Wednesday, November 23, 2011
"As God Is My Witness, I Thought Turkeys Could Fly"
If a line was extended out from the basket past where Ahmed El-Nokali let his last-ever collegiate shot go, it was have cut TigerBlog in half.
As an aside, all lines are by definition extended out, or at least that's how TB remembers Mrs. Mancuso's geometry class.
The gym was Freedom Hall at Louisville, and it was the 2002 NIT game between Princeton and Rick Pitino's Cardinals. Ed Persia had given Princeton a one-point lead with about 10 seconds left, only to see Louisville fly down the court and regain its own lead.
And now here was Ahmed, with the ball as time was expiring. He let a shot go from a step or two across midcourt, near the sideline, right in front of where TB was sitting.
The ball seemed to hang in the air forever, and the entire time, it looked like it was going to swish through. It was on the perfect path - until it hit the rim and bounced back.
When John Mack forwarded TigerBlog a picture of Ahmed and his newborn son Adam, for some reason, that shot was the first thing that came to TB's mind. And how it seems at the same time like it was a million years ago and like it was yesterday.
That's sort of how it works around here.
An email from John Mack (a 2000 graduate and Roper Trophy-winning track runner) with a picture of Ahmed's son, and all of the sudden, the dual realities of how vivid the memories of the two of them as Princeton athletes are coupled with the idea that it's been more than a decade since one and nearly a decade since the other have competed here.
A few generations of Princeton athletes have come and gone since then.
TigerBlog thought about the two of them, Mack and El-Nokali, yesterday, as he sat in Jadwin for the Princeton-Elon men's basketball game.
As an aside, TB read several recaps of last night's game, and none of them used the lead he would have, which would have gone something like this: "Given the choice of which Douglas Davis game-winning jump shot went in and which rimmed out, no Princeton fan would have chosen the Elon game this November over the Harvard play-off game last March."
Or something like: "Douglas Davis has earned a lifetime pass to being called a clutch player, and a miss on a potential game-winner against Elon on a November night at Jadwin did nothing to change that."
Anyway, what TB was mostly thinking about was how lucky he's been to have the opportunity to be around so many great young people in his career here, people like Mack and El-Nokali and people from the years before them and since.
Maybe it's because it was two days before Thanksgiving and TB was being a bit reflective.
How many times have you been at a Thanksgiving dinner and everyone is asked what they're thankful for, only to give the standard responses. It's not that people aren't actually thankful for the good things in their life; it's just that while the turkey is being passed around isn't the right time to think about such things.
But a rainy Tuesday night at Jadwin was, at least for TB.
As he sat there, he couldn't help but be thankful for his life, for TigerBlog Jr. and Little Miss TigerBlog, for the people he's met here at Princeton, for the experiences his little piece of the University has opened up for him.
He was also thankful for the big windows in the front of Jadwin, the ones that TB can't imagine how much time he's spent looking out at, staring across the track to the stands and press box, first of Palmer Stadium and now Princeton Stadium.
These windows look out on an idyllic scene, one that calms TB down when life starts to get overwhelming, a scene that reminds him of how lucky he's been to stumble into this place, how thankful he is for it, how he knows that not everyone is as lucky.
TigerBlog has written on this day every year about how much he loves Thanksgiving, more for the event than for the significance.
The last two years, he's copied and pasted what he wrote about the holiday, about football and family and parades and movies and TV episodes and all.
This year, he was thinking a little more about what he himself should think of every day, that he's an extraordinarily lucky person.
Of course, Thanksgiving is all of those other things as well.
And, for some reason, TB has always forgotten what just might be the best Thanksgiving Day moment for any TV show, the "Turkey Drop" episode of "WKRP In Cincinnati," which for TigerBlog's money is the most underrated show in television history.
If you've never seen the show itself, it's hysterical, with a hint of touching on some pretty big issues every now and then, much more so than would have been expected from what sort of billed itself as a campy sitcom. It had great characters - Les Nessman, Johnny Fever, Mr. Carlson, Venus Flytrap, Herb - and it took the whole "Ginger/Mary Ann" concept to another level with Jennifer and Bailey.
Back on Oct. 30, 1978, the show had an episode in which the station manager (Mr. Carlson) plans an elaborate promotion for Thanksgiving, which turns out to be a drop of live turkeys from a helicopter, not realizing that turkeys aren't quite like other birds.
TV Guide ranked the episodes as the 40th funniest episode in history. To show you what a great show "WKRP" was, TB doesn't even have that one in the top five in the show's history, though it is hysterical.
Anyway, take six minutes today and watch this clip, which covers the main part of it.
And have a great Thanksgiving.