The Big East All Ugly Team
My dad's shortlived phase as a basketball fan reached its peak in the early to mid-Eighties, which coincided with the emergence of the Big East as a national power. Things were different then. There were fewer teams, none of which were C-USA transplants or cupcakes like Rutgers or South Florida, the rivalries were storied, heated, NBA-level battles because players hung around for more than a year and there were no pesky NCAA regulations forcing players into archaic practices like taking classes and paying for things. It was a grand time.
Anyway, my grandfather was a Syracuse grad and a family allegiance toward the Orange, eventually passed onto me, was born around this time. My father raved of Pearl Washington's heroics, his hatred of Chris Mullin and his attendance at the 1981 triple OT championship game between Syracuse and Villanova that jumpstarted a lifetime of disdain for the Cats and a storied history of basketball for the conference. But perhaps my favorite story from the Big East's early years had nothing to do with the history of the conference. The Big East All-Ugly Team.
My father and his friends would vote on the team every year. A collection of the most hideous mugs from their beloved league. It was a bar conversation in theory but, in spirit, a tribute to the rough-and-tumble league that saw freaks of nature (athletically and aesthetically) do battle every night under a, let's just say, loose interpretation of the rulebook. Extra points were given to particularly villainous players, who, if they happened to own a mug of fugliness, were shown no mercy. Because there is nothing more exciting than disgracing your least favorite player by pointing out his insecurities. Staples of the annual team included Chris Mullin, a McDonald's fryolator operator who never missed a jumper, Patrick Ewing, who looked like he could be John Thompson's father (in short shorts) and, later, Rony Seikaly, who often looked like a cross between Gheorge Muresan and an unemployed stand-in for a Godfather-era James Caan (although he is somehow married to this).
So, for nostalgic purposes, and with the conference play beginning New Year's Day, I thought I would revisit the Big East All Ugly Team. The league sure has changed over time but that doesn't necessarily mean it hasn't gotten uglier. First, a disclaimer. All players were judged on ugliness and unlikability. You aren't going to pick on the benchwarmer who happens to also be grotesque. That's just wrong. No, you are going to make fun of the bastions of deformity that kill your favorite team but, because of their on-court talent, probably still enjoy a prolific and hazardous sex life for reasons pertaining solely to celebrity, riches and a high-profile, in spite of their circus-like features. Those guys are just assholes.
This year was probably tougher than past seasons would have been. There are no Pittsnogles, no Biguses, no Aaron Grays. But with 16 teams, I knew there was a leper colony in there somewhere. The 2007-2008 Big East All Ugly Team, after the jump.
Eric Devendorf, Syracuse
I feel bad putting Devendorf on the list because of his recent misfortunes, which derailed my favorite team, but man, look at that guy. Not only does his chinstrap ensure that he has tinted windows on his Hyundai, but he is covered in tattoos that seem to be necessary only for Tupac or extremely forgetful people. Syracuse fans have had their problems with Devo's shot "selection" and turnovers but we are generally mourning the loss of some, any, experience and ballhandling he had provided. White collar, sweater vest wearers in lower level seats across the Big East, however, celebrated in the streets when Devo's knee popped as they now feel safe bringing their impressionable children to games, Eminem posters and pocket knives be damned.
Looks Like: Kevin Pittsnogle, if he wasn't from West Virginia and listened to rap.
Luke Harangody, Notre Dame
He was an easy target, mainly because he had two 20 and 10 games against my Orange last year and, since he looks like an offensive lineman from the 60s, infuriates fans across the league for his unexpected talent. From his hair to his waist, he is shaped as no human should be shaped, let alone a basketball player. And to make matters worse, despite being a student at Notre Dame, the picture on the right doesn't make me confident that he will be penning any sonnets or filling any test tubes in the near future. I've never watched a Notre Dame game without someone laughing and making an acerbic comment on his flat-top, the mark of a true champion of ugliness.
Looks Like: That guttural lineman in The Waterboy crossed with Guile from Street Fighter.
Levance Fields, Pittsburgh
His late-game heroics against the hated Dukies almost knocked him off this list due to enhanced likability but big shots aside, the roly-poly Fields remains yet another obnoxious Pitt guard. His braids appear to be holding the contents of his body (likely nougat) inside, with his headband providing added security from potential seam-busting. When he jumps around the court following a particularly big basket, there is nothing but that headband preventing a Ghostbusters-like catastrophe.
Looks Like: Khalid El-Amin crossed with, well, Khalid El-Amin.
Jamie Smalligan, West Virginia
I don't really know much about this guy, but he gets decent minutes for West Virginia and, by my count, is the only bald player in the Big East (as Larry David astutely points out, people who shave their head are not members of the bald community), so not only should he be mentioned on this team, but should probably be given a Medal of Honor. Any man, especially one occasionally on national TV, who doesn't go to extreme measures to hide his baldness is a courageous man. I haven't seen Smalligan play much, but I would assume, in accordance with the Bald Man Basketball Player Creed, he passes the ball well, dribbles exclusively with one hand, boxes out exceptionally, can make "jump" shots when completely and utterly wide open and will generally be the only player who cares to dive on the floor, usually when it's absolutely unnecessary. He will also manage to find his way into any argument over rules or a foul call and will be wholeheartedly ignored in said disputes.
Looks Like: Toby from The Office crossed with this badass.
Kentrell Gransberry, South Florida
As an example of the weak field this year, Gransberry, a likable and only moderately unbecoming player, makes the list. Gransberry has lost some weight over his career but still looks like he ate Orlando Pace. He's put up some outstanding numbers over the past couple seasons, surely earning him some "How the hell is that guy killing us?!" responses from fans (or as I like to call it, The Aaron Gray Effect) and causing disdain amongst fans is a key prerequisite for this amazing honor.
Looks Like: Grimace crossed with the Western Kentucky mascot, except neither purple nor red.
So that's this year's team. Not the strongest squad in the league's history but certainly ghastly enough to shoulder the burden of Big East fans' angst and aggression. If I missed anyone or there are bench players too disgusting to be ignored, be sure to let me know, I'd like to leave no stone unturned... especially if a hideous creature lives under those stones.