Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Photo opportunity, shot at redemption

A man walks down the street,
he says "why am I soft in the middle now?
why am I soft in the middle?
the rest of my life is so hard...


When pep band pulls this one out, Paul Simon's strums drift into silence and the blazing brass picks it up, assisted by D Block's booms and chanting cheerleaders. At this time out, no lyrics matter except for "BA DA DA DA!"

I first learned the song as a young child, when we would keep Simon's "Graceland" and "Help!" by the Beatles continuously rolling through our shiny magical three-CD stereo; even now, the spot-on guitar plucks and the train of oooOOOMs remind me of turning six on a rainy Saturday morning, jumping on the mini-trampoline in our living room, gazing out toward the wet grass and waiting for my birthday guests. But when the trumpets take over, Belk is in the air, bold and buzzed, and sometimes I let the words slide lazily off my tongue, unheard through the bellows.

I need a photo opportunity,
I wanna shot a redemption

The last time Chattanooga came to play in Davidson, I realized during this February first half, was a sunstruck wintry Saturday in December of 2008. I had been planning this day for three months from across the ocean, centered around the evening tip. In the twenty-four hours prior, I had taken a plane from London to Newark, a car from Newark to Baltimore, another plane from Baltimore to Charlotte, and then my parents' car from Billy Graham Pkwy to Exit 30. I had rambled and roamed around the exam-exhausted campus, oblivious to my screwed body clock, simply glowing and grasping at the fact that I was BACK. I had walked into the lobby of Baker with my friends, heard noises and smelled smells that hit home and rooted me there, popcorn, sneakersqueaks, chlorine from the pool, smooth gray railings and new red seats. I had marveled at a full house on the Saturday of finals, no seat empty, and the cheers that roared down from the rafters when the 6'3 kid took the floor. I had screamed until the final buzzer, when our five-point lead dangled but held and we could let the air out, streak unbroken. That was Chattanooga. So long ago, so many histories written and rewritten since, that it took me a full few minutes to recall and color in the blurry lines of those years-past emotions.

"C! A!"

don't wanna end up a cartoon
in a cartoon graveyard

"T! S!"

No worries, Paul, no graveyard here. This is banged-up flesh and pounding blood, bottled up hope and unstoppered belief. Cartoon is not Clint's constant smile, Brendan's pats on the back, Ben and Will standing up and yelling from the bench. Cartoon is not JP's hop-skip-slide or his straight up bullets from behind the arc. Cartoon is not Nik pumping his fist biting back a smile hustling back on defense after a trey (and I swear I see ice water pulsing through his veins). Cartoon is not "EARLY EXIT!" after Early pummeled Jake in the jugular (me: "get up please get up get up get up --"). Cartoon is not Jordan getting knocked on the in-bounds and then spiking the adrenaline with a hardnosed dagger that even has Landry and T.I. on their feet, ballistic with screams and handslaps. Cartoon is not Jake pounding his towel on the floor with a bust-out grin when AJ caps the win with a layup in the last minute.

I don't think a cartoon would be nearly as fun to read, or write. In here, every two-hour ballgame writes its own novel, and the chapters get passed around. Human beings mean something, they turn into names and legends and remember whens -- on the court and off. In this world of wood, hot popcorn, yard dogs and lobsters and wildcats (oh my), little children and old ladies, young men will dream dreams and old men will see visions... In here, invisible strings bond us through voices, cheer laugh gasp. Importance in the connection, in the tough places, in the rise aboves. This place is real, and it matters.

"UHHH SEE YA, WOULDN'T WANNA BE YA, OHHHHHH!"

Every time D Block's choice chant of the year hits the air I chuckle and shake my head. And then I think -- hey. Truth. Wouldn't wanna be anyone else.

He looks around and around
he sees angels in the architecture
spinning in infinity,
he says amen, alleluia!

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