The NBA season started this week, but for roommates Larry Smith and Justin Green the games have been going on for weeks.
Smith, Vanderbilt’s starting quarterback, said the Xbox 360 video game system, in particular the game NBA 2K10, has been a valuable release for him and several of his teammates who have endured six losses, including four straight, in eight games this season.
“I like to play video games,” Smith said. “It helps you relax.”
Dealing with defeat is something different for Smith, a red-shirt sophomore. As a three-year starter in high school he lost just two times in 41 games.
Already this season, the defeats for him and his teammates are three times that number. Thus they look for another outlet to fuel their competitive instincts on the days between games and in the hours around class and study time.
So a couple times a week, teammates drop by the residence of Smith and Green for some virtual hoops.
“You get to take a break from football for a little bit,” Green, a junior tight end/wide receiver said.
The games are not just for fun, though.
A standings board has been posted on the wall to keep track of who has defeated whom. According to Smith, offensive lineman James Williams is the most formidable opponent. Green claimed he and defensive end Teriall Brannon are the toughest to topple.
Points are awarded based on the outcome and the margin of victory. For example, if a player builds a 30-point lead, the game is automatically halted and bonus points are earned in the standings.
Consistent with a group of players who chose to try to build a college football program short on a winning tradition, many of the regular competitors in the video battle find it more interesting to steer clear of the top teams in the game such as the Lakers or Celtics.
Smith said he often opts for the Atlanta Hawks or the Portland Trail Blazers, because he is partial to their respective stars, Joe Johnson and Brandon Roy, respectively. Green said he and certain others typically agree to a random draw “otherwise it would be too easy.”
Win or lose, it helps create some much-needed distance from the reality of the recent Saturday results.
“I try my best to move on,” Smith said. “My dad always told me to treat winning and losing the same way, you can’t get too high or too low either way.
“I just stay focused, and I know things are going to get better.”
• Coach Bobby Johnson said he spoke to Southeastern Conference officials on Monday regarding a couple of calls from last Saturday’s 14-10 loss at South Carolina, particularly the Gamecocks’ first touchdown, which he felt should have been declared an incomplete pass following a video review.
He declined to say what he was told.
“I wanted to know what the replay official said, and they told me,” Johnson said.
• Left tackle Thomas Welch (ankle) was the only player who did not participate in the day’s workout. He was hurt Oct. 17 against Georgia and played on a limited basis at South Carolina.
• Without the benefit of an indoor practice facility, the Commodores were forced to work in the rain during the final portion of Tuesday’s practice.
“We got wet (but) we were able to do everything,” Johnson said.