Formative Years: Gary Williams

I’m not really what you’d call a “sports guy”. Sure, I like to watch football, college basketball, and the occasional baseball game. When presented with the opportunity, I even like to play a bit of football and basketball; however, it’s not really my main fix. Sometimes I’m just not in the mood to go watch a game. When I’m distracted by other goings-on in my life, I probably won’t even keep track of how my favorite teams are doing (although I always have time to be pissed at the Eagles). Yet, it was not always this way. There was once a time when I never wanted to miss a game and I knew every detail about the team I cared about. That time was college.

It’s no secret that when I got to college, I was miserable. The summer prior to starting college was the worst of my life. Being dropped off at the University of Maryland with no acquaintances, friends, or fellow sufferers in sight was hardly a good way to end it. And yet, despite my misery, I ended up living with a group of sophomores who showed me the ropes. As wary as I had been of not rooming with other freshman, I ended up having a large group of friends who already knew what to do at college. Hungry? Go to late night. Athlete’s foot? Where were your flip-flops. Bored? Let’s go to the game.

That's strange...I don't remember looking so stupid.

Sports quickly became the keystone activity of my weekends. Some of my first and finest memories at UMD involved going to football games. I still vividly remember cooking a Thanksgiving meal in a dorm kitchen and huddling in our room to watch us get trounced by Boston College shortly before Thanksgiving. They were simpler times.

Much simpler.

By the end of the fall, I was introduced to Maryland basketball. While football was a fun distraction, I was told that basketball was where UMD went really crazy. Multiples times a week we would head through the cold to the Comcast Center to watch DJ Strawberry, Greivis Vasquez, and the rest of the Terps square off. That year was particularly fantastic, including upsets of UNC and Duke. This was also when I learned of the legend of Gary Williams.

Gary Williams, for those who don’t know, is a fellow New Jersy-ian, Terps alum, and until last season, head coach of UMD Basketball. He is widely credited with single-handedly reviving Maryland basketball, is one of the winningest coaches is NCAA history, brought an NCAA-championship to UMD, and could bring the house down with a single fist pump. Like I said, the man is a legend.

I was taught by my roommates to hold the man in the highest regard. We once listened to the following song on loop for hours.

As college went on, we didn’t always have the best team, but it was hard to not care when Gary walked onto the court. Even in our worst seasons, it was always assumed that we could put up a fight as long as Gary was leading the troops.

My senior year brought some of the best and worst emotions I’ve ever had regarding the Terps. The freshmen who had joined the team when I first got to college were finally reaching the end of their careers. We upset Duke to win the ACC regular season. Things were good.

Finally, in the NCAA tournament, we had our big shot. Some of the highest seeds had been upset and the field was blown wide open. For the first time since I had cared, the Terps had an honest chance to get to the Final Four. A bunch of us gathered at Cornerstone to watch Gary lead the team against Michigan State. With the game winding down, Greivis nailed a last-second shot for what appeared to be a buzzer beater. And then, with seemingly no time left, Michigan State hit their own buzzer beater. Right when it seemed like we had pulled off an amazing upset, we were thrown to the ground and beaten to death. I still haven’t recovered from that moment.

http://www.twitlonger.com/show/7cc6uk

Neither has Greivis, apparently.

At the end of that year, I graduated. The following May, Gary retired. I haven’t thought about it much since, until tonight, when the court is being named after Gary. I seriously wanted to go, but returning to a little alley in Baltimore at 1AM is an immeasurably bad idea. Nonetheless, it’s an incredibly strange, nostalgic feeling. It’s bizarre to think how far all of those folks from freshman year have scattered at this point. While we once lived within 50 feet of each other, many of us couldn’t be further now. While we once watched Gary fist-pumping the crowd to life, we’ll never see him coach another game. Obviously life goes on, but it’s strange when you’re reminded that college is over and it’s never coming back. Oh well…here’s to the Glory Days.

Then again, when I feel this way, I like to remind myself of how awesome I am. Problem solved.

 

 

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Musings: Too much gaming, Harry Potter, and Thanksgiving

Oh blog, it’s been a long, long time since I’ve paid you a visit. I
know that it hasn’t been fair and that we were supposed to spend extra
time together now that I live in Baltimore; however, I’ve been busy.
Really, really busy. You see, Battlefield 3 came out on October 25th.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim came out on November 11th. I JUST CAN’T
JUGGLE ALL OF THESE THINGS AT ONCE.

