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February 1, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments

The Morning Dish – Saturday, February 1st, 2003

by Andrew Flynn

What was shaping up as a routine Morning Dish changed purpose this morning with the news from NASA that they had lost contact with the Space Shuttle Columbia. As the morning moved closer to noon the news became less and less hopeful, as reports of the Shuttle’s disintegration over Texas were first heard, debris in North Texas was discovered, and finally the ever-so-American media device – home video footage – started coming in.

Growing up, I remember distinctly when the very first Shuttle launched. Coincidentally it was this spacecraft – Columbia – that then carried our national hopes and dreams back in 1981. It was very futuristic – with five computers and one backup – a novelty at the time, as I look at the servers, desktops and laptops here in the Hoopville editorial offices.

Mr. Dodge wheeled in an old color television lashed to a creaky audio/video cart checked out from the school library into our fifth-grade classroom. My classmates and I were mesmerized by the possibilities of space travel, as we had been born too late to enjoy the heady days of Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, and even SkyLab, and our textbooks ended their timeline at the end of the Eisenhower administration.

As time progressed, and some of my classmates matured, the Space Shuttle seemed less novel and more routine, even mundane. As we would see in a cyclical path of yawning media coverage, similar to the lack of coverage for Apollo 13 Ron Howard would show us ten years later, it would take another tragedy to capture the nation’s attention again.

This time, it was Mr. Kronemeyer’s 4th period English class, where we heard the announcement that Space Shuttle Challenger had exploded shortly after takeoff from Cape Canaveral. Thoughts went to Mr. Mayak, our science and chemistry teacher, who had been an applicant to NASA’s “Teacher in Space” challenge – the program to which New Hampshire teacher Christie McAuliffe had also applied. She and her six crewmates perished that January morning in 1986.

Today however, we face another situation where our collective consciousnesses are jerked from complacency into reality. The sad part is, how many of us even knew that the Shuttle was in space? The average citizen couldn’t tell you over the past decade whether a Shuttle was up or down. I must admit that I did indeed know.

Late last night as I struggled to find sleep, I was trolling through late-night cable fare and came across NASA Television on my local digital cable service. This channel normally shows Hubble telescope programming for six-hour stretches, so it’s not that dynamic, but last night was different. The television displayed a map of the globe with an icon depicting a Space Shuttle approaching the Australian coast. It was what turned out to be a live broadcast of the Shuttle’s approach home to Florida, coming home after 17 days in orbit. As we know now, the Columbia never reached it’s intended destination.

This was the 113th Shuttle mission, and yet there are only three that stand out in our memory, and two of those didn’t end successfully. What does this say about us?

Unfortunately now we are in an era where the most nefarious of conspiracy theories must be considered. News announcers today were quick to bring up and then discredit terrorism theories. To any NASA fan, the discrediting was obvious, as the Columbia was traveling at Mach 18 at over 200,000 feet – a location that could only be reached by experimental Air Force aircraft. Others keyed in on the crew composition – one Israeli and six American astronauts – and attempted to concoct motive through the coincidence. In the upcoming days and months, we will undoubtedly learn more about the cause of the tragedy, as we did in 1986 when “O-Ring” and “Morton-Thiokol” entered our lexicon of buzzwords.

The nation now has another piece of videotape fodder that will reside right alongside the Challenger video and the planes hitting the World Trade Center in our nation’s video library of tragedy. Let us now remember the memories of the crew of the Columbia, who left behind families, friends, and left two nations without the quiet role models and heroes they certainly were.

