Typically, I'd like to think that twenty and a trillion thoughts race through my mind on an arbitrarily-chosen day. That Saturday afternoon, which is now a mere memory in the back of my cranium, that number must have been doubled, if not tripled. Despite the activity within my mind that day, I felt frigid in more ways than the one which could be attributed to the several inches of snow which blanketed the Ocean State. I had much time to devote towards privately mulling over significant issues during the month which I had been generously, and thankfully, given for Christmas break from graduate school this past December. Yet, the sorry excuse of a metaphorical icicle sat quietly and thoughtfully in his seat, listening to Sufjan Stevens on his iPod, as the public bus rolled towards Smithfield, the home of Bryant University. "I want to be well," screamed my headphones. Indeed, I'd like to think that state to be like that one which the fictional Ray Smith attained when he was atop the Desolation Peak at the end of Jack Kerouac's 1958 novel The Dharma Bums. For that caricature of Mr. Kerouac, that lookout point atop that Washington peak, where he could feel free and thank God for everyone and everything, was his 'Vesuvius,' his 'fire of fire,' which was his warming source of inspiration. I had thought that perhaps the Northeast Conference clash would distract me from my thoughts, if not provide some sort of comforting spark.
Honestly, I had little to satisfy my curiosity as the bus finally stopped in front of the Chace Athletic Center, where I was to watch the host Bryant University Bulldogs compete against the Quinnipiac University Bobcats. Given the grip of winter over the Bryant University campus, I decided to forgo perusing the campus in favor of watching the end of the women's basketball game, which was a Quinnipiac rout. The men's basketball match was to be another conference victory, or defeat, for each team, but one wouldn't know it from the true attendance count. My generous estimate, which I mentally calculated after the first four minutes of game play, was at 150 attendees.
With all due respect to the boys from Smithfield and Camden, I have little to relay regarding their basketball game. Between the myriad of somewhat depressing thoughts racing throughout my head as the rebounds were collected and points were amassed and the subpar offensive showing, I was left vaguely unsettled in anticipated elation, as I had hoped the game would be a temporary escape from my chosen responsibilities resting on my desk merely nine miles due southeast. Near the end of the second half, my attitude had remained the same. My state was still as depressed as it had been when the songs from the 'The Age of Adz' album were blaring through my headphones. With just under six minutes remaining in regulation, Quinnipiac was winning by the tally of 61-56. Regarding the game, I had thought the Bobcats were definitely sealing a victory.
Then, a few minutes later, something happened.
Bryant freshman forward Ben Altit was fouled as he made a 'runner' shot in the lane, which subsequently led to his making a free-throw shot. Around the last-minute mark, Bryant capitalized on another opportunity to make free-throw shots. Suddenly, the score was 61-61, which meant that either team had a chance to leave that gymnasium with the conference victory. With about forty seconds remaining, and the score at 63-61 Quinnipiac, the teams were in a time-out. "DIG IN!" I could hear from the Quinnipiac huddle. The Bobcats heeded that call, particularly through the admirably tough play of freshman guard Evan Conti, which compelled me to think him a 'fireball.' Although Bryant would tie the tally with two free throws to make the score 63-63, the defense of Mr. Conti seemed to inspire the Bobcats to prevent Bryant from having an uncontested chance to win the game in regulation. The game ended with the 63-63 tie, which meant that at least one overtime session would be necessary to settle the match. Within the duration of a few minutes, the nature of the game went from frosty to toasty. A flame had been lit.
The only overtime session belonged to the boys from Camden. With about a minute left in that five-minute period, the teams were in another time-out session. With the Bobcats winning 74-71, one of the Bryant assistant coaches was livid, and explicitly made sure the Bulldogs knew so. "BE AGGRESSIVE!" he loudly pleaded to his players as head coach Tim O'Shea continued discussing hypothetical plays for his team. Although the cry from the assistant coach was heartfelt, the imperative would not help. The Bobcats would dominate the last minute, scoring four more points, to win the surprisingly close match, 78-71.
As I arose from my seat on one of the wooden bleachers, I was surprised to see Quinnipiac sophomore forward Ike Azotam climb up the wooden bleachers in front of me. Apparently, a spectator a few seats below me happened to know the Bobcat. They chatted for a minute or two. As I collected my belongings, I was tempted to simply ask him to encourage his fireball of a teammate, Mr. Conti. Yet, I uttered not a word. Instead, I took not a step. The 'fire of fire' that flared inside of me led me back into my own head, into the thoughts I tried not to contemplate while his team played against the defeated Bulldogs of Smithfield.
As I took a seat aboard the bus which waited outside the Athletic Center, my cranium resumed its torture of my momental sanity. Within a minute, the headphones went back into my ears and the depressing, but soothing, crooning of Sufjan Stevens once again overwhelmed my ear canals.
"I want to be well," I sighed as the bus began its cautious trek southward to Providence. Although that Northeast Conference match, particularly embodied through the play of that Conti fellow, served as a temporary candle to warm the emotional turmoil of my soul on that grim afternoon, I unhesitatingly and sadly realized that not even the inspired play of that fireball could permanently heat the downtrodden state of the spirit within me. As the bus continued its scheduled drive towards my residence, I understood that something else is the source of that which could be my permanent Vesuvius, my unfailing 'fire of fire,' as Sufjan Stevens sang through my earphones. "I want so much to be at rest." "I want to be well." Where are you, Vesuvius. Oh, where are you, my 'fire of fire?' Perhaps someday, I shall know. For now, I must 'get real' and 'get right with the Lord.'
QUINNIPIAC 78, at BRYANT 71 01/21/2012
QUINNIPIAC 10-9 (3-5) -- C. Martin 6-10 0-1 17; J. Johnson 9-24 3-3 23; D. Johnson 6-12 6-6 18; I. Azotam 5-12 9-12 19; O. Drame 2-7 1-3 5; Z. Hearst 2-2 3-4 7; E. Conti 1-5 2-4 4; G. Young 0-0 0-0 0; J. Jackson 0-1 0-0 0; N. Gause 0-2 0-0 0; M. Barnett 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 26-66 24-32 78. BRYANT 2-17 (1-7) -- F. Dobbs 1-10 9-10 12; A. Francis 9-19 11-14 30; C. Maynard 4-9 0-0 10; R. Jordan 4-8 3-5 14; B. Altit 1-5 1-2 3; C. McMath 0-2 0-0 0; D. Calandrillo 1-2 0-0 2; V. Kondratyev 0-0 0-0 0; T. Robinson 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-55 24-31 71.
Three-point goals: QUIN 2-14 (D. Johnson 0-2; J. Johnson 2-9; E. Conti 0-2; N. Gause 0-1), BRY 7-26 (F. Dobbs 1-8; R. Jordan 3-6; C. McMath 0-2; A. Francis 1-2; C. Maynard 2-6; B. Altit 0-2); Rebounds: QUIN 44 (O. Drame 13), BRY 28 (A. Francis 10); Assists: QUIN 6 (J. Johnson 3), BRY 13 (F. Dobbs 8); Total Fouls -- QUIN 27, BRY 26; Fouled Out: QUIN-O. Drame; BRY-B. Altit.