Dec. 18, 2008
PAINFUL MEMORIES OF EXAM WEEKS PAST
So now what?
Six days ago, the Georgetown Hoyas and the Memphis Tigers competed for forty-five minutes and were never separated by more than six points.
Well, that is, until Jessie Sapp accidentally floated in a thirty-five foot rainbow worthy of the Harlem Globetrotters (okay, to be fair, he didn’t throw in the behind-the-back shot) at the buzzer.
The Hoyas and Tigers were tied fifteen separate times, and were never further apart than a single basket over the final twelve and a half minutes of the game.
There must be something special about the Verizon Center and close games. Saturday’s 79-70 overtime victory marked the fifth time in 2008 that the Hoyas emerged victorious from the Phone Booth in a game decided on the final possession.
That the Hoyas ran their overall home winning streak to 27 (with one victory included from McDonough Arena) was a testament to the decisive daring-do of sophomore point guard Chris Wright, who spun his way past Tyreke Evans and half of the Memphis defense on his way to a crucial overtime bucket, and freshman sensation Greg Monroe, whose deft bounce pass to a cutting DaJuan Summers moments before was the most impressive no-look play of the afternoon until Jessie Sapp went all Meadowlark Lemon in the final seconds.
So what do Wright, Monroe and Co. have for an encore? How do you follow one of the hardest fought games at 7th and F Street in recent memory?
Well, here’s the thing.
With all due respect to Mount St. Mary’s—who, it bears mentioning, won the same number of NCAA Tournament games last year as the Hoyas—nobody is about to confuse the Mountaineers with Memphis.
Not that there figure to be many bodies at the Verizon Center to confuse. Take it from a federal government employee who lives near National Airport—it’s getting mighty empty at one place and the lines are looking awfully lengthy at another. Last Friday night and Saturday morning saw Georgetown students checking the Weather Channel for their pre-game queuing forecast for 7th and F and older Georgetown fans checking the Verizon Center webpage for the location of the mysterious Dewar’s Club (site of the well-attended Hoya Hoop Club Holiday Party). This Friday and Saturday…well, tell grandma that the Blog Staff says Merry Christmas.
Speaking of Georgetown students: If you’re a Hoya undergrad, let me be the first to congratulate you on finishing your first semester exams. As I type this, the last exams of the fall semester at Georgetown are about to conclude—students have until tomorrow to officially ship off for winter vacation.
This of course means that loud HOYA you heard on CBS last Saturday is at their parents’ house in New Jersey, and SAXA is headed for a ski slope in Colorado (which means the likelihood that they’ll appear shirtless with Dajuan Summers’ jersey painted on their chest this weekend has dropped dramatically).
A sparsely populated Verizon Center and an opponent whose most recent NCAA Tournament win was against Coppin State as opposed to North Carolina—not exactly the recipe for a memorable Saturday afternoon.
But let’s hold on a minute here. Just because the Mountaineers of Morgantown, WV are more of a household name than those from Emmitsburg, MD doesn’t mean there isn’t anything to look forward to. And just because this game is being played on December 20th doesn’t mean someone won’t one day remember it as if it were played in March.
Let me explain.
Back on the third week of December 2000, I had just turned in my last paper of my first semester at Georgetown—something to do with the end of the Cold War (1989 was a mixed blessing—the fall of communism in Europe was inspiring, but was balanced out by Duke’s victory over Georgetown in the East Regional Final). With most of my friends in Village C still around through the weekend taking exams and partying, I decided to hang around an extra two days. Better still, the Hoyas had a game that Saturday against Howard at the MCI Center.
Post-Burton Generations may be unaware, but during the early part of the decade, Georgetown annually played a fair amount of non-conference games at McDonough Arena—the Hoyas had played their four home games on campus to that point (so there…it wasn’t that I couldn’t get fully excited for that NIT game against Cal State-Fullerton…I just couldn’t get the memories of Grambling out of my head). Saturday December 16, 2000 then was my first chance to attend a game at the Phone Booth.
At about 12:30am on the morning of 12/16, I was creating my own personal athletic memories on Healy Lawn, going all Demetrius Hunter on a game of late-night Ultimate Frisbee. Gliding in for another easy score…well, I picked the wrong time to go all Courtland Freeman I guess. I rolled my ankle on the edge of the planter housing the Virgin Mary statue and went down like a sack of potatoes.
