I was tingling. I was so fucking hyper unable to hold a thought. “Deny, deny, deny, deny, deny, deny!” My credo was cranked beyond custom. Followed by, “Let’s do it for fucking Santo!” We’d seen enough of what I deemed the politics of sympathy. I’d lost Hank to rehab, Black to the ghetto and Santo to the even bigger guy up top. I’d knocked out a drug peddling nemesis and smashed car windshields with my hand, all for my family, the one I was looking for. Tonight adults that would decide how, why and where I time was spent in the aftermath of a true teenage tragedy were here to watch us play. On their time, “Young Guns!”
The starting five broke out in a flash of inspiration. Taking the first points of swagger off the board in teenage minx and black armbands around on our calves. It was the summer of 93. Magic, Spec, Wells and Stretch shake hands congenially with the opposition. I didn’t make eye contact with any of them. I was about to cry. All present lay silent as morning’s battlefield as the ball is thrown high in the air breathlessly. Stretch springs high into the air as the ball is tapped strategically to Magic he bumps it forward to Spec. Instantly I streak the left sideline and am fed a bullet pass from Spec. All alone on the three point stripe I loft a high arching shot up into the dry summer nights air. Turning around I trotted back down court as I heard a massive roar and knew my inclination to be correct. I felt the shit.
It’s on. All through the first half it seemed like we were living off luck. The Rebels come down and score easily in the post. Using their muscle and size to their utmost advantage. For us scoring was always a miracle, a highlight. A side winding hook in the lane or a far away three from twenty-five feet. It was a furious first half. Using our quickness we pressed them full court whistle to whistle. A deep bench had yielded a handful of easy baskets. This is what kept us in the game, as we have no answer for their size, strength and better judgment. “I’m amazed that we’re down just six.” I say tasting the salt of my sweat en route to the sideline for half. “Hey were still in this.” Magic rightfully points out.
During halftime my sweaty face noticed an even larger crowd as I lightly pondered my fondness for white button down shirts. Once again we huddle closely before the second half tip. Chest to chest we remind each other that we’re the best. We say this simply because no one else ever does and we needed the affirmation. I’d secretly begun emotionally hedging preparing for the fact I wanted it too much and it never was going to happen. In paradox to the Big Guy’s top tier ethos, we did however my mothers voice, eking in pain, cold reality bled into my neurons. Giving such anemic thoughts a passage to the fortress on my island designed to prevent such intrusion. And as the second half tip floated high in the air I just wasn’t so sure. “Nothing ever works out for us.” I could hear it.
Stretch won the tap to Magic who darts and dribbles through the crowd leisurely, old school style in his blue Adidas. Cutting through the massive bodies he spots Stretch over his head in the thick of the trenches under the basket. He hit Stretch the only D1 prospect on the court that night without looking who buried a soft left hook finishing a smooth looking sequence. The crowd roars. As the second half continues we raise our level of play accordingly with our shit talk, the physicality of the game jumped as our trademark annoyance began to force mental errors, elbows and anger from our steady college captain laden opponents.
As the game gets more physical the terrain that we’re playing on had turned into a battlefield. Blood, sweat and tears have turned a simple game into a war. We have the ball and this represents the first time in the game that we could potentially take the lead. With six minutes left the crowd is on their tiptoes. As Magic man breaks, his defender charges the lane. In a mountain of monsters, my defender left me to take double Magic. Magic sensing the crowd slips a squeak to me all alone underneath the double rimmed steel cylinder. As I retrieved the ball quick defenders with man strength swarmed my small exterior. I smacked the pass in air (a one timer for the hockey fans) to Stretch who is all alone on the opposite side of the paint. Stretch catches the ball and goes straight towards the bucket for the dunk. As the large defenders try to keep up with pinball like passes exuding from this tight assembly Stretch was viciously jettisoned to the floor. The ball is already up (fortunately) and the whistle has blown citing a foul. The ball almost instructed to do so bounces way up and drops into the double rim cylinder for two. Stretch lies on the floor hurt by the massive elbow that just cold clocked him in the mug. This prompts me instinctively to go after the gay giant that has inflicted pain on my brother. As soon as I’m in eye’s reach of this punk I’m shoved hard on the ground, all hell breaks loose.
