The following is what I perceived to be the second best benchwarming story that was submitted for Fan Appreciation Week. If you don’t like it, don’t worry because there’s a better one coming tomorrow. If you do like it, be excited that there’s an even better one coming tomorrow. Either way, here’s a look into Tyler Joseph's life as a benchwarmer.
Half Truths and Whole Lies: The Sugar Shane Cowherd Story
I was introduced to The Legend before a summer league game preceding my senior year in high school. After our previous game, our long-time coach/summer camp host/volleyball ref/Teen Leadership teacher had informed us of his plans to take a job at his Church. This was fantastic news for our now ex-coach, as he was not only following his spiritual calling, but getting a raise, as well. The news of his departure led even the least discerning members of our team to the logical conclusion that the vacancy would be filled by his long-time, fully qualified assistant, Coach Pendergrass. Pendergrass was a fantastic coach with extensive knowledge of the program who already had the respect of the players. As this was clearly the most obvious and intelligent hire to make, our Athletic Director decided to go in another direction. Because Edmond Memorial High School is very large (6A, the highest class in Oklahoma), only the top candidates not named Pendergrass could have been accepted for consideration. After what I can only imagine was an extensive, intensive, and exhaustive resume review period, the AD had made up his mind. A hire was made, and a star was born.
I arrived for the first summer league game of the new era with my friend and teammate Jared. Not two steps into the gym we discovered our “old” coach chatting it up with who I figured was probably the new guy. I say “probably” not because he looked like a basketball coach, a former college player, or even someone who had once played basketball in gym class, but simply because he was wearing a whistle. As it would have been near impossible to avoid for an entire season, we decided there was no time like the present for introductions. First impressions were simple: Name was Shane Cowherd, coached at a smaller Oklahoma high school before this, originally from Michigan, seems nice enough, pretty short, doubt he ever played, nothing to abandon ship over. In fact, he seemed like a pretty cool guy. He mostly sat and observed during the rest of our summer games, leaning on and learning from Coach P, who had graciously agreed to stay on as an assistant to the man who had usurped his job. It seemed like a decent dynamic: Cowherd pretended to be interested in our offense (which he would completely change later), and Pendergrass voiced his feelings of support (which he would completely change later).
When school and practice finally started, Jared and I were fairly optimistic about our roles for the upcoming season. We had been primed for significant minutes in our old coach’s system, which was heavily predicated on the fast break. We were good enough to play for most teams, certainly good enough for our high school’s team, which had lost its top 9 players from the previous season. What we came to learn only a few days into practice, however, was that the phrase “good enough” was not in Shane Cowherd’s vocabulary.
If Coach Cowherd’s mind ran on Microsoft word, he had been clicking “Edit -> Replace” his entire life to rid himself of the ordinary. Everything about this man was fantastic, incredible, and spellbinding. “Patently Untrue” might also be a synonym suggested by Word, but I’ll get to that in a minute. Almost every day he had the team circle up so he could preach a little bit from The Gospel of Shane. As the only Commandment in this Gospel (as far as I could tell) was to let everyone know how great you are at every opportunity, I can only assume his treasure in Heaven could finance the Death Star. He started off by stunning Jared and I with the fact that he actually was a former player. And not just some Joe Jumpstop - he was a regular Jimmy Chitwood. His high school team, he told us, managed to amass a record of 110+ wins and only 5 losses during his four years in the program. While this may seem unlikely at best for a number of reasons (not least of all the sheer number of games played), it was made even more impressive by the fact that it was supposedly done at the highest level in Michigan High School basketball. He routinely recorded 20+ assists in a single game, and once exploded for 62 points – a career high, he said. These legendary years were also marked with four trips to the Finals in the Nike Tournament of Champions, including three victories, one loss, and one broken wrist that had to be frozen to allow him to continue to play. The one loss, he lamented, resulted in the team being booed off the floor by their own fans. A tough way to go out, I’m sure, but it would have been even harder not to enjoy the free clothes, free trip, free gear, and all of the girls that threw themselves at the players (his words).
