Published Wednesday, January 22, 2014 AT 9:23 PM / Updated at 10:43 AM
Diary of a Skywriter: The Lumberjack, some city boys and a buck head
Tom Shatel Omaha World-Herald

Yes, this bar is still open. Stop it.

I wrote a column about Ethan Wragge — aka “The Lumberjack” — for Thursday’s World-Herald. And had a lot of fun doing it.

A college basketball team that wins is fun. But so is a team that has a special chemistry, players with different personalities and from different backgrounds, banding together for one cause. That’s this Creighton team.

Of course, it reminded me of a story.

The year was 1988-89. The team was the Missouri Tigers.

They would finish second in the Big Eight, behind Oklahoma. They would end up 29-4, and bow out in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament — after beating Creighton and Bob Harstad and Chad Gallagher in the first round in Dallas. I covered that game.

It was a wild ride. This was legendary coach Norm Stewart’s best team and he wasn’t around to coach it at the end. Norm fell ill on the plane ride to Norman, Okla., during the regular season and was taken to the hospital in Norman. He was diagnosed with several ulcers — and later they found cancer. Norm was done for the year.

This story happened earlier in the season. It showed what kind of chemistry Mizzou had, and why this unique blend of talent was able to come together on the court.

MU was a mix of city and country. The city boys were from Detroit: Doug Smith, Nathan Buntin and Lee Coward were the main Motown guys. Byron Irvin and Anthony Peeler also fit in there. The country boys were mainly a duo: bruise brothers Mike Sandbothe and Greg Church, both from rural Missouri small towns.

One day the city boys were bragging up their background growing up on the streets, how they dodged bullets and trouble on a regular basis. They went on and on, talking about what it meant to grow up in the city, telling the country boys how soft they were. The country boys rolled their eyes.

Later that week, after practice, Church asked the city boys to follow him out to his car. He had something to show them.

The city boys weren’t sure what the big deal was, but they followed Church and Sandbothe out to the parking lot. There, Church opened up the trunk of his car. The city boys looked inside and started freaking out, hiding their eyes, screaming and shouting.

Church, a hunter, opened up a blanket to reveal the bloodied head of a buck.

That’s what you call team bonding.

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Video: Check out the interview video below, submitted by reader Josh Cunningham, in which Church discusses the time he took his buck head onto a team bus:

About Tom Shatel

Tom Shatel is a columnist for The Omaha World-Herald. You can get in touch with Tom on Twitter (@tomshatelOWH), or send him an email at