The game is suspended for a minute as tempers flare. The floor is flooded momentarily by a few of the more righteous supporters of ours that lacked any sense of boundaries they’d chose crossed backing their boy. Coach Sullivan along with local police on hold quickly got a hold of the spontaneous combustion. The insinuating riot brings the crowd to a whole new level of excitement. This was Young Guns basketball. And Santo’s untimely demise had however unintended placed the biggest spotlight on us to date. Tonight’s game was our prom.
The officials three for the finals including local legend Coach Sullivan creased after nearly inciting a riot began to really let us play, i.e. only the most flagrant of fouls would be whistled, fuck. This tilted the scale in favor of the more mature and stronger Rebels. Back and forth we played. We were hanging on but little by little as the game wore on they were pulling away. Within the last three minutes the best ten men were on outdoor tar. Sweating profusely in the hot August affair the game it appeared was going down to the wire. Another dizzying hundred and twenty seconds passed, finally! The whistle sounded off loudly. I waver towards the referee for we need a timeout. I needed a timeout. The sweat that pours off my jaw was indicative of a great many things. The sweat that pours off my jaw was indicative of a great many things.
The whistle sounded as my request was honored. I see that we’re down by a point with under a minute left to play in regulation. To be trailing by a point in a game that traditionally totals cumulatively hundreds well, this deficit was miniscule. Outplayed for what seemed like the entire contest I felt my shit talking, riling up of crowd emotions had cost us. The rough play put us on the defensive with our hourglass just about empty, closer to midnight I felt it all slipping away. Slipping away is an emotion that I’m vastly in touch with. I guess in many ways we’ve proved our point. Hey, I mean we made it to the finals C last year too, we were fifteen! There’s no way we win this game, not with our luck. In dedication to our lost family under a suffocating blanket entailing many unique metaphors we had succeeded in a great many ways. I guess, whatever, who cares, I don’t.
Walking to the sideline I was tired. Tired of the stress, panic and emotion that had in just a few short months aged me in dog years. Peering towards the crammed hillside all was blurry. All was blurry except for the undeniably focused gaze of the Big Guy. Our opponents had outplayed us. They were older, stronger and at one point had been our mentors. Playing the roles of student we’ll always be at a great psychological disadvantage to the teacher. Head games especially in the sport of basketball go a long, long way. I was mind fucking myself. I’d lost focus. ADD to the rescue. Shit talking is such a delicate art. “Fellas, fellas bring it in! Right now bring it in yo!” I have something to say but the exhaustion that has fatigued my body and brain to such an extent is making speech impossible. “Yo, look, ah” I, for the first time in my life at the biggest moment in my existence had nothing to say. Magic a charmed veteran at only sixteen interceded where I trailed off. “Fellas, we’re just down by a basket and change, that’s it! Let’s go! How much times left?” No one had an answer to this question. It made me think we all had ADD! Scully jolted his head sideways and screamed violently towards the timekeeper “How much fucking times left dude!” Then under his breath I hear him release a softer “dumb ass.” The referee responds a bit more diplomatically “a minute ten guys! Keep it clean!” Refs in general should be diplomatic although it doesn’t matter cause they all suck. >
Once the time is noted, I forget the question. Magic continues his emotionally laced rapid-fire speech after a poignantly focused deep breath. It’s apparent he’s the leader. “Ok, ok, ok, look we know what we have to do. Let’s just go out there, take our best crack at it and see what happens. Dream you pressure the shit out of the ball on the back end. Make him jittery C! OK if they hold the rock under thirty seconds we have…” as Magic was issuing important instructions at a very critical point in my own story my own ADD takes me away as thoughts drift.