In Memoriam, Space Shuttle Columbia, STS-107:

Commander Rick Husband, 45
Pilot William McCool, 41
Payload Commander Michael P. Anderson, 43
Mission Specialist 1 David M. Brown, 46
Mission Specialist 2 Kalpana Chawla, 41
Mission Specialist 4 Laurel Blair Salton Clark, 41
Payload Commander 1 Ilan Ramon, 48

Side Dishes

You Don’t Score ‘Til you Score: In a much-anticipated matchup in Worcester for Patriot League supremacy, the Lehigh Mountain Hawks and their medium-octane offense came to face the Holy Cross Crusaders. Well, someone choked, as Lehigh only tallied 39 points on the night in a 63-39 blowout loss. Patrick Whearty scored 21 points and 11 boards and Jave Meade added 16 points as the Crusaders snapped the Hawks’ seven-game win streak. Zlatko Savovic, Lehigh’s conference-leading scorer, didn’t fare too badly, notching only 4 less than his 21ppg average. But No. 3 Patriot scorer Matt Logie only totaled 2 points on free throws. Bottom line: Lehigh shot 29% from the field. Ewww.

Jaspers Keep Rolling: After two big victories against Big East opponents, the Manhattan Jaspers cruised up the New York State Thruway and cruised over the Niagara Purple Eagles 71-65 in Metro Atlantic action last night. The Jaspers, who notched their 12th-straight victory with the win, are now 16-3 on the season and in command of first place in the MAAC. The Jaspers haven’t lost since a December 21st game against St. Peter’s, losing to the Peacocks 74-72. (I just needed to have “Peacock” and “Jasper” in the same paragraph.) Luis Flores scored 25 points and Jared Johnson and Mike Konovelchick each scored 11 points in the win. David Brooks scored 18 for the Purple Eagles, who fall to .500 on the season and 5-4 in the conference.

Waves Crashing: What’s wrong with Pepperdine? The Waves, widely believed to be able to walk over everyone but Gonzaga in the West Coast to set up the conference championship against the Bulldogs, are reeling in conference play. Pepperdine has seesawed in the columns, neither winning nor losing two in a row since December. Last night, they were on the downside, losing to the San Francisco Dons 87-77. But it was closer than the score indicates. USF was up by 17 with five minutes remaining, when Waves coach Paul Westphal orchestrated a 20-5 run. But free throws would be the key, as the Dons sank 9 of 12 as the game clock expired. Dons John Cox led with 24 and Darrell Tucker scored 21 points and grabbed 11 rebounds – his fifth double-double on the season, which is even more impressive considering he missed a month to a dislocated thumb. Ouch. Terrance Johnson and Jimmy Miggins each scored 18 points for the Waves.

Oh, that Kid’s Ineligible: As widely reported in the national media, Ohio high school star LeBron James was ruled ineligible by the Ohio High School Athletics Association for accepting over $800 in vintage sports jerseys. The Gayle Sayers jersey (pretty cool) and Wes Unseld (Wes Unseld??) jerseys were just the latest in a turbulent month for James. First he receives a Hummer H2 vehicle. The OSHAA investigates. Then he gets in an accident and leaves the scene, backing into an 88-year old lady. Well, the lady’s car, anyway. And just 4 days after he was declared eligible because of the Hummer, he’s ineligible in “Jersey Gate”. Sounds like the announcer in Slap Shot describing Ogie Ogelthorpe. Of course he’s appealing. Jed Tai has more detailed commentary above.

Tonight’s Menu

• It’s an action-packed Saturday, with plenty of ranked teams facing off. Of course, it would have been better if both Cal and Arizona hadn’t lost earlier in the week. They face off in Tucson later today.

• Big East showdowns abound as No. 2 Pitt travels north to the Carrier Dome to face No. 25 Syracuse. Syracuse is looking to avenge their earlier loss to the Panthers in Pittsburgh. Pitt star guard Brendin Knight is questionable for the game with a sprained ankle sustained Wednesday in practice. Georgetown travels to No. 11 Notre Dame, and Boston College visits No. 12 UConn.

• It’s not all about the Big East, either. In the Big 12, No. 10 Oklahoma State visits Austin to face the No. 3 Texas Longhorns. In the SEC, No. 19 Mississippi State heads east to face No. 16 Georgia.

In Conference USA, Marquette drives down to Cincinnati to face the tough Bearcats, and in non-conference action, No. 18 Indiana travels to No. 8 Louisville.

Have a good Saturday, folks.

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