The subway is the glamour boy of public transit. New York's subway, Boston's T, and the Metro here in the greater Washington area are all, to varying degrees, well-known and reasonably easy to use for tourists and newcomers. There are maps with color-coded lines, and you don't really have to look at a timetable to use them; you walk up to them, wait, and you generally get where you're going fairly safely. I'm a fan.
In my 20s, I visited D.C. fairly often. I'd make the drive from Harrisonburg, Richmond, or Charlottesville, park my car wherever I was staying, and figure out where the nearest Metro stop was located. From there, I could plot my path of twentysomething destruction. I became reasonably familiar, for an outsider, with Metro's various lines, and which ones could take me to beer (hint: all of them).
During my last year of law school, my then-girlfriend (and now wife), moved from Silver Spring, MD (on the Red Line -- not that Red Line! That takes us to beer and back, safely!) to Glover Park, a cute wooded neighborhood in Northwest D.C. that is ages from a Metro stop. To get to the Metro, or to what I considered civilization at all, I would have to take a bus.
She explained the wonders of the bus she'd be taking to graduate school in Dupont Circle -- the D2 bus, and all of the different neighborhoods it hit. And the fact that she knew when it would be there every morning. Eventually I got over it, and took that bus all over Northwest D.C., and learned to love the D2. I not only saw the places I was going, I saw the places in between. Instead of passively listening for my stop, I had to ask -- in advance -- to stop where I wanted. This required a much more thorough knowledge of the city. Consequently, I got to know more of the city than I ever had before. The bus, as it turns out, is the insider's way around the city. It's not for amateurs, but it's more useful and rewarding.
Fast forward five years: after four years of living in Manhattan, we've moved to D.C. In a way I've never been able to put my finger on, I never felt at home in Manhattan. In some ways I never unpacked. I realized recently that I never once took the bus there. I was content to take the subway or a cab everywhere I went. I was just an incredibly savvy tourist.
In the District my first instinct is to take the bus -- we don't live terribly close to the Metro, but sit at the confluence of a number of great bus lines. I feel as though I've been let in on a wonderful secret. I know where the 50-buses turn. I know the best way to get to Adams Morgan is on the Circulator. When I pass Metro stops on a bus, I pity the poor souls coming up and going down the endless escalators. It's like they barely live in the city.
The G2 is a bus that runs up and down P Street NW, and it hits both sides of the Red Line. Not the Metro line, but the Red Line, from Our Game. On one end sits the leafy, nearly suburban campus of Georgetown University of the Big East. On the other, historic Howard University of the MEAC. Both schools are august in their own way: if Georgetown isn't the country's best Roman Catholic university, it's probably the best one run by the Society of Jesus; if Howard isn't the country's best Historically Black College, it's probably the best coeducational HBCU. The list of either school's prominent alumni would shame that of almost any university. The school's basketball environments couldn't be more different, however. I had the privilege of attending a Georgetown game at their telecom-branded, off-campus arena earlier this season, and it was everything you'd expect above the Red Line and off campus. Digital screens, loud promos, and beer in those weird metal bottles; there's plenty of Sportz! to go along with the high-quality basketball.
At Howard, on the other side of the Red Line, and actually on their campus at the other end of the G2's route, the experience couldn't be more different. First, I wouldn't trade the experience of walking through a historic campus on the way to see Our Game for a hundred metal beers or a thousand t-shirt cannons. I'd never seen Howard's campus, so the history jumped out at me. A lump came to my throat when I saw, written in tall brass letters, that the medical school was founded in 1868. It's humbling to think of the confidence and the vision that the school's founders must have possessed in starting a medical school just three years after the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment.
I found the campus itself to be handsome, but the architecture didn't wow me as much as the history all around. As I approached the gym, which was on the opposite end of campus from the bus stop, I saw a men's club lacrosse game against American University. Neither school is known for the sport, and the skill on display was underwhelming. I hoped it wasn't an ill portent for the afternoon's main event: the men's basketball game against Florida A&M.
As other 800 Games participants have noted, the Howard ticketing situation is a bit unorthodox. I like to be prepared, so I called the box office to avoid paying Ticketmaster fees. They wouldn't do advance sales, except in person. Unreal. I never want to chance it by buying tickets the day of the game, so I paid the galling fee to buy our tickets over the internet.
Fellow 800GPer Patrick Byrnett and I arrived on time, only to find that the Howard women were only halfway done with their game against FAMU. We glanced down at our tickets, which read "Women - 2PM Men - 3PM." I'm not sure why they'd do it this way, unless they wanted to streamline the process of putting on two games in one afternoon. Regardless of why, it gave us a chance to catch the rather entertaining second half, and catch up with each other before the men's game got started.