I don’t give a fuck. We’ve lost. I mean don’t get me wrong I know it’s close, I’m just saying that if we do happen to pull this thing off, it’ll be a miracle. Miracles you see don’t happen and that’s why you always have to depend on yourself. Yep it’s over sport, believe you me pal it’s over.
Teachers, tutors, cops, coaches, lawyers, landscapers, brokers, bankers, athletes, administrators, hot girls, fat girls, cute girls, moms, dads, inventors, authors, students and small time thugs have all come to “peep” this scene. This was Madison MA an insult of riches. I looked back over a sea of white faces, like all sporting contests in America, always paying professional ones. Why can’t they see? The thought of racial injustice lived forever next store and my chamber of streaming thoughts. So many were akin to modern day climate change deniers. The system was designed fundamentally against my black brothers because of the color they were born in the land of the free. I had to get a handle on my thoughts. Fuck, here comes the mind vomit, these fucks don’t know shit especially the wealthy adults. >
All’s you do know was that they were wrong about you and it is there in which motivation breeds. Tired and defeated I know that I must take the court for a final appearance. “Nothing ever works out for us.” It was my mother’s patented line and it was all I could hear in my head. Our wintertime captain, the Harvard bound John Wells had an epic mental lapse that just made things feel, “off.” The kid Coach Farias referred to as “the only one of you jokes with any credentials” repeated the never seen before error Chris Webber had famously incurred just a few months earlier, the night of National Champions Michigan vs. Duke. The night we lost Santo, forced a few days later to bury our brother, Wells had called a timeout when we had none left. A technical foul, two shots and the ball at a time we could ill afford. “Kid scored 1600 on his SAT’S how’d he not know we had no time outs left?” I asked Magic. It was a sign, a bad one at that. Yet we still clawed back with defensive pressure. Back and forth we went until the final ten seconds. The rebels held the ball and were holding the ball for the last shot, astonishingly in a tie game. 10, 9, 8, 7, the crowd began chanting, as one former high school captain darted to the lane, 5, 4 and dished to another, 3, as our now assistant coach at the varsity level dropped in a kiss off the glass, an inside move I’d seen him do a hundred times as a fan during his monstrous run in 1988. I collapsed as the ball was quickly inbounded under our bucket to Goldy he barely got off a fifty foot heave as the whistle sounded, time expired. I’m nothing.
As the miracle lived it’s last second post whistle in the general vicinity of the hardest double rimmed cylinders to shoot on in the county, I couldn’t live with myself. Mr. shit talker was in the end a fraud just like everyone always said. I watched fallen with incredulous eyes in the split of an atom swish right in as official’s arms go high in the air like a field goal signaling its good. 3 points. Young Guns win by one. What, it went in? We won? On my god, Santo!
Gold pointed right to the clouds as he was tackled from a stampede of fandom and friends. Cameras from our parents flashed as the court was swarmed. The incandescent crowd’s authentic acclamation is deafening. Through this entrapment of such Nirvana all of us were tingling or in tears touched by a moment we knew as interventionist. “Santo! You did it!”
This was to be our acme, our defining moment and zenith, it was a gift from Santo and it was solely ours. Just another game, a good run a mad summer nights dream. And to see all of us in a Young Gun uniform that night, it became our own resurrection and crystallized the belief that angels watched over us, watched after me, and watched over my mother through the fire. Family had nothing to do with blood.
We all knew who hit that shot instantaneously and there was never a shard of dissent. The purest thing in our lives rest assured signs like that are not found in casino’s. In the midst of a hundreds of witnesses kid’s wanted autographs and adults simply wanted a handshake. It was a celebration Young Guns created an ineffable moment of dignity, pride and life. People were calling me a legend and I finally realized what that term did in fact embody, finally I knew, I was one. Thanks to Santo, the only question now was what would I do with it. Angels were watching and on our side. It was now a movie again and you can’t write anything better than that. Hang in there kid, things can and do work out.
“If you don’t get it, you don’t get it.” Slogan – Washington Post. Editors Note: I jacked the MadSummer Night's Dream title from those funky ass Q brothers