I’m nothing if not a stubborn idiot, so I eschewed the advice of a friendly GERMS paramedic on the fifth floor of my dorm and failed to elevate and ice my leg that morning. The next morning I woke up, rolled out of bed, aaaaaaaaaand…down like a sack of potatoes. My left ankle was (give or take) the size of a basketball, and I got the feeling I wasn’t going to be for much Ultimate Frisbee…or standing up…that day.
I called my mom and informed her I was going to…ummmm…have someone carry me(?) to the hospital to have an x-ray performed on my throbbing ankle. She responded in the only way a caring mother with a proper sense of perspective could to hearing her son was in agonizing pain:
“You’re not going to miss the game, are you?”
Now, I’m as devoted a Georgetown Hoyas basketball fan as they come, but at the moment the fate of Kevin Braswell and Mike Sweetney seemed insignificant next to the question of whether my ankle would snap the next time I set it down.
“Well, I mean…mom…I’m hurting pretty bad here. I really ought to go to the hospital.”
“Yeah, but John…you can always go after the game.”
I’m sorry, is John Thompson holding her hostage and making her say this?
“I can’t even walk right now, mom! How in the heck am I going to make it to a basketball game right now?”
“I don’t know John. It just seems awfully silly to stay at school for two whole days to see a game and then miss it because you had to go to the hospital.”
This is the same mother who carefully delineated the streets I was allowed to ride my bike on when I was eight. The same mother who cried during freshman orientation at the thought of being away from her son. The same son she was now advising to lop off his leg and go watch Georgetown play a MEAC school.
So forty-five minutes later, I struggled for dear life with the railing on a Charles County School Bus, pulling myself up the stairs onto the student shuttle to the MCI Center. I wore a sandal on my left foot—my ankle was too swollen to fit inside a shoe.
And I hopped. Everywhere.
Hopped off the bus onto the sidewalk.
Hopped through the turnstyle.
Hopped down the ramp into the student section.
And I hoped my mother was happy with herself.
For once, I took the GERMS medic’s advice—I rested my foot against a railing in front of my seat, in the first row of Section 118. There weren’t many students at the game, and that was okay…the fewer to accidentally bump into my ankle.
As it turned out, the Howard game was pretty memorable for a throwaway exam-week contest. Georgetown set a school record for points against a Division I opponent, and the 123-90 score represented the second-highest combined point total for a Hoyas game that ended in regulation. I also saw probably the most impressive scoring performance that afternoon that I’ve seen in person at a Georgetown game: Howard’s Ron Williamson scored 41 points on 11 for 17 shooting from three-point range, and left the game to a standing ovation. Williamson’s outburst was the largest by a player against Georgetown in seven years, and it has only been equaled once since, by J.J. Redick in 2006.
And upon returning to campus…I hopped.
Not to the hospital. I gave up all hope of making it to an x-ray machine.
I hopped to the bookstore to get a bandage for my ankle.
Halfway to the Leavey Center, my sandal broke.
And so I hopped. With one shoe and one sock.
That exam week game marked the first of six years’ worth of games in the student section at the MCI and later Verizon Center. When I outgrew…well, the hopping of the student section…I quickly gobbled up Young Alumni tickets prior to the 2006-2007 season.
By sheer coincidence, I was assigned to a seat that I still occupy at every Verizon Center home game…
…in the first row of Section 118.
This Saturday’s ho-hum exam week contest will mark the 98th Georgetown game I’ve attended at the Verizon Center. And for all of the great performances, close calls and heartbreaking finishes, to this day few games stand out as more personally memorable…or as painful…as the first.
So there you have it…all you need to make Saturday’s clash with Mount St. Mary’s memorable is a severely sprained ankle and a parent remarkably unconcerned with your well-being.
In the likely event that you’re watching from grandma’s house, here’s how you’ll find the game:
Georgetown vs. Mount St. Mary’s
Sat 12/20/08, 1pm
Radio: Sportstalk 980 AM, 92.7 FM, 94.3 FM
If you are making it out to the Verizon Center, you’ll find me and my perfectly functioning ankles working at the Hoya Hoop Club table outside of Section 120 prior to the game.
Best wishes and Happy Hoya Holidays!
John Hawkes (SFS ’04)
Proud Member of Generation Burton
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