Sunday, January 19, 2014

This (Non) Sporting Life#3


Hi there! I'm Dave-El and this is I'm So Glad My Suffering Amuses You, now shooting from the free throw line. 

This is week three of my efforts to write a blog about a subject of which I have little knowledge or wisdom. Of course, as evidenced by this blog, that's pretty much everything. But in this case, in an effort to narrow that down a bit, we're talking about sports.

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My daughter's basketball career proceeded yesterday (Saturday, January 18th). I sadly had to miss that game due to being out of town but reports from her mom was that it was a really close game. My daughter's team actually held the lead for a while but the other team came back and with seconds left on the clock, tied the game. It was by all accounts a bad call by a ref that lead to tied score and our team's coach took exception to that. Well, apparently he took exception to it a bit too strongly and got a technical. 

I suppose I should remind you that this is for a church-sponsored youth league. 

So the technical sends the other team to the line for a pair of free throws. Only one went in but one was enough as the last seconds ticked away and the game was over. 

I am still so proud of my daughter for doing this. I think taking part in this basketball program has been a positive experience for her so far. Win or lose, she's in there giving it her best and playing the game. 


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The Duke Blue Devils had a better weekend than last as they trounced their in-state rivals from down the road, the NC State Wolfpack, 95 to 60.  


NC State's basketball team tends to run hot and cold with frustrating regularity. It's a team that has still not found itself since the heady days of Jim Valvano and the Wolfpack's miracle NCAA Championship win in 1983. 

Even if the Wolfpack is struggling, it was still a strong performance by Duke which bodes well for the rest of the season. 

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If the NC State Wolfpack still labor unsuccessfully under the shadow of their 1983 NCAA Championship, Duke continues to build a sustained reputation for greatness, frequently advancing through the NCAA brackets and bring home a few championship trophies. However, there is a single game that still holds sway over Duke fans and players. It was a game that served as a crucible for a very talented team that was part of an ever more successful program.

It was the greatest college basketball game ever played!

And do I exaggerate? If I do, so do lots of other people. 
    From opposite ends of the Spectrum came an overwhelming realization as soon as Duke's 104-103 overtime triumph over Kentucky in the East regional championship game was won by Grant Hill's 75-foot-plus pass and Christian Laettner's 17-foot buzzer-beater. There was evidence all around that the final, stunning 2.1 second climax -- and the passionate two and a half hours that built to the decisive basket -- belonged among the most gripping moments of theater in the 54-year history of the tournament; and for that matter, in the century since James Naismith came up with a very good idea. 

There are games we might think are going to be special and on rare occasions, they live up to that expectations. But not often and never to the extent that was seen in this match up in 1992 during the NCAA Tournament

Before this game, my interest in college basketball was peripheral at best. I mostly said I was a Duke fan just to annoy all the Carolina Tarheels that seemed to surround me everywhere. After this game, that dalliance became a more prominent interest in the game and in this team.  

A friend of mine was at my place and we just watched a movie when she checked her watch and realized, "Oh my God, the Duke game is on!" She asked if we could watch it and I said sure, why not. 

We had missed much of the first half but the second half? WHOA! 

What was happening on the TV screen in front of us was no less than a battle of titans, as players pounded the boards and launched aerial assaults on the baskets at either end with amazing accuracy. The 2nd half grinds to a halt with everyone breathing hard and drenched in sweat but with no ground won. The score is tied and it's overtime, baby! 

The clocks kept ticking and the players kept playing with no significant advantage gained. Kentucky has 1 point lead! 

No, Duke has the lead! 

No, Kentucky! Duke! Kentucky! Duke! 

"The final 31.5 seconds: Five times the ball changed hands, and each possession resulted not only in a score but also in a lead change."

      The Shot Heard Round The World by Alexander Wolff, Sports Illustrated


As much of a neophyte and a dilettante as I was when it came to college basketball and to the Duke Blue Devils, I nonetheless found myself crouching in front of the TV with my friend, pounding the floor, yelling at the screen, shooting invisible rays of support from our eyes through the screen to game itself. 


Then came this. 

2.1 seconds on the clock and the Duke Blue Devils are down by one and at the opposite end of the court from their basket. 

Time is the enemy that always wins. And time was up. Well, there were 2.1 seconds on the clock but still, what could anyone do with 2.1 seconds?

Time may always win but it hadn't won yet. 

Grant Hill inbounds the ball like a football hurtled down field right towards Christian Laettner.

Laettner catches the ball.

...dribbles the ball. (I'm screaming, "WHO HAS TIME FOR DRIBBLING?!?!)

...jumps in the air.

...launches the ball.


2.1 seconds on the clock. For Grant Hill and Christian Laettner, it was forever. 

I can see it now, my friend and I crouched anxiously in front of the TV as the ball arced through air shattered by thousands of screams. 

And ball finds the basket and slips through the hoop unerringly as if it was meant to be there all along. 

The clock ticks, forever ends and Duke wins.

DUKE WINS!!!

My friend and I were FREAKIN' OUT!!!! We were hugging and screaming and in millions of homes and bars across America, the scene was played out time and time again as Duke fans gave release to the pressures of those interminable 2.1 seconds even as fans of the Wildcats collapsed in total shock and disbelief at what had just transpired. 

22 years later. Listen carefully and echoes of those screams of victory still linger in the ether.  Be still and feel the silent voids of loss that extend shadows over time. It is a game that still resonates over the two+ decades since that momentous event. 

The greatest college basketball game ever played?

Oh hell yeah! 

And I got to see it happen!

How cool is that?
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Next Sunday in This (Non) Sporting Life#4:

We're not done with football yet. A non-sports guy gets ready for the Super Bowl.

Until then, be good to one another.  
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Amended at 8:00 PM (EST). 
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Congrats to Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos for winning the AFC Championship. The good news is this gives Tom Brady a chance to perfect that clam dip for the Super Bowl party he now has time for.  

The 49ers and the Seahawks are going at it right now. I guess I'm weird to say this after San Francisco knocked out the Panthers last week but I hate to see the Panthers loss be in vain if the 49ers turnaround and lose this one. That said, I'm pulling for Peyton and the Broncs for the Super Bowl in two weeks. 




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