The craze of 'Tim Kurkjian' impressions reminded me of this classic.
The college announcement process has gotten out of hand over the years. With Harrison Barnes declaring for the NBA Draft, I thought we'd take a look back at how this humble, hard-working blue chip recruit from Ames, IA presented himself as anything but with this "show." How about Skyping your new team?
Champions. That's got such a special ring to it, just reverberating in my head. The last time a team I played won its ultimate championship (not a mid-season tournament or something like that) was in 6th grade on the hardwood. We, the Hornets, took down the heavily favored Knicks.
I remember we only got there because my best friend, Benjamin Goodman, nailed a baseline j as time expired in regulation. I remember the other team's best player was a girl named Ebony who scored over 40 points (I always wonder what happened to her...she was unbelievable). I remember my brothers laughing at me when, after hitting a three, I, a cocky little sixth grader, tried to pump up the crowd. I remember the combination of emotions I had as I jumped up and down--to quote the great Kevin Harlan--with no regard for human life, celebrating our achievement with my teammates--with my friends. It didn't matter that it was 6th grade basketball to any of us. A championship is special. Those were my last memories of being a champion.
Despite heavy consideration to hang it up as a champion--to go out on top--I resumed my athletic career the very next day with a baseball game. I don't remember how it went--it doesn't matter.
A combination of bad luck and bad timing got in between me and a high school championship a few times. I was lucky enough to earn 11 varsity letters playing football, basketball, and baseball. I'll spare you the stories, but injuries to stud teammates, a future NBA starting center, and a down-to-the-wire battle on the ballfield contributed to a successful high school career, but one without achieving ultimate glory. But, I remember those special moments shared with my teammates over the years. I remember jumping up and down and shoulder-bumping Jeffrey Boyd every time we scored a touchdown. I remember driving Parham Motaghedi--a Hurricane Katrina victim temporarily studying in Dallas at the time--home from practice and getting emotional after dropping him off realizing that such a good person did not deserve to face such dire adversity. I remember my pre-game handshakes in the dugout with Josh Glick, Zach Tobolowsky, and Greg Lyons.
As a member of the USC baseball program, I was a part of many special experiences, but no championships. In my four years USC, the school with more national championships and more history than any other program in college baseball, didn't even make the playoffs. But I remember that after batting practice, Grant Green and I would toast to a great game over a gummy bear. I remember hitting in the cage with Alex Sherrod until 2 in the morning. I remember Joe De Pinto, Garret Houts, Jordan Hershiser, and the rest of the senior class lifting me up and down on the chair in the clubhouse before our Senior Day game.
Not winning a championship still bothers me. I have utter envy for those who are on the other side of this equation. But I look back on my athletic experiences with complete joy, recognizing them as some of my most cherished memories. Each team--it's own unique story and bond. The long bus rides, the tiring practices, the team meals...being a part of a team at any level is special.
In the summer of 2011, I began my journey as a professional broadcaster, calling games for the Great Falls Voyagers, a rookie-level affiliate for the Chicago White Sox. A new year, a new season, a new opportunity to associate with success. Yeah, about that...The Voyagers finished the first half of the season in last place of their division. So much for that. But, with the Pioneer League format that erases records at thew midway point, we stood a chance at redeeming ourselves in the second half. And with the clean slate, the Voyagers became a different team. Despite fighting off two win-or-go-home games--and countless other 'win-or-you're-gonna-make-it-awfully-tough-on-yourself games--the Voyagers survived and, when all was said and done, climbed the Pioneer League mountaintop of the 2011 Champions, defeating the Dodgers' own Ogden Raptors (a team filled with many 2012 Loons, I'm sure) in the final series.
I didn't have a single plate appearance or throw a single pitch. I didn't steal a base or even take up space in the outfield. I wasn't even in the dugout to cheer on the team (I'd like to think my role as the guy who played movie-DJ on the bus rides was pretty important). But, with the acceptance of the players and a the field staff, I felt a part of it. I was a part of a championship team. I get chills thinking about the celebration and the elation of the fellas as they celebrated like they had just won the World Series. They deserved it. This was about them. Not me.
A week ago I opened my mailbox and found a package, much lighter than what its size would suggest. I saw the return address and new exactly what it was. My heart started to pound and my face lit up. I raced inside, whipped out a mini-knife, sawed open the box, and there it was...
picture courtesy of Alex Wassel
I am not flashy. I wear a necklace that, based on the circumstances in which I received it, serves as a constant reminder of family and love. I wear a synthetic livestrong-like bracelet that reads WinForever and AlwaysCompete. But I don't wear rings. I tried this one on and wore it for a bit, but I liked looking at it better. It reminds me that, finally, I was a part of a championship--my first since 6th grade.
picture courtesy of Alex Wassel
I will always remember the 2011 Great Falls Voyagers.
A title they can never take away.
Check it off the list.
But the ring? It doesn't remind me of the my final call. It doesn't remind me of the dogpile on the third base side of the mound or the champagne celebration in the clubhouse. It reminds me of the people. It reminds me of everyone that made my experience so special. I remember watching my Mavs in the NBA Finals my first week there with Erik Wolf and Scott Reasoner. I remember Fred Williamson and Keith Eackland, the biggest Voyagers fans in the world, there, each day, even before the gates opened. And I remember broadcasting one of my closest friends, Joe De Pinto, someone who wanted to win as badly as I did from our time at USC, celebrate his first championship.
And, finally, now I can move on. The season is almost upon us. Words can't begin to express my level of excitement and anticipation for the 2012 Great Lakes Loons season. It won't be measured against anything. Win or lose, first or last, it doesn't matter. In this whole process, I realized its about the people. Here with the Loons and ESPN 100.9FM, I have surrounded myself with great people that will help me create lifelong memories. I now have the ring. It will remind me about the summer of '11. Have I lost the desire to win? Never. But, remember, I don't play. I want the Loons to win for the fans and for the players. But the memories, the special memories--they don't come from the wins and losses--they come from the people.