Riding the Pine

by Henry Arndt and Joe Clyne | 1/6/16 6:31pm

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by Eliza McDonough / The Dartmouth

RTP is back. To our fans, we love you. For those of you who don’t know us, buckle up. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

We expected this term to be nothing but a mere victory lap. When we got off the Dartmouth coach with three suitcases and not a single friend to greet us, the harsh reality of our situation slapped us full in the face. We were nothing. We were lower than scum.

Now one measly week into the New Year, we find ourselves resorting to the most extreme of all measures, the so-called “nuclear option.” To make friends, write a sports column. It is simply science. We promised each other we would never do this again. It was a promise that we had every intention of keeping. In the profound loneliness and stark forbidding beauty of a New Hampshire winter, however, a man’s word is as fragile as his ego.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. It’s great to be back.

Just like Michael Jordan’s brief stint with the Wizards, no one wanted this to happen. No one, that is, except for us. When you get addicted to the buzz of the limelight, you simply can’t spend more than a few terms starved of the public’s adoration. Especially not at a time like this. Especially not during our very own senior winter.

Allow us to reintroduce ourselves. We are Hank and Fish, the most popular sports columnists that the College has ever seen. We had a zero dollar idea and stretched it to a billion dollars of net worth. We hiked the 50 twice. We went to Zimbabwe once. And we enjoyed going to Zimbabwe zero times.

Riding the Pine is considered by many to be our finest work. It is a sports column that is epic in scope, profound in its emotional depth and completely devoid of any sports analysis. In other words, it’s the perfect storm.

As most of our readers know, the Golden State Warriors have taken the basketball world by storm this year, riding the hottest start in NBA history to a 33-2 record as the season approaches its midpoint. Relying on the disrespectful gimmickry of small ball, the Warriors have made a mockery of the sport that Hank and Fish hold dear.

In many ways, we are similar to the Golden State Warriors. Both paragons of excellence in our fields, but both fated to be struck down by crippling weaknesses hiding barely submerged beneath a glistening surface. Take it from those who know better, all that glitters is not gold.

The Warriors are ridden with flaws that only perceptive and honest analysts like ourselves seem to have any desire to expose. When we saw interim head coach Luke Walton give head coach Steve Kerr the Kylo Ren treatment, we knew trouble was coming from a mile away.

The entirety of the Warriors success is predicated on Steph Curry. In the 33 games that the Warriors have played with Curry, they have gone an astounding 32-1. However, in their two games without Curry, who has been plagued by a recent shin injury, the Warriors are a pedestrian 1-1. Unfortunately for fans of the blue and yellow, Curry’s physical fragility is matched only by the emotional turbulence clearly bubbling beneath his placid exterior.

The Warriors desire to make history has clearly taxed their biggest star early in the season and we can’t see Curry sustaining his health and level of play long enough for Golden State to repeat its title.

Another potential flaw for the Warriors is their wavering man in the middle, Andrew Bogut. Bogut’s on-court energy once brought the Warriors wins and accolades from adoring analysts. However, Bogut has now gone full Hollywood. He seems to care more about his Instagram than he does getting to the foul line. His diva attitude may work in the regular season, but come playoff time, he is an Odell Beckham Jr. waiting to happen.

Despite their obvious shortcomings, the Warriors may still have one ace in the hole: the sleek and graceful shooting guard Klay Thompson. Arguably a better shooter than Curry, Thompson is averaging 20.9 points per game on 46.6 percent shooting from the floor. Yet for some reason, you hear less about Thompson from the mainstream sports media than you do about Peyton Manning’s alleged use of HGH.

The Warriors are a great regular season team, but they’ll come up short at the end.

Our dark horse pick to take the title? The Miami Heat. Playing without the burden of the King’s crown, Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade have returned to form, bringing a breath of fresh air to South Beach.

Clearly, our predictive skills are just as rusty as our column-writing ones.

As the first Riding the Pine of 2016 comes to an end, our minds cannot help but reach back to the poignant words of acclaimed Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami, who once said, “If writing novels is like planting a forest, then writing short stories is more like planting a garden.”

If Murakami’s words ring true, writing this column for the rest of the term will be like digging a small hole. Or perhaps more aptly, digging our own graves.