THE GAME ITSELF WAS THE BEST CASE SCENARIO FOR A MATCHUP OF TWO TEAMS WHOSE RPI'S HOVER AROUND 300: IT WAS EVENLY MATCHED. THERE WERE NO GREAT ATHLETES ON THE FLOOR, BUT MY LONG-HELD SUSPICION THAT EVERY MEAC GAME IS SOMETHING OF A RIVALRY APPEARED TO BE CORRECT. DESPITE THE EXTREME DISTANCE BETWEEN THE DISTRICT AND TALLAHASSEE, THE SCHOOLS DO COMPETE FOR STUDENTS; AN UNDERCLASSMAN IN FRONT OF US CONFIRMED THIS BY HIS HYPER-PERSONALIZED HECKLING OF FAMU GUARD D'ANDRE BULLARD. DURING A TIGHT SECOND HALF, WHEN FAMU'S PRESS DEFENSE WAS STARTING TO UNRAVEL, AND NOT EVEN THE RATTLERS' PERFECT FREE-THROW SHOOTING COULD KEEP THEM IN IT, BULLARD TURNED THE BALL OVER REPEATEDLY. THE STUDENT IN FRONT OF US HECKLED BULLARD BY NAME EVERY TIME, AS IF THEY WERE OLD FRIENDS (OR, MORE LIKELY, ENEMIES): "D'ANDRE YOU ALWAYS TRAVEL DON'T THEY TRY TO TEACH YOU THE RULES? GO HOME D'ANDRE!"
Our game, even when played by athletes who are merely great, is usually fine theater. A close game between two schools who compete for students would normally be more than enough to keep my attention for two hours and change. And it did hold my attention -- except when the Howard Pep Band and its three (!) companion dance squads took over. Between them, they take up about a fifth of the seating in the small Burr Auditorium, but when they get going they occupy every cubic inch of the building. I didn't know what was going on half of the time, but watching the band's passion and pride was incredibly inspiring.
As the game wound down, the Bison finally put the Rattlers away, in spite of themselves. The band played one last time, and the crowd filed out. I got a ride back to my apartment from Patrick. I was grateful to have it, because it was cold and the bus stop was on the other end of campus. But this season I got to know my new city better, as I took transit and bummed rides to nearly every Division I venue in the metro area (I'm not hot to schlep above the Red Line on the Green Line to catch a Maryland game at the Kabletown Center). At a cost of a few dozen dollars and a handful of afternoons I've visited campuses and neighborhoods I would never have seen if not for Our Game. The basketball season is far from over, and I may not participate next season, but for the rest of this year and beyond, I'll always be on the mid-major bus with everyone here.
at HOWARD 71, FLORIDA A&M 69 02/11/2012
FLORIDA A&M 7-18 (5-6) -- J. Dean 2-4 4-4 8; Y. Crowder 1-5 0-0 2; A. Stevens 11-22 2-2 24; D. Bullard 2-6 1-1 6; A. Moore 2-8 2-2 6; R. Lewis 1-9 5-5 8; C. Watson 3-6 0-0 7; N. Drayton 3-5 2-2 8; T. Hagood 0-3 0-0 0; M. Teal 0-2 0-0 0; B. Hosley 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 25-70 16-16 69. HOWARD 7-18 (4-8) -- O. Ellison 3-5 3-5 9; S. Frazier 1-7 5-6 8; B. Ford 2-5 0-0 4; C. Thompson 5-10 4-4 15; A. Leary 3-6 3-4 9; T. Lee 3-5 5-6 12; P. Okoroh 5-10 0-0 10; B. Bailey 2-3 0-0 4; T. Boyomo 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 24-51 20-25 71.
Three-point goals: FAMU 3-24 (Y. Crowder 0-1; A. Stevens 0-5; A. Moore 0-4; C. Watson 1-4; J. Dean 0-1; R. Lewis 1-6; D. Bullard 1-2; M. Teal 0-1), HOW 3-7 (C. Thompson 1-2; T. Lee 1-2; S. Frazier 1-3); Rebounds: FAMU 34 (A. Stevens 8), HOW 34 (S. Frazier 8); Assists: FAMU 8 (A. Moore 2), HOW 12 (S. Frazier 6); Total Fouls -- FAMU 18, HOW 16; Fouled Out: FAMU-None; HOW-A. Leary.