January 21, 2009 11:45 am ET by Kyle Whelliston
PHILADELPHIA -- It was written nearly 30 years ago, but "Once In a Lifetime" remains the most concise four-minute statement on modern humanity that rock musicians have ever come up with. There are two mantras and a zen koan within it but at its lyrical heart, it's an absolutely terrifying poem. The song descends from order to chaos as it goes forward -- it moves from a simple survey of existence to spiritual queries about the architecture of a life; as the onion-layers are removed and too many questions are asked, truths are revealed. It's all random, it's all meaningless, none of this means anything -- an unstoppable and angry array of forces, nature and death and time, will tear through our constructed bubbles and wash everything away in the end. Same as it ever was.
On Monday afternoon, during the 73rd and final edition of these, a gentle and loyal reader from Michigan reminded me of a different song. I realized that evening on the Washington Metro, with my beautiful iPod, that this is in many ways a reverse bookend to "Once In A Lifetime," written three long decades later. At first encounter, it's entirely unremarkable, full of small fears and desires and dreams and heartaches and snapshots, glued together only with rhyming words. When the chorus comes in, deliberately placed at the very end for maximum effect, it stitches the world together instead of tearing it asunder. In a world full of live human beings, everything is possible -- and while seemingly random, there's a great and simple beauty in this vast sum of parts.
Everything that happens will happen today
And nothing has changed, but nothing's the same
And every tomorrow could be yesterday
And everything that happens will happen today
There was a large concert at the Lincoln Memorial on Sunday. I didn't go, but I hear there were songs of hope and renewal and change, and that everybody knew the words and sang along. But for me, no set of 32 bars captures this moment like these. And no refrain has ever rang more true on Tuesday, a day upon which everything did happen. In large and global ways, as well as small and personal ways, we have been transformed by the events of January 20, 2009. But the order of the universe, and our capacity for opportunity, remains unchanged from January 19, 2009.
This is why I am at peace.
Some things have indeed changed since yesterday. For one thing, the number of expressions of support in my inbox has increased exponentially. I appreciate each and every single one, and the emotions contained within them have been very potent. While I have some extra time in which to respond, I won't be able to write a proper response to all. If I'm not able to write you back, please know that I have read your words and that they have touched me.
At the current pace of fundraising (as of this writing, we are over the three-quarter mark), the pledge drive that started it all is clearly headed for a successful conclusion -- the orange bar will soon be at 100 percent, perhaps possibly even within 24 hours. I'm not going to ask you for more in light of recent events, I will cut back where I have to in order to make the funds fit the timeframe.
Also, just a few technical followups. I'm not going to answer your questions, or do interviews about this. I'm also not going to respond to vitriol in any fashion. I appreciate the offers of bed and board along the way, but you don't want that -- there's a strong streak of anti-social A.M. jerkiness in anybody who is accustomed to writing five hours a day, something I fully intend to continue to do. And I won't need tickets to games. I write a monthly column for Basketball Times, a magazine more than a quarter-century old, so I can get credentialed pretty much anywhere and I can still talk to coaches. Your offers of help are all very, very appreciated, if not occasionally unnecessary.
Finally, I'd just like to address a sentiment that's appeared in many of the messages: "Don't give up." That's a powerful phrase, and the late former head coach of Bucknell and Iona made it an important rallying cry for cancer survivors before succumbing himself. But I often think of the limits of those three words (or four, when you add "ever").
Back before I was a sportswriter, a job that requires a lot of sitting around (and jerkiness), I ran marathons to stay in shape. Judging from the massive and growing crowds at marathon starting lines across the country, perhaps you've done that too. There were times when I ran badly, or fought cramps, or wanted to stop and do something else. There was a little voice inside my head that said, "Don't give up." A lot of times, especially around the 22-mile mark, I always had an answer for that little voice. It had a simplistic message that appealed only to starting and stopping, and as such it was easy to trick.
