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For The 800 Games Project: The Chase

When I returned home from Raleigh this evening I wrote an essay entitled "The Chase" for the Mid Majority and their ambitious 800 Games Project.

Unfortunately, I didn't read their fine print which specifies that all games must be reserved in advance for publication. My attempts to plead a "Bill Murray exception" were unsuccessful so please enjoy the following which was intended for a different site but I felt still had to run somewhere. - JS

I travel chasing a moment.

Up and down I-95 since I was old enough to drive across state lines - headed to Durham, headed to Columbia, headed to Raleigh, headed to Washington, headed to Winston Salem, headed to Syracuse, headed to Louisville. I’ve witnessed that moment before and I chase after the notion it will happen again.

What’s the soliloquy Bill Murray’s character gives at the end of Scrooged?

“It can happen every day! You've just got to want that feeling! You'll want it every day! It can happen to you!

I believe in it now.

I believe it's gonna happen to me, now. I'm ready for it!

And it's great. It's a good feeling.

It's better than I've felt in a long time.”

That’s the moment we chase when given the opportunity to set foot in luxury box-laden arenas, part-time football stadiums with ineffective curtains bisecting temporary metal bleachers and converted professional hockey rinks made hockey rinks again as soon as the final buzzer sounds.

A moment that’s larger than a cute three letter acronym or an oft-used hashtag. A moment that begins in front of our eyes.

I feel compassion for those making similar drives at different times to different cities on different dates, following teams I’ve never seen play over equal miles.

I’ve been lucky.

I’ve danced in the rain outside the RCA Dome.

I’ve worn a bright yellow button-down shirt waving my arms above my head in a sea of orange bodies.

I’ve hugged family members and been embraced spontaneously by strangers.

Do we pass each other on the highway like perfect stormtrackers, one headed into the heart of the ACC and the other winding their way up to what is still called the Big East? Would we share a knowing nod if we had the chance? How would we discern what we share?

11 years ago in Raleigh was a night I caught that moment. 11 years ago Princeton closed North Carolina State’s equally venerable and rectangular Reynolds Coliseum with a 61-58 win in the second round of the NIT. Brian Earl hit an impossible one-handed driving push shot off the glass while smothered to seal the game. I scraped several knuckles bloody on the low-hanging ceiling behind the Princeton bench pumping a fist in what I thought was the air.

On Wednesday in Raleigh that moment almost happened again.

DeShawn Painter’s long jumper from just inside the three point line broke a 58-58 tie with four seconds left and ruined a much-improved performance by the Tigers, who began their season five days earlier trapped underneath 28 turnovers against Wagner.

Less than half a minute earlier Douglas Davis knotted the RBC Center’s circular scoreboard with a three point shot drifting to his right, Davis’ fifth three creating the seventh deadlock of the evening.

Davis has known the moment on the biggest of stages. His up and under jumper to vanquish Harvard at the buzzer in March and send the Tigers to their first NCAA Tournament in seven seasons was filmed in panorama from every conceivable angle on high definition cameras down to eight bit videophones. People share the commonality of where they were when this moment happened. I involuntarily shouted “Oh My God!” nine times in a row and I have the embarrassing footage to prove it. Davis stopped being a basketball player that day and curved into a folk hero, albeit one who still has a season left to his name.

Davis is unique. He understands the moment intimately. Almost all the players we watch don’t grasp how few of these moments they will have a chance at seizing before their collegiate careers are over. One opportunity a season? Two if coordinating a schedule coalesces ideally? Three or four if they’re incredibly fortunate, almost always away from home.

That’s around 10 chances across four years, if that.

What’s the stanza Tim Harrington yelps in Les Savy Fav’s “Dishonest Don Part II”?

“You're born and you're red,
You're dead and you're blue
You're green at 19
And grey at 22.”

By the time they realize how rare these moments are, there are usually no more games for them to play.

I drive back up the highway, still chasing.

Matt Walter said,

November 18, 2011 @ 1:08 am

Poetry. Jon. Pure poetry. The Mid Majority's loss is definitely our gain.

Btw, congrats on 215 and climbing.

Can you ask MH to schedule some games in the Rocky Mountain West sometime soon? Maybe then I could join the chase with you for a day.

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