisgladfelter 17 years ago

When I was a student at KU, my roommate and I decided to camp out inside Allen Fieldhouse for a basketball game. For some reason, we decided to pass the time by playing chess. Ostertag had just finished practice, but instead of heading to the locker room he came over to see what we were doing. "Hey guys," he asked jovially, "what's going on?" As he leaned over us, sweat dripped from his face and onto our chessboard. I was glad my roomie and I had a game between us and not an open pizza.

Marcy McGuffie 17 years ago

What...?? So, you're saying I should be ashamed that I've worn out my VHS version of Eddie and am prepared to replace it with a shiny, spankin' new DVD? Oy, the stench of snobbery! Shucks, I can't even keep a straight face with the veil of cyberspace offering its protection...I've only seen it once and recall it was mildly amusing. Joel--you're a brave soul to cop up to viewing the theatrical version. You may not be as tough as Ms. Kincaid, but rest-assured you're still a manly man putting yourself out there like that.

Anyway, Ostertag reminisicing makes me smile. You gotta love a person who can run over his own foot and walk away unscathed. And to this day, I can't run through the McDonald's drive-thru without thinking of Ostertag. This is probably an all-too-sad commentary on my upbringing...but as a kid, I remember seeing him at McDonalds every time I was there with my family...(did we frequent McD's that much?)

cvillehawk 17 years ago

My theory has always been that Ostertag is a guy who likes but does not love basketball. He's physically talented enough to cruise through a game, make some defensive plays, and get paid millions. Hell, I'd do it too. If he LOVED bball and worked his ass off, his ceiling is still nowhere near Shaq's, so why be surprised that he's finagled this well-paying journeyman career? It's not his fault GMs will still pay him.

And I agree, he's a good guy. I say honor what he's been able to do, and don't worry about what he can't or won't.

Todd 17 years ago

Good ole Ostertag. I live in the Jayhawk towers one year while he was there also. One time a bunch of us were throwing around a Frisbee and someone overthrew by a bit. Good ole 00 goes over to get it and throw it back. I guess it's no surprise to anyone here that the Frisbee didn't make it all of 2 feet from the man's hand. I tried so hard not to laugh. With an arm that long you'd think you could launch a Frisbee into orbit but I guess it's is really all in the wrist ;)

Tater 17 years ago

Hey Joel I'll have to give you props on the non-Ostertag part of your blog.

Last night on our little mom and pop news show our anchor pulled up a story from Scottsdale, AZ about people who decided to jump into huge mud puddles to keep cool. Then I immediately thought of what you wrote about the older folks keeping cool and made the comment that is what people did before the invention of air conditioning. Then I had to remind everyone that it was going to be another hot, humid, misreble next few days. Thank you Joel for giving me something to say to the anchor instead of my normal awkward silence.

Joel 17 years ago

Tater, Tater: If I can somehow liven up the banter amongst the Sunday Night News Team ... well, I've done my job.

obuchanan 17 years ago

Jeez, Joel, you don't have to go back as far as Ms. Kincaid to get first-hand knowledge of prehistoric times before AC! My family didn't have it until the end of my sixth grade year because we was jes' po farm folk. Ah yes, I remember dips in the stock tank and box fans in the windows, blowing the hot air OUT of the house.

I started KU in the fall of '91 also, and it seemed like the Big O was everywhere. And what was that beast he used to drive around while in college?

Joel 17 years ago

My first memory of Ostertag was early during the season of his freshman year ... I forget who KU was playing, but somehow he stole the ball and then went on ... the ... slowest ... breakaway ... dunk ... ever. He looked gassed at the end.

Kelly Powell 17 years ago

And I'll allways remember the vacant, allmost marsupial like, gleam in his eyes.....How come if your famous it's "he's a regular schmoe", but if your not your a on oaf?

Kelly Powell 17 years ago

And I'll allways remember the vacant, allmost marsupial like, gleam in his eyes.....How come if your famous it's "he's a regular schmoe", but if your not your a an oaf?

cwrist 17 years ago

Joel. I too remember that breakaway... vividly. I believe the ground beneath us shook as he rumbled the final 40 feet.

dsmit52 17 years ago

Ahh, those of us that went to college with the Big O all have stories about him. My favorite was when one semester I had a Geology class with him. They had just lost a big game and some football players were giving him hell about losing at home. Me and my buddy thought he would cuss them out but he turned and looked at us and with a dopey drawl says, "If you don't got nuthing nice to say don't say it at all!" We tried really hard not to laugh. He was a nice dude all the same.

cvillehawk 17 years ago

I vividly recall a game in which big O got blood on his jersey somehow, and they stopped the game and made him go change. Most guys would just whip off the bloody shirt, put on the other, and get back in the game. But the camera caught Greg hiding around the corner in the tunnell back to the locker room, furtively ducking out of his tainted jersey.

As a fairly modest and chubby guy myself, I felt for him. If you're Paul Pierce, you probably can't wait to whip your shirt off in front of 16,000 people, but big O just needed some privacy.

kthutch 17 years ago

I started in 91 like O, and my friend knew him tangentially. She was riding in the elevator one day with him and some other woman. The woman looked up at him and said, "wow, you make me feel short." The elevator continued and the other woman got out. He looked at my friend and said "wow, she makes me feel smart."

Joel 17 years ago

If Ostertag came up with that on his own, than he's a little quicker than he's given credit for.

kthutch 17 years ago

Yeah, but even if he did steal it, it's funny. And self-aware.

Oh, and I forgot. Rex Walters had a brain? That certainly wasn't what I noticed about him.

Rigg 17 years ago

Ah, blogs about Ostertag in July. Things must be pretty slow around Larryville this time of year.

Big O has a kid that's coming to the KU camps. He's already a giant. Could it be a legacy?

Joel 17 years ago

Rigg: Are you seriously criticizing my blog topics after you turned your back on all of us at the Newscenter .... TO GO TO OKLAHOMA?

For shame. For shame.

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