Saturday, February 22, 2014

Open Letter to Tony Bennett

Not that Tony Bennett.  I'm talking about the University of Virginia men's basketball coach.

Dear Mr. Bennett:

Just a note of thanks for bringing UVa basketball back to relevance.  14th-ish in the country and counting.  It's been a long slog through the swamp and it's lovely to be back on firm ground again.  Imagine what fun it would be to whup Syracuse when they come to town this week.  I hope they wear the same ugly two-color unis they wore against Boston College.  Although I doubt they will.

Amidst all this winning, I've been thinking about my favorite Cavalier basketball moments.  There are a number of them involving Barry Parkhill, but those seem to coalesce into one general sense of bliss.  Which makes it hard to pick just one.  And the Ralph Sampson era still feels like a dream unfulfilled, although the first time Virginia and the Patrick Ewing-led Georgetown team met does stick in the mind.  Read about it here.  So, given all that, drumroll please, I would say that my favorite Virginia basketball moment was the victory against Carolina in the ACC finals in 1976.  It was the first time in history that a team beat the top three seeds (NCState, Maryland, Carolina, in order) to win the ACC championship.  And it should be noted that, back then, the general consensus was that winning the ACC was tantamount to being national champion.  So good o.

That team was, of course, led by the extraordinary Wally Walker.  Who managed to squeeze out 21 points and seven rebounds against Carolina that day.  Which was a lot for a game that ended 67 to something less than 67.

I know this how?  I know this because I just got through a Wikipedia investigation of what passes for facts on Wikipedia.  I also know this because I watched the game in person, via television, with my friends Dave and Jerry (who now insists everybody call him Gerald) on the bottom floor of my parents townhouse in Fairfax, Virginia.

I liked that house because I slept on the first floor and my parents slept on the third floor.  Given the distance, my friends and I could put up a fair ruckus downstairs and not worry about bothering them.  The exception being the night we beat Carolina, at which point we made so much noise that my father, roused from sleep, came downstairs and asked if everything was okay.

Which it was.  So he went back to bed.

Just another couple of quick basketball moments, since although the letter is addressed to you, it's really about me.

Ain't that the way.
Yes it is.  Suck it.  
A little hostile, don't you think?
I can't believe you've wormed your way into my letter to Tony Bennett.

Anyway, moment number one happened in, I think, Utah.  My friend Earl and I were attending an away Virginia football game and there, in the pre-game alumni get together, stood Barry Parkhill himself, bathed in the kind of shimmering light that God reserves for the great ones.  We shook his hand, chatted about whatever.  It was wonderful.

Second was the time at the Dell (which was a popular outdoor basketball venue on the Virginia grounds) when I simply couldn't miss and, after sinking a long jumper to win the game (which was unusual for me; I tended to embody a lesser version of the early Wes Unseld/Adrian Dantley school of post-up play) somebody asked me if I played JV.  Which was also wonderful.

And finally, also in the Dell, was the time I found myself shooting around by myself at one end of the court while Mark Iavaroni, Billy Langloh and the very same Wally Walker as mentioned above were screwing around on the other end.  Nobody else was there, so you'll just have to take my word on this.

This being both the general state of things that day and the specific moment at which I summoned my courage, sauntered over to the mid-court line and asked them if they'd like to play some two-on-two.   After a couple of seconds Walker himself said, "No thanks, man."

I was disappointed, of course.  I had envisioned some version of Walker taking Iavaroni (who, it should be noted, won a ring with the '76ers and so, by definition, was not chopped liver) and me checking the estimable Mr. Langloh.  I figured I could take him a couple of times before he got serious and then demolished me.  And even though none of that happened, it was still wonderful.

So, Mr. Bennett, you can see how emotionally vested I am in the whole thing.  Thus this letter.   Thank you again.  You're a nice looking man.

All the best,

Geoffrey Raymond
College '76


Blogger John Harbour said...

It seems we will be at odds once again. Since Maryland has been a non-team for the past few years, my adopted team, for the past five or so years, is Creighton, which is sitting above you at #11. I suppose we can be friends again after March.

1:35 PM  

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