The reason why I didn't give up, why I have never dropped out of a marathon or stopped a run shorter than my previously intended length, is another little voice. It has a more powerful message: "Don't be afraid." It's a phrase that has resonated through organized religion, philosophy and politics, and is imbued in every speech and physical action of our new sitting President. Those three words, when taken to heart, calm and heal and restore any wounded soul. I can tell you right now, in this time of intense personal and professional upheaval, that I am not afraid.
Horizon League: Can we talk basketball now? Finally? Of course! A long time ago, back over the long holiday weekend, our State No. 1 team Butler won by seven at UIC to keep its Horizon record perfect at 7-0. But the biggest turning point was Wisconsin-Milwaukee's 77-75 holdoff against Cleveland State at home on Saturday evening, to send the Vikings to 4-4 and place the league in a position where somebody has to beat Butler in the league tourney in order to force two bids.
I watched the game at a Buffalo Wild Wings in Columbus, on a tiny screen in amongst a bank of sets that were showing Michigan play Ohio State. The bar was full of scarlet-clad fans on a football-free Saturday, all making the difficult mental transition from the gridiron to the hardcourt and working things out as a group. As the relentless cries of "that's a walk!" and "he fouled him!" and discussions of the intentional-foul rule rang out during a clumsily-played game, I watched alone as CSU mounted a 19-point comeback on a 15-inch screen. Nobody made a sound when Trevon Harmon's attempt at a game-tier bounced off the rim in the final seconds and UWM escaped to claim a 7-1 record. Just another reminder that what we do here will always be private and secret.
Colonial: With an ersatz week-long round robin of the CAA's elite looming (the first round is tonight), the three heavyweights made final preparations last Saturday. George Mason is in first-seed position at 7-0, after knocking off James Madison at home 71-57. VCU, which has played a little shaky as of late, is a step behind after claiming a big rivalry win over Old Dominion. And previous league-unbeaten Northeastern took its first right to the chin, losing a sloppy five-point decision at Hofstra in a G!O!T!N! revenge match. The Huskies are 6-1 too headed into their battle with Mason tonight up in Boston.
Northeast: With a game at Emmitsburg tomorrow, where the NEC crown resides, it's time for a big shout to the Capstraw Conference. And Robert Morris has done everything it can to create some daylight, winning six in a row and opening up with a 7-1 record capped by a 104-56 thumping of Wagner on Saturday. The Colonials are scoring truckloads of points (80 PA in league games), and have to go on any self-respecting fan's list of dangerous 15-seeds. Long Island, on the strength of solid rebounding, is at 5-2 and Mount Saint Mary's (that's where we'll be) is in the mix at 4-3.
U'useless Stat of the Day
We've spent a lot of time talking about the scoring race, about Stephen Curry and David Holston and Lester Hudson and their various roles in their respective offenses. All score at least 30 percent of their teams' points (Curry: 35.7 percent), but today I thought I'd give a mention to player impact in terms of something you can't run plays for: rebounding.
Santa Clara, a team we had tabbed to make the jump from the WCC's second division to a new and improved mid-section, has had a tough go of it. The Broncos can't get the ball to the basket, turning the ball over at alarming rates (16 per game, 24.2 percent of possessions), and it's translated into an 0-4 league record (7-13 overall). But the team has one of the most powerful post-men in mid-majordom, John Bryant, and an unfortunate definition of the term "one-man show." He leads the team in scoring at 17.1 ppg, averages 12.6 rpg, and owns 13 double-doubles. He accounts for 27.17 percent of the Broncos' points, but a whopping 39.47 percent of their rebounds.
So any teams scouting for Santa Clara, here's a short primer: Bryant grabs the rebound, but by the time the team has brought it up the court... there's a turnover. So the Broncos have fewer chances to get it in to Bryant, who's had to run back down the floor to get another rebound. Repeat, repeat, repeat.
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