Sunday, July 18, 2010

Men's Basketball Players Can Be Cowgirls, Too

On Friday, March 12, Andrew and I, his parents and Alex—taking advantage of my Spring Break—embarked for Greece.

The previous afternoon, the Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament got underway in Indianapolis.

We watched on television the first round game between Iowa and Michigan, a game Michigan easily won, 59-52. The game was not as close as the final score suggests, as Michigan enjoyed a sixteen-point lead with four minutes to play.

The Iowa point guard, freshman Cully Payne, played his heart out that day, scoring a career-high 25 points. Payne made every effort to carry his team to victory. His play was valiant.

In stark contrast, the rest of the Iowa squad on March 11 played very specifically in order to lose. It was patently apparent to anyone watching the game, in the arena or on television, that the Iowa players, Payne aside, had no intention of winning that game.

The most inexcusable performance on March 11 came from Iowa sophomore Matt Gatens (or “Max”, as Alec calls him). Gatens played a deliberately lame game—to say he mailed it in would be a vast understatement—and most observers believe that Gatens did so as a parting gift to Iowa coach Todd Lickliter, who was officially relieved of his duties as Iowa basketball coach the following Monday morning (but whose coming dismissal was widely known no later than the afternoon of Tuesday, March 9).

On the court and behind the scenes, Gatens had been undercutting Lickliter for months. Most persons in Iowa City were aware of the situation, and few were surprised at Gatens’s increasingly erratic play and behavior. Gatens’s poor, even dismaying, performance at the Big Ten Tournament, consequently, came as a shock to no one.

Happily for the basketball crowd in Indianapolis, Gatens did offer one particular pleasure on the afternoon of March 11: he played the part of a floozy chorine/cowgirl from the musical, “The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas”—and he played the part of the chorine/cowgirl supremely well.

Of course, Gatens was assisted in his convincing portrayal by the Iowa basketball uniforms, the tops of which are modeled upon women’s volleyball uniforms and the bottoms of which are adapted from 1920’s bloomers.

The shoes, somehow suggestive of cowgirl boots, completed the eye-catching ensemble.

In the photo below, also from March 11, the cowgirl-boot nature of the shoes is even more apparent.

At a glance, the shoes indeed appear to be cowgirl boots—although, upon close examination, one may see that what appear to be cowgirl boots are in fact black shoes and black socks (at which point all sorts of Third Reich associations uncomfortably assert themselves).

The latter photo amply reveals Gatens’s shameful behavior that day: he is deliberately late in getting to the team huddle, his teammates waiting and his coach staring directly at him. Gatens’s body language demonstrates, in spades, the contempt he held both for his coach and for his teammates.

However, Gatens’s shoddy behavior is redeemed, at least in part, by his courage in cleaning out his ear in public in the presence of thousands of sports fans and before a national television audience.

Not everyone would have the bravery to do such a thing—even when playing the part of a floozy chorine/cowgirl.


  1. Where did you get those pictures? They are so funny.

    He DOES look like he’s riding a horse in the first photo. He DOES look like he’s wearing a skirt and cowgirl boots in the second photo . . .as he digs for earwax.

    Tom Izzo calls Gatens a bad apple. In fact, Izzo went off on Gatens publicly, without identifying him by name. Izzo said that the inmates were running the asylum in Iowa City, and Izzo very clearly was referring to Gatens.

  2. Hey, guy.

    Yes, I know: in your book, Tom Izzo can do no wrong.

  3. Matt Gatens was outed on OutSports a couple years ago.

  4. Digging for earwax in public?


  5. I always heard that Matt Gatens was gay. I see there are 9200 google search results for "Matt Gatens gay", which is how I arrived here.

  6. Uh . . .

    There are now 110,000 google search results for "Matt Gatens gay".