|Day 100: Phil Collins (I Missed Again)
August 4, 2020
How horrible it must have been to be a college basketball player named Phil Collins in 1981 when that other Phil Collins, drummer/singer for Genesis, decided to release his first solo album -- with the hit single, "I Missed Again."
Most basketball players probably would have shrugged it off because they made enough shots. However, we have West Virginia University's lovable big man, Phil Collins, all 6'9" of him from Palos Heights, IL., starting at center for the Mountaineers. His career FG% with WVU is under 50%, which is not a huge crime, but his free throw shooting by his senior year dipped to an atrocious 59.4%. Trust me, rabid Mountie fans like myself didn't need to hear the other Phil Collins sing "I Missed Again" (to a poppy tune). Our eyes were closed and we were pretty sure our Phil Collins had missed again.
Let's face it, the musical Phil Collins was not the image of a pop star at a time quickly moving to a video era. He had a serious receding hairline, despite being all of 30 at the time. He was an awkward front man for a band (when he came out from behind that drum kit) that also seemed ill-fit to succeed in a world where MTV hid in the shadows. Obviously both Genesis and Phil Collins did, in part by recognizing how humor could cover many blemishes. Humor is what Collins attempted with "I Missed Again," but with his air guitars, air drums, air keyboards, and air horns I would argue he misses again. He does all this wearing the clothes your dad wore to your Little League baseball games, embarrassing you with the v-neck sweaters, rugby shirts, and any number of his dorky hats.
Add to this that "I Missed Again" seems like the ultimate friend zone tribute, the kind of song/poem/letter sent by the dorky kid in class to his crush, the kind of dork who wears v-neck sweaters and plays air guitar in the boy's locker room when "Hotel California" comes on. Anybody who writes, "I'm waiting in line/would you say I'm wasting my time?" is merely asking a rhetorical question. The answer is obvious. Later, when Collins sings, "I try to forget/and, yet, still rush to the telephone," he is not really making his case to the beautiful girl inevitably curled up in the bleachers watching the tall, hunky basketball player.
Which brings us back, maybe, to the other Phil Collins. Did he have the girls his namesake can't get? The dude had a head of air and a pretty cool mustache, so perhaps the girls were lined up waiting for his phone calls. And maybe the romance in his life got in his way of practicing, but when he clanked another free throw off the rim, especially in 1982, maybe the greatest season in WVU basketball between the Jerry West and the John Beilein eras, the whole student section (home or away) was likely to sing "oh, you missed again." By his senior year, 1982, he had shaved his dang head anyway, maybe trying to emulate his namesake.
Collins may have been a star basketball player in high school but he was something different in college. Use this passage from a 2013 interview with Collins in a West Virginia University article to see that even he appreciated his limitations:
"Almost every time the ball was in Phil’s hands near the basket, he would go through a series of pump fakes, gyrations and other maneuvers until he felt the moment was right to take his shot. And when he finally did set sail toward the rim he didn’t exactly soar – it was more like a flailing duck full of buckshot making a last attempt at liftoff before crashing to the ground.
As he let go of the basketball, both arms would fly out, usually catching an unsuspecting defender on the jaw on the way up, but more often than not the ball would somehow find its way through the cylinder. Collins said his contortionist act around the basket was an absolute necessity; otherwise, he would have had the word “Spalding” permanently engraved on his forehead."1
That 1982 season had the Mountaineers roll off 23 wins in a row, crack the Top 10 (that "crack" telling you everything you need to know about the Eastern 8 Conference), and make it to the second round of the NCAA where they were upset by Fresno State. Our Phil Collins had a stat line to forget: 1-2 for field goals, no free throws attempted, so no one could accuse of missing more than once. He also only had one rebound, pretty depressing for a big man, and 3 turnovers.
For the life of me, I don't know if his final "significant" play as a Mountaineer counted as a turnover. The game was close in the final seconds, maybe even tied, and WVU had the ball. I believe he was called for setting a moving pick, or as is commonly referenced "a haymaker," but I can't find highlights (lowlights) to show the exact play. All I remember is that was it, as WVU lost 50-46. It was a painful end to a great year. I blamed Collins, probably still would, if looking at the box score just now hadn't made me note that Gene Steratore was an official in that game. That dude was everywhere. In the end, always go back to blaming the zebras, especially when you can point out other blown calls (as a Packers' fan, I tend to overlook some of Steratore's controversies).
Now when I hear the other Phil Collins, with the brassy, sassy "I Missed Again," I think back to how apropos the Phil to Phil link is for me personally. I suck at basketball. I suck at air guitar, but that doesn't stop me. I embarrassed my kid at Little League games. But, hey, I have kept my hair. It's a trade-off I will take.
"I Missed Again." Phil Collins. Face Value. Virgin. 1981. Video link here.
1"Friday Flashback: Phil Collins." wvusports.com. February 15, 2013. https://wvusports.com/story.aspx?filename=23022_131465959506262129&file_date=2/15/2013
Day 99: The Headboys "The Shape Of Things To Come."
Day 101: Tori Amos "'97 Bonnie And Clyde." ->
See full unfinished list here.