You walked into the party
like you were walking onto a yacht
your hat strategically dipped below one eye
your scarf it was apricot.
It is a similar entrance that Ol' Pick—as in toothpick, describing his knobby shoulders, disappearing torso, chicken legs and collapsible body—gets away with down at Barney's Caboose alongside the tracks there in Bloomington, Ill., which is outside Normal.
Improperly negotiated, such a passage might cause aggravation and behind-the-back verbal darts, turning into a disaster of sorts, but Ol' Pick brings it off nicely. Indeed, because he is totally unselfconscious, sweetly insouciant, brimming with naivet� and consumed with a certain delight in those testing moments that heroes must endure, he brings it off very nicely. Doug Collins (see cover) of Benton, Ill., Illinois State and the U.S. Olympic basketball team is so maddeningly non-vain he probably won't think this song is about him.
Inside, they are all waiting. Barney's Caboose is a place with "the best fried chicken anywheres, you bet" and where "the honeys get grossed out constantly." Especially it is Pick's element.
"Thank you—thanks a lot. What's happenin'? Let's get it on now. I don't drink nothin', no like. Me and my buddies, we don't be jivin' now. Right on, right on, right on. We goin' slide off soon. I'm sellin' me some wolf tickets." Collins greets, acknowledges, questions, instructs and talks to approximately 25 people simultaneously.
In the back room there are friends, salutations and one Leonard Michael Potts. "Leonard my man, my man, my man," Collins shouts. "C'mon over here Leonard. Finest white dancer ever lived. Right, Leonard? Does the splits five times, both ways. Sideways too. Hear you been doin' some gatorin', Leonard. You not sellin' me wolf tickets now, are you? Put it on, boy."
Leonard himself is just warming up. "Ol' Pick, the Pick. It's Doug Collins," Leonard says above the music, mimicking announcers with journalistic clich�s as he goes. "Look out, he's going baseline. No. Whew, it's The Torpedo Man. The Benton Blur. There he goes. Whoops. It's Doug the Jet stutter-steppin' down the lane. I just want to say, my man, you paralyzed us tonight."
If this scene can be frozen, let it be done now, for the enthusiastic meetings of Doug Collins and his brigade of partisans in their windblown, out-of-the-way railroad town are necessarily numbered. As a child of the rural Midwest and with a familiar charm that comes from somewhere in the 1950s, 01' Pick is really by Booth Tarkington out of The Last Picture Show. It seems like just the other day that he was stealing pizzas from the delivery truck outside the dorm and he still cannot tie a simple cravat, but Collins will have to move on soon. He is growing, learning more about black people and preparing himself to leave the Illinois cornfields and take his basketball into a world just learning to be paralyzed itself.
Collins' worshipful reception last week, for instance, followed a remarkable performance in a 103-98 victory over Louisiana State University at New Orleans during which he made 24 of 39 shots and scored 57 points. Three nights later he was held to 22 by Ball State as he sat out the last eight minutes with a stomach ailment. His team lost 92-75.
As good as he is—and he may turn out to be a Jerry West all over again—Collins is only one of a handful of masterful senior guards who have taken over the college game this season. Some are shooters; others passers. Some are playing out of position; others have big names that exceed their ability. But just a passing glance at the box scores in the last month indicates that together they make up the finest group of back-court men in some time.