You're a guy who had multi-bypass heart surgery a year and a half ago, and you sit watching Nevada-Las Vegas play basketball like Olivier played Hamlet, and, trying very hard to forget that your team is the next victim - well, the next opponent - you take a peek at your players taking in the action.
It's time for a deep breath and some gallows humor and a reminder that, hey, it's only a game, which is sort of like saying that Dom Perignon is only a drink.They practically gave Rick Majerus a new heart, the doctors had to open so many new arteries. Then they gave him back his University of Utah basketball team. Now they give him and the Utes a chance at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas in the third round of the NCAA championships. Better they give him a week at the Baghdad Hilton.
The Utes have a 5-foot-10 guard named Jimmy Soto. The Utes shoot free throws like Venus de Milo. But somehow on Sunday afternoon at the University of Arizona's McKale Center, the Utes outlasted Michigan State, 85-84, in double overtime in the first game of the doubleheader.
Then, after showers and congratulations - or should it be condolences? - all concerned file back into the arena to watch UNLV defeat Georgetown, 62-54, in the other West Regional quarterfinal.
Talk about Mission: Impossible. The task, and you will choose to accept it, Mr. Majerus, is to stop the Rebels' 43-game win streak. You'd have an easier time stopping day from turning into night.
"I watched the expressions of some of our players who were watching Vegas in the second half," said Majerus, "and they were full of trepidation. Las Vegas is a great team. I don't think Jimmy Soto is going to strike fear in anyone there. I don't think we'll be switching Jimmy onto Larry Johnson."
Johnson is the 6-foot-7 forward who's strong enough to take rebounds away from Georgetown's 7-footers, Dikembe Mutombo and Alonzo Mourning, and skilled enough to take and make three-pointers when the situation demands.
"I didn't realize how big they were and how good they are," said Majerus. This from a coach of a team that's 30-3. "I'm really worried about my team now. We don't have the personnel to match them on the glass or on the transition game. Georgetown? When they got it down to 6, I thought they could win. But we don't have Mourning or Mutombo. I mean, Vegas is really good."
Has anybody ever seen a basketball team like that, like Nevada-Las Vegas, which has talent, unity and, no less significantly, determination? It's common knowledge Georgetown isn't made up of young Larry Birds or Michael Jordans, the Hoyas having a difficult time scoring points. Still, against Vegas, they could barely get the ball in bounds, never mind in the basket.
The balls the Rebels weren't tipping away they were blocking. Nevada went twice as long with sub center Elmore Spencer as it did with starter George Ackles because Ackles had a sprained foot. How the Rebels suffered. Spencer had six blocks.
Las Vegas was so good you even felt a twinge of sorrow for Georgetown, the team for which most people always feel contempt.
The Hoyas shoot jumpers the way, well, the way Utah shoots free throws. In its struggle against Michigan State, Utah was 28 of 46 from the line. Then comes Georgetown, which shoots 22 of 57 from the field, 38.6 percent, and six of the baskets were dunks and another six were layups.
"Shooting," said Hoya coach John Thompson, "is something we don't even discuss."
What he does discuss is the perception, maybe the misconception, the Rebels simply send out guys like Johnson, who had a game-high 20 points, Stacey Augmon, Anderson Hunt and the rest of the cast of thousands, and they improvise brilliantly.
"The cohesiveness of their team is amazing," said Thompson, a black man shooting down the myth that black kids are born great while white kids have to work to be great.
"Everybody talks about talent, talent, but that's a very intelligent team. They're not just physically talented. All this talk about them having more talent than everyone else is just bull."
They have more talent than Georgetown. And Utah. And, contrary to Thompson's words, anybody else. Yet, argues Thompson, they could lose. Once. Even though they hadn't done it since the middle of last season.
"As I said," reminded Thompson, "in a one-day situation, one game, it's ridiculous to think Las Vegas is invincible. Officiating could enter into it, the health of the players, anything. But in a seven-game or five-game series, UNLV would run away with it."
In the one game Sunday, Mourning fouled out and later offered his opinions of the Rebels.
"They still put their pants on one leg at a time," Mourning, the junior forward, told us in cliche fashion. "We kept our composure. We made a run. I think the media's built them (UNLV) up to be superhuman beings. Mention UNLV and people think of Superman and Batman."
Not Rick Majerus. He thinks of them as the end to Utah's season.