Game 114: at Manhattan 81, Fordham 68Friday, December 23, 2005
Draddy Gymnasium - Bronx, NY
The 21st Century is amazing. Thanks to scientific advances and mass-production, all you need is a phone line, a computer and a microphone and you're on the radio. Or live on the internet, with RealAudio or Windows streaming. Add a few little black boxes, and they're bouncing your games off satellites, bypassing the AM and FM and the web altogether. Doesn't matter if you're Duke or Savannah State, this fantastic technology is available to everyone.
But down on the end of press row at Draddy Gymnasium, there's an odd-looking guy calling his own brand of play-by-play, keeping notes in a spiral-bound notebook. He doesn't need your fancy geeky doo-dads, or a mike for that matter. He's transcended current technology altogether, he's off somewhere in the 31st Century.
"Xavier! Johnson! Xavier! Dubois! Good! Manhattan ahead, 53-43!"
The Major Deegan Expressway makes a poor substitute for a yellow brick road, but the green-hued Draddy has a strange Emerald City effect that may be why so many interesting characters show up there. If pot-banger Freddy "Sez" Schuman
is the Tin Man, then Ronnie Weintraub is the Scarecrow, the guy who everyone thinks doesn't have a brain but turns out to be the smartest dude in the bunch.
Indeed, Ronnie's scorecards, which are distributed on the Manhattan press table next to the game notes and media guides, are masterpieces of outside-the-box thinking. And when you put them alongside the boxscores the computerized stat system spits out, they start making sense. Everything's there, just in a new, completely inverted and downside-up way.
The quick backstory: Ronnie is developmentally disabled, or whatever people are saying instead of "mentally retarded" these days. He's a staple at Jasper home games, sitting on the end of the row with his ballcap, three Special Olympics medals suspended from ribbons around his neck. He also makes it to just about every Manhattan roadie -- thanks to his 15-year unofficial affiliation with the school, he's always got a ride home on the team bus on the way back.
And Ronnie certainly isn't some sort of backwoods discovery in the big city - there's been little about him that hasn't been profiled, feature-storied or spotlighted. He's been written up locally in the Journal News
, scribbled up nationally in the NCAA News
, even mentioned in the faraway St. Petersburg Times
. Simply put, Ronnie is a superstar.
After the game, in the press room, I come face to face with the legend. He holds court with the local beat writers and television crews When he finds out who I represent, I'm his new best friend, although I think I would have been his pal no matter my affiliation.
"Thanks for coming out to see us," Ronnie says at a close-range that would normally be uncomfortable. "It's so great to have you here. You have to come for the Iona game. It's the heavyweight championship, round one!"
I promised Ronnie that I'd be there for the meeting between the two squads favored to fight it out for the MAAC title this year, on January 6 in New Rochelle. Then he gave me a big hug.
Driving back north after the game, I scanned around the XM satellite radio for some college hoops action to keep me awake. Minnesota
was rolling over South Dakota State
was in the late stages of a blowout win over American
, and the UCLA
game against Sacramento State
was just beginning. But something felt wrong, and it had nothing to do with the uneven scores... the announcers calling the games left me cold. I wanted to hear Ronnie.
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