Since August of last year, former Sports Illustrated columnist Steve Rushin threw his proverbial hat into the ring known as the blogosphere. You see it was Rushin, a 1984 Bloomington Kennedy grad, who inspired me to resume an SI subscription that had lapsed about twenty years earlier.
About two years ago Katie McCollow, the proprietor of the irreplaceable Yucky Salad With Bones, linked to a Rushin column published on the SI web site. Unfortunately, it was for SI Insiders only, meaning those who had a subscription to the magazine. But the SI site did publish the first few sentences of the May 2006 article entitled A Life on the Flip Side.
You never forget your first felony. Mine was mail tampering. As a hoops-crazed 13-year-old, I rifled through a new neighbor's mailbox to confirm that the occupant of the split-level on 98 1/2 Street in Bloomington, Minn., really was former Gophers basketball star Flip Saunders. ...
It was at this point I was cut off from the rest of the story. I couldn’t stand it!! I had to know what happened.
Did Steve and his best buddy Mike (now Katie’s husband) get caught stealing the mail?
Did they have to go to juvy as a result?
Was their image of Flip shattered when he came running out of the house in his t-shirt and boxers with a heater dangling from the corner of his mouth while cursing out the teen postal thieves?
My insatiable curiosity won out. Hence began my first SI subscription in approximately two decades. Naturally, my first read every week over the following eight months was within the first few pages of SI magazine where Steve’s column resided until he left in February 2007.
By the way you’ll be happy to know that fateful day of mail tampering in 1979 was, in the motif of Bogart, the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
By then, Flip was a 24-year-old coaching prodigy at Golden Valley Lutheran College, where his teams would go four full seasons without losing a home game. Yet he did an extraordinary thing: He invited us to shoot hoops in his backyard.
It was a concrete half-court overlooked by the luxury suite of a small deck. We called him Flip, and he called us Mike and Rush -- or more accurately, Mike&Rush, a single entity joined by an ampersand, always two feet behind him, like backup singers. We were Flip's Pips.
On Flip's court, we organized an annual, all-day, two-on-two tournament in which a couple of lucky teenagers (Mike&Rush) got to play with and against NBA players (like Houston Rocket Jim Petersen) at a time when teens and NBA players were not one and the same.
An aspiring writer with a weakness for wordplay, I suggested we call our shindig the Saunders Hoop Invitational Tournament, whose acronym Flip gleefully scrawled on a piece of white trainer's tape and adhered to the trophy, which he made from a Cool Whip tub and Nerf ball wrapped in aluminum foil.
And thus was born the SH*T, at which, on June 23, 1984, play was suspended every time Ryne Sandberg, our athletic ideal, hit for the Cubs. On the Game of the Week, against the Cardinals' Bruce Sutter, Ryno hit two game-tying homers that day.
C’mon, sports fan. Tell me that wasn’t worth the price of a one-year SI subscription.
Closed circuit to Mike & Katie McCollow: Next time Steve is in town, let him know a complimentary serving of his favorite beverage potentially awaits him at Keegan’s!