At this point it might have only been Jared and I that were asking ourselves a few questions based on what he had told us. He was a 5’8” white guard with a jump shot not totally dissimilar from Shawn Marion that led his team to an outrageous high school record and national success. He was capable of dunking effortlessly with both hands and four of his high school teammates signed NCAA Division I basketball scholarships. Pretty outrageous, right? That’s what we thought, too. But pretty much everyone seemed to be going along with it, so we just kept the jokes to ourselves.
After the team was in sufficient awe of his high school achievements, it was time for the next chapter. It was only logical to assume that during his otherworldly run of high school success, college scouts would be forced to take notice. Due to the enormous demand for 5’8” white guards with limited range, he was contacted by Michigan State University, where, he told us, he was signed to a full scholarship. As he was still recovering from his wrist-freezing injury that I always imagined to be fairly similar to a scene from Terminator II, he was unable to play during his freshman season, and eventually forced to retire from the game. What could have been, nobody asked? “Who knows,” he said, “I might even be in the league.” Everyone on the team assumed he meant the NBA, but judging by his rather lofty opinion of himself, he very well could have been referring to the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. He also told us that he was a cousin of former Steeler’s coach Bill Cowher, but his family decided to drop the ‘d’. He was not kidding. I imagine that all of this was part of his interview, if not resume, which also led to my confirmation that our athletic director (I say “confirmation” and not “discovery” because his unflinching support of the football coach he hired after his 1-10 season induced my suspicion) was a complete dumbass.
As the days and weeks went by, Jared and I did not become increasingly skeptical. This was simply because the term skepticism hardly applies when you are absolutely certain that someone is lying. As respect was simply no longer an issue, we fell further and further out of favor, and further and further down the depth chart. It was nothing really sinister, just a casual indifference. During the season, however, we came to discover that both Coach P and our graduate assistant coach shared our feelings regarding our new leader. They had even taken it a step further (read: one step) and done some research. As it turned out, our legendary coach had played high school basketball. It was even in Michigan! But that’s about where the similarities between his stories and the truth end. Coach Cowherd, they discovered, graduated from Pilgrim Bible Academy with a class of five people, and two of the five were girls. Ever the skeptic, I was still a little uncertain that a school this size had produced five NCAA Division I basketball players within a span of four years, or that they were even eligible for Nike’s Tournament of Champions. After scouring the web for a good five minutes, Jared discovered that our assistant coaches had asked around on the Michigan State basketball website under a false name, and not one of the registered historians knew a thing about a player, manager, or mascot named Shane Cowherd during those years. Needless to say, Jared and I registered for the forum and provided an insightful response under the name “ShaneCowherdRules”.
It was at about this point that Jared and I realized that our senior season was pretty much a wash. We had resigned ourselves to the fact that we wouldn’t be playing significant minutes, our team was terrible, and our coach was a compulsive liar. Sounds horrible, right? Wrong. What followed was undoubtedly the most hilarious basketball season of my life. The rest of the year included several totally outrageous events, including an incident where we staked a bet with our team’s star player that said he wouldn’t score a single point against our school’s biggest rivals in a tournament. Not only did he win that bet, but he made no effort to disguise his intentions and we lost miserably because of it. Perhaps best of all, he got himself pulled and screamed at by the legend for firing an open shot from the elbow with two hands that hit the top corner of the backboard. The season culminated with a fake Facebook account created by Jared and I on Shane’s behalf that became quite popular throughout the school, and later with the next year’s team. So popular, in fact, that it was even passed along to us that he planned on filing a defamation of character suit if the Facebook page wasn’t shut down. That wasn’t the least bit troublesome, though, because while everything on the page was completely untrue, it could also be directly attributed to him.
I’d be lying if I said I knew what round of regionals our season ended in. I’d also be lying if I said I knew what our final record was. But I’d also be breaking the one theme of this entire story if I didn’t, so we went 12-14 and lost in the second round. An incredible story and an incredible team. Keep your eyes peeled for the Disney Movie starring Jim Rome, who is his spitting image (feel free to re-read the story with that in mind). Although the facebook page is still going, the defamation suit still pending, and the legend still growing, this marked the end of our bench warming days. I’m moving on and looking ahead to bigger and better things. I’ve already begun falsifying my resume.
Your awesome YouTube was sent in to me by Steve F. There’s your shout-out, Steve. And here’s your video.
Your Friend and My Favorite,
Club Trillion Founder