The Kansas Jayhawks men’s basketball team is kicking off the official start to a new basketball season with the 25th Annual Late Night in the Phog. Hopes are running high this year with dreams of reaching Indianapolis for the Final Four. My brother-in-law, Phil Priebe, already is planning the trip.
Like all good fans I am beginning to sharpen my game, too. You might ask what preparation I have to do? It’s not too hard to sit on your butt and watch young men play basketball.
Oh, but the passionate fans know there is much that can be done in the stands or in front of the T.V. to turn the tide of close games in the favor of your team. So that I am prepared when I’m needed I have been refining my technique to deliver the most powerful hex that I know… The Pissy Rivers.
I learned this mysterious curse from my friend, eighteen year classmate (kindergarten through super senior year at KU) and fellow Greg Dreiling Fan Club member Scott Focke, aka Scooter. The Pissy Rivers is relatively easy to describe but extremely hard to execute.
The basic moves of the hex are simple. Cross the first and second fingers of your writing hand. Place your hand with crossed-fingers casually behind your back. Do not make fanfare of what you are doing. At the crucial moment in the game, quickly swing your hand and crossed fingers from behind your back as if you are throwing an underhand curve ball. Snap your wrist just before your arm fully extends. And, at the moment your hand jerks, whisper (or if you are alone in front of a T.V. shout) “Pissy Rivers.”
Sounds simple doesn’t it. Only the masters are consistently effective. There is a lot that can go wrong when casting a Pissy Rivers. The hex can even be reversed on your own team. Overuse is the surest way to ruin the Pissy Rivers. If someone sees or hears you throw the curse, it can kill the spell.
Some people believe a double Pissy Rivers – crossing all four fingers rather than just two – is more powerful than the traditional version of the curse. I’m not a believer in the double Pissy Rivers. I’ve seen it backfire just as often as I’ve seen it work.
Skeptical about all this? Think this is nothing but superstition and coincidence? Well I have evidence.
Scott Focke propelled the Jayhawks over Michigan State in the Sweet 16 of the 1986 NCAA tournament and on to the Final Four. Several members of the Dreiling gang scored tickets to the game in Kansas City’s Kemper arena. It was one of the most exciting games I’ve seen. It included controversy – a stopped clock for 15 seconds when KU was trailing – and role player heroics.
The Jayhawks were down by six points with just over one minute to go. I was a nervous wreck. Scott told me not to panic. I shouted back, “There’s only sixty seconds left in the whole *#%$@ season, don’t tell me not to panic.” But, Scott just gave me a look.
The Jayhawks began to foul the moment Michigan State touched the ball in a last ditch effort to close the seemingly insurmountable gap. That’s when Scott went to work from the top row of the arena.
Michigan State missed the front end of a one-and-one two consecutive times in the last minute of the game allowing KU to tie the score on an Archie Marshall tip-in with just a few seconds left. I still feel hoarse thinking how loud and long we screamed with joy.
KU’s best players, Danny Manning and Ron Kellogg, had fouled out of the game. But the momentum had already swung the way of the Jayhawks and fan favorite Calvin Thompson led the way to a 10 point victory in overtime.
I didn’t see it, of course. But, Scott told us later that he’d used the Pissy Rivers when the Michigan State players were shooting their clutch free throws. That’s the moment I became a believer.
I use it myself now when the moment is right. I’m not a master like Scott. But, occasionally I do my part to help out the ‘Hawks.
I don’t want to claim too much credit. But, I was in the stands in San Antonio when Mario Chalmers hit his miracle shot and the Jayhawks won the national title.
And, you might remember, the Memphis Tigers did miss a few key foul shots down the stretch…
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