Monday, November 21, 2005

Here In My Car, I Feel Safest of All...

Due to Wisconsin playing in a tournament at a far-away tropical island, there was no television coverage of their games. Given my schedule, I had some doubt that I would catch either of their games on the radio, either. Friday night was out, since I was at the Blue & Gold Classic put on by Marquette, and Saturday I was attending a friend’s holiday party in Oregon (the city in Wisconsin, not the state in the Pacific Northwest).

Fortunately for me, I was running late for the holiday party, and was able to take in the Wisconsin vs. Eastern Kentucky game on the radio on the way up. Even more fortunately for me, I always seem to get lost when I go to Oregon, so I ended up in the car for much longer than I had anticipated, and caught more than just the first half of action that I had planned on.

Eventually I got my bearings, and found myself in the correct subdivision. (In an odd turn of events, at nearly the moment I cracked the code of how to travel the streets of Oregon, my friend Ferd called for directions on how to get to the party. That Ferd called me roughly 4 seconds after I found the street that I had been looking for was weird enough, but perhaps more confusing was that Ferd had actually grown up in Oregon. So maybe it’s not just me that’s confused by the roads there). With roughly five minutes to go and the Badgers ahead 58-55, I arrived at the party. And while I’m a basketball fanatic, I’m also not completely anti-social, so I left my car and the game and went inside to visit with friends. I figured I’d find out the score from someone later that night.

Of course, if the story ended here, it would be a pretty crappy story. So there’s more. After about 15 minutes at the party, I got to chatting with my friend Josh, perhaps the biggest Wisconsin fan that I know. I gave him the game score as of when I arrived, and he showed some concern, noting that he wanted to go check the score on the radio in his car. Given that I had been at the party for awhile, and there had been a minimal amount of time left when I got out of my car, I said that the game was almost certainly over, and we’d be able to get the score from the post-game show. So we went out to his car.

To our surprise, play-by-play man Matt Lepay was announcing that two minutes remained in overtime. So, I looked at Josh and said “Unlock the door–I’m getting in the passenger side.” And we began to listen to the end of the game. Eventually word got around about what was going on in the game, and three others joined us in the car. I’ve never been part of something so absurd, yet so fun. Here it is–nearly 10pm on a Saturday night, and five guys are sitting in a parked car in a residential neighborhood, sipping drinks, and listening to a basketball game, completely ignoring a party across the street.. If I was a neighbor, I might have called the cops.

But for those of us in the car, there was something fun about passing around high-fives when Kammron Taylor hit the three-pointer to send the game into double-overtime, and it was something that wouldn’t have been the same if we’d been sitting on a sofa watching a high definition feed of the game. No, the fact that we were in a car listening to a poor radio feed of the game had weeded out the lesser fans. Emotions were running high, and we were all in on it. In my mind, this marks the first truly great basketball moment of the season. Five guys sitting in the cold waiting for a game outcome–does it get more exciting than that?

Of course, the Badgers eventually won the game in the second overtime. And it was a dramatic game, with clutch plays by that surely would have been fun to see. Alando Tucker nearly dropped 40 points on Eastern Kentucky, Marcus Landry proved he could be an effective college player, Kammron Taylor hit a clutch shot, and the Wisconsin team learned how to eek out a tough win. But from where I was sitting, this night wasn’t about winning the game. Rather, it was about convening with friends, making fun of the color commentator, predicting how freshmen would fair this year, and talking about the season ahead, all while basketball played in the background. In short, it was a 15 minute glimpse into why I love watching basketball (even though ironically, I was not actually watching it at the time).

Apologies for my prior paragraphs coming out a bit more sentimental than I had intended, but sometimes it takes an absurd situation like sneaking out of a party with 4 other guys to listen to a game on a car stereo to remind you of why you like everyday things. And this was an absurd night. Hopefully I’ll get my first glimpse at the Badgers via DVR sometime tomorrow. Tonight I’ll miss the television presentation of the game, as I’m headed down to the state of Illinois for the night. Don’t worry–it’s basketball related, utterly ridiculous, and I’ll explain it all tomorrow.


At 10:26 AM, Anonymous Foggy Bottom Badger said...

Well said, Chris.

One of my favorite Badger Basketball memories came from Spring Break 2003, when I was in a van full of my roomates on the way to New Orleans.

Listening to WI come back against Tulsa - especially when Freddie Owens hit the 3 pointer to win it - may have been more exciting than any game I've watched.

I think the communal experience (what you described) plus the increased focus on the voice of the announcer is almost magical. The action is more vivid when you have to visualize it yourself


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