Neither could Ned.

Without elaborating too much at this time, the Battlefield series is
my favorite set of multiplayer games ever. The Elder Scrolls series is
my favorite set of single-player games ever. By some cruel coincidence
of fate, their newest entries that I have waited 5 years to play
released mere weeks apart and it has ravaged my productivity.

CAN YOU NOT SEE THAT I AM BUSY?!

Each of the games includes a leveling system, which promotes putting
time into them. For Skyrim, more time means more skills, greater
abilities, etc. In BF3, more times means higher ranks and more
unlocks. More than anything, it’s a competition thing, and we all know
how am I about competition. I’m embarrassed to say how many hours I’ve
played of the two games so far, but I honestly think it’s been longer
than I’ve spent sleeping.

My character, on the other hand, looks remarkably well-rested.

Aside from gaming, I’ve just been going to the gym a lot and eating
like a hobo, trying to plug away some extra savings.  This past
weekend, the three best friends got together to have a
mini-Thanksgiving/Harry Potter feast and watch as many HP’s as we
could. Despite getting a late start, we successfully plowed through
about 4 movies and had a nice meal of turkey, sweet potatoes, mashed
potatoes, stuffing, and pumpkin pasties. It was really quite nice (if
not a reminder that I need to work out a lot over the next week).

Yup.

Even more exciting is the fact that Thanksgiving is this week! I plan
on taking a short day tomorrow, leaving after lunch, and getting a
nice head start on a 5-day weekend. There are lots of meals, bike
rides, runs, and games in my next few days. I CANNOT WAIT. I hope
everyone has an enjoyable holiday! Don’t get trampled at Walmart.

Epic Adventures: Summer Trip (Maryland)

The time has come for me to begin chronicling my adventures from July 1st through July 10th. In this chapter, we will discuss the beginnings of my glorious vacation.

After breaking free of the confines of work and responsibility on the 1st (marked by paying my last installment of insanely high DC rent), I ferried myself out to Rockville for a chill evening. The next morning, we rose at around 7:30 to get on our way to my grandparent’s summer place.

I’ll get this out of the way up front, so that I can spend the rest of this post doing damage control: My grandfather bought a small island in the Chesapeake sometime after WWII. Believe me when I say that it’s not because we’re ballers. I don’t think it cost any more than a regular plot of land, he built the house himself, and he was responsible for laying all electrical cables and plumbing to the place. So essentially, it was like owning a normal house, but much more involved.

Sup Grampa?

After spending nearly ever summer weekend there as a child, I’ve found it much more difficult to find the time to visit as I’ve progressed through high school, college, and into the working world. This is obviously a shame, since my grandparents aren’t getting any younger and it’s a splendid place to visit. My grandma is the ultimate host (perhaps a little too much so) and puts out massive spreads for every meal. The only downside is that I have a reputation as an eater and regularly face tremendous pressure to polish everything off.

Awww mannnn...

Furthermore, I greatly enjoy the multitude of projects that constantly need tending to down there. If you are anything like all of the males in my family, you will understand the unique sort of pleasure that is derived from identifying, evaluating, and solving a problem through a combination of careful planning and brute force. Not a weekend goes by that something on the house doesn’t break, whether it’s a pipe, a downspout, or a boat, and I always enjoy being there to fix them.

On this weekend in particular, a tree had fallen across a path. Sensing a chance to relieve some stress, I enthusiastically grabbed an axe to chop it into tiny pieces. I’ll admit, it was worth every second of effort too. Unfortunately, I forgot to wear gloves, so both hands turned into bloody little blisters afterwards, but that’s the price you pay for being a badass.

When not chopping and fixing things, we spent Saturday and Sunday morning taking some boat rides, eating a lot, watching the requisite movie with my grandparents at night, and going out to dinner in an effort to save my grandmother the effort of cooking another enormous meal. After lunch on Sunday, Jenny and I headed back to DC to prepare for our flight to California at 6 AM on the 4th.

Man, I’m long winded this week. I tried (and failed) to actually get to the California part of the trip for the second day in a row. Anyway, I got home late from work today and the microwave is beeping the termination of some dessicated meatballs, so I’ll put off writing about the important parts of the trip again.

Also, have you ever used a fork whilst preparing dinner and then tossed it in the dish washer, only to realize that you need a !%@#ing fork to eat the meal you just finished cooking? Yeah, that just happened.