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11/16/2022

OPINION: "Manicured By The Trim" How One Experience Helped Me Continue to Hope and Mow the Grass

How Mike Woodson has kept his offense as manicured as his grass to create one of “the best team in the nation.”

One day in June 2022 as we were enduring a hard day's work under the stifling summer heat drought Indiana experienced this summer, much like the rest of the world. My mother, Amy Lents (who, for the rest of the article, we will call her Athena Grace), and I, began our traditional route of “... (mowing) the backyard first then trying to finish up the front as quickly as possible.”

She opened our spacious, crowded and relatively vintage storage building.

You could smell old pine wood and get a scent of an animal rundown barn house inside of the building which is filled with barrels, rakes, three mowers, power tools, a Santa Claus that lit up in the front yard with an electrical cord and lots of boxes. Stuff the average buyer does not need to keep. In a red container we have a gas take that is full of, you guessed it, ethanol gas to keep our mower running.

Yeah, the blades need sharpened and a lot needs fixed on the mower we used on that day, but as my mom fills the tank with gas, I am making TikToks for my channel (where I post A LOT of outdoor mowing material), and I keep scrolling down, and when I saw the photo of IU men’s basketball coach, Mike Woodson, standing on the ledge of his home with a perfectly manicured, perfect shaved blade of grass. No knicks or scratches, no cuts or bumps. It was as perfect of an outdoor performance as, during the time, I thought the New York Rangers of 2022 could rekindle the magic of 1994. You know with Mark Messier and everything, but then I looked out at the job we needed to do, and I blushed in embarrassment.

I was jealous about the lawn. How… perfect it looked.

Almost like Indiana’s offense so far this season, then I was more jealous.

It was hot, I was sweaty, but I began becoming more confident that if we can get “a better mower next summer” as mom would say, our grass could look like his. Now, as I write this piece, I see all of the Hoosiers basketball teams being like our lawn mowing experience. Treacherous, dedicated, stifled, clawed, battled, successful, failed, old, brass, and oily. As we now are saving up money for new outdoor equipment, I realized that none of that matters, what does matter is, because if the Hoosiers are going to become very special this year (and they will be), my mom tells me everyday, “Take one day at a time.” 

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You have to keep in mind, it was a day before we had 110 degree temperatures, and yes, we mowed the grass on the soil of my late grandparent’s two acre home, purchased in 1978, in the rich southern Indiana basketball town of Loogootee, Indiana. The home was established by two IU fans, and my grandfather, Jim, got me into three things. Riding on a lawn mower, keeping the lawn manicured, and IU sports.

Throughout several basketball coaching hires, turmoil, and before my grandparents had faced their fair share of cancer and Alzhiemer’s leading to their passing, my family ran a tight shift on how we kept our grass manicured. One would ride our fat Snapper rider in a circular formation through the back and front yard, which we called “Linda’s side (Bob and Linda were our neighbors until last year) ” facing the north side of the town leading to Loogootee High School on Butcher Boulevard), my grandmother would push “Kim’s (Rick and Kim Boyd are the neighbors) side, facing the south side of town, and my mother would chop up sticks, clean the siding, mop the ground, get the weeds, and vice versa. Of course, the summer heat never got us, survival did. Until 2009, when my family and I became caregivers for our elderly grandparents, my grandfather died in 2012 and my grandmother had five years of intensive family care until her death in 2020, it was our job to take on the responsibility of keeping a house clean, proper, and fitted. Then my mother’s depression hit, with heartbreaks and secrets ensuing. We were challenged as if we were dealing with the end of the Tom Crean/Archie Miller era. Like Woodson, we had a tall order ahead. 

Our lawn mower’s name is “Old Betsie.” It’s a nearly 14 year old Snapper brand push mower that we had to use throughout the summer because the rider, also a Snapper mower, needed an extra battery and still needs one as we speak. Old Bestie has taken a beating over the years. In 2021, she lost her back wheels while we mowed up the steep front yard incline, and she has dealt with her fair share of repairs. Even with her, we had a tall order ahead. She doesn’t run right sometimes, and she can be frail in the cold, but she also knows how to kick it in and become something she is not. A superstar of an old mower.

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This Indiana team is old school. Laying down the old school roots, puffing smoke, spiraling grass through the blades, and also keeping other teams stuck inside of the vents where grass built up throughout our adventure. When I saw IU play against Bethune Cookman on Thursday, November 10, I said to myself, “This team is for real, they could win a national championship.” This is because the Hoosiers cut through the lane, and double teamed better than any other team I have seen play this year. In other words, where Bellermine can throw passes out of bounds to save a game, Indiana makes up for that time by showing off their true outdoor working skills. The Mower of IU trims better. Where they made up for not shooting the ball a lot under former coach Archie Miller, I look at Woodson’s new lawn and it is amazing to see this transformation form an unmanicured mess to one of pure excitement. In that game, IU almost eclipsed 100 points, Trayce Jackson-Davis had 21 points with 6 rebounds, and 2 assists, in a blowout victory and coaches that once played for the Sacramento Kings in their heyday. 

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en through preseason games, plus the two cupcake regular season games with Bethune Cookman and Morehead State. For this team to be labeled to me as a manicured team, our true test is, for one, Xavier on Thursday, but most importantly, November 30, 2022, what would have been my grandfather’s 81st birthday, at 9:15 pm on prime time television against the national championship runner ups and the consensus number #1 ranked team in the country, the North Carolina Tar Heels. This game is important to see if the mower can withstand such a tall head of grass. I acknowledge that this mower can go through small opponents, but what about big ones? Last year North Carolina was ranked as having one of the best offenses in the country, they outmatched Kansas after being down by 25 points in the 2021-22 National Championship Game, and they have players who could be drafted in the first round in the 2023 NBA Draft.

When I looked at Woodson’s photo on social media, I thought to myself and the memories flooded my mind from my days at Bloomington, Indiana’s University Elementary School, when my class got pumped to see Jordan Hulls and Will Sheahey grace our school.

I saw something that has not been seen for Indiana in a long, long time. A perfectly manicured offense, front court, and defense not seen since the days of, again, Zeller and Oladipo. 

Now this is from what I have seen out of the first two games of the season, but Mike Woodson has taught us how he has kept his lawn manicured and proper.

Back in June, I learned that IU basketball is like a lawnmower. It will stall, not work, and be a pain, but mowing is an experience. It plays offense, defense, and has free throw trouble.

I get excited to see this team play this year because Woodson and the Hoosiers are keeping the lawn mowed to a potential Big Ten Championship and run to the tournament.

If they stay consistent all year long, we have realized that our lawn was a mess, but now it feels mowed, and through the sweat and tears, the lawn has escaped perfectly so far.

THIS WAS AN OP-ED PIECE

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