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Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Stories from Pops

Tonight over an absurdly decadent and delicious meal (ahi tuna, crab cocktail, bone-in NY strip, broccoli, shrooms, martinis, fine wine, chocolate exlosion cake), I asked my dad, "So who do you want to see win the tourny this weekend?" Which launched the following tale. I've hard the end of this story a lot of times: whenever somebody at a family gathering drinks too much, my gramma tells the tale of the time my dad and his buddies went out, each drank a bottle of cold duck, went out to a bar in D.C., then dropped my dad at home -- lurching him up against the front door to my grandparents' apartment, ringing the doorbell and running. That story always ends with the term, "hugging the toilet." But I've never heard the story of the beginning of that day. Which frankly, is much better, and much more suitable for a fabled family origin story.

It's the year after my dad graduated high school. A basketball superstar in high school, his potential collegiate career was cut short when my grandmother passed away and a coach with a vendetta came into my dad's life (long, sad story). So he was at NOVA, playing on an AAU team. Back then, AAU was lower level college teams (not in NCAA -- at that time including Mason, Georgetown), roughly-college-aged people not in school, as well as sponsored teams of other players. A catch all, non-NCAA league. I hope I got all those details right, but even if not, you get the idea.

So, the morning of this fabled day, my dad finds out something. Something huge. He's already been in for the physical and all that, and he finally hears back: he's not being drafted. The draft class quota is 195, and he's #206. In the late 60s, finding out you're not going to viet fucking nam already qualifies for the best day ever. But this day is even better. It's the beginning of the AAU tournament. My dad's NOVA team is set to play Brothers' Furniture.

Brothers' Furniture is a team from Texas. Brothers' is the members of the Dallas Cowboys who also like to play basketball. So in addition to finding out he's not going to nam, my dad gets a chance to play against the effing Cowboys on this day. Now, you all know me, and my rabid Redskins fandom. This comes from somewhere. It's a definitive lineage passed down from my father and my father's father before him. We love the Redskins. We hate the Cowboys. This is a big game.

My dad proceeds to score 34 points (pre-3 point line) and have aproximately one bajillion assists (he told me the number, but I've forgotten it). His point guard (the guy, Gene, who he's been in the post with since they were about 9 years old), scores 39 points. They DESTROY Brothers' Furniture.

That's when the whole cold duck thing happens. But anyhow.

So what does all this have to do with this year's tournament and who my dad's supporting, you ask? Well, let me explain. After the Brothers' Furniture victory, next up was a game against Georgetown (the spring before John Thompson came on board that fall; a bunch of fairly talentless white boys at that point). That year's NCAA championship was being held at Cole Field House at Maryland, so the teams in the finals pulled practice spaces from local facilities. UCLA pulled Georgetown. Near the end of my dad's game against Georgetown, officials flood the floor and clear the court. UCLA's practice time was starting.

This was UCLA under John Wooden. They allowed the guys who'd been playing to stay and watch the practice. My dad says that the control Wooden had over that team is the most impressive thing he's ever seen, to this day. He'd snap his fingers and they'd run the plays in perfect formation, each time. He said JW barely opened his mouth the entire practice, but the team was completely under his thumb. Good coaching is a gift.

So, he's got an affinity for UCLA. And also UNC (woo, ACC). And both other teams are premiere organizations. So, congratulations you lucky jerks who will be in America and be able to watch these amazing games this weekend. Enjoy!


Blogger Jenna said...

Your pops and I are definitely on the same page, I'm hoping for a UNC v. UCLA championship this year to see a game of mothafuckin basketball played right! Maybe I should go watch the final four with the man on saturday?!

10:20 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

OH and I forgot to add...KICKASS story. Your dad almost singlehandedly beat the Cowboys in a sports setting? Totes awese.

10:21 AM  
Blogger Lauren H said...

This is the second blog I've read today referencing Brothers' Furniture, which I had never heard of until today. Fah-reaky!

3:14 PM  

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