During a break in action during the 1994 Gus Macker 3 v 3 basketball tournament at Eastern Michigan University I glanced at the scoreboard and my Detroit News team trailed the Free Press 18-10.
Our rivals were three points from victory and advancing to the championship game of the toilet bowl media division. Things looked bleak. I had just left the Freep for a job at The News and my former buddies were rubbing it in pretty good during this ass kicking.
I was exhausted and ready to give up.
A Free Press pal named Bernie leaned in and said: “We are going to kick your ass.”
Stop the presses. That really pissed me off and I turned into something I’ve never been able to duplicate. I called time out, told my teammates what was said and screamed “We are not going down like this. We are going to win this game.”
If you are going to say something about kicking ass do it when its 0-0, not when you are on the verge of victory.
My News teammates had a dumb founded look on their faces as I spoke. They thought we were done too.
We broke from the huddle and I must have a crazed look on my face. Departed journalist, PR man and talk show host Cliff Russell was with his team and said: “Watch this. T is about to go off.”
We could not lose this game. I knew this was my last chance at winning a Macker trophy and I wanted to take some hardware home even if was a Toilet Bowl trophy in the media division. I didn’t care. I thought I was a decent back yard player, but I had a major flaw. I could not shoot. Former Freep sports writer Perry Ferrell used to call me Truck Robinson because my game was penetrating the lane for layups in a crowd.
After the time out I became Vinnie Johnson rolling off screens and hitting low line drive jumpers.
I became Isiah Thomas disappearing in the lane and hitting twisting layups in the lane.
I became Michael Jordan dunking and hanging on the rim. OK. Let’s stop the presses again. That did not happen. The only thing I could dunk at age 35 was an Oreo cookie into a glass of milk.
But we rallied and everybody played inspired defense and got me the ball. I hit a jumper in the lane to tie the score at 20 all. We were essentially in overtime. The first team to take a two point lead won.
The next time we got the ball the Freep players were exhausted. They left me alone at the top of the key at the three-point line. Each basket counted one point but shots from the three-point line counted two.
I let fly with the game-winning attempt and did something I’ve never done in my life. I began to celebrate when the shot was half way to the basket. I knew it was going in that’s how hot I was.
By the time the ball went into the basket we were celebrating, rolling around on the pavement as victors.
I saw Bernie after the game and said: “You should have kept your mouth shut.”
That put us in the championship game against the Observe and Eccentric and my good friend Box who watched my miracle from the sidelines. Steve Kowalski was a fellow CMU Chip and I played against him and with him hundreds of times during pickup games at Schoolcraft Community College. He was a better player than I and somehow his team also ended up in the losers bracket. I thought they had a shot to win it all.
The magic continued. I could not miss and we broke into an early lead. Then something strange happen. That special feeling left just like that. It was if my Ferry God Mother waved a magical wand and said “Enough. Bring him back to Earth.”
I called time out again and spoke to my team.
“You guys are going to have to carry us the rest of the way,” I said. “I’m done.”
I hit a few baskets now and then, but I became John Stockton getting the ball to Karl Malone. Prep sports writer Jim Spadafore became the star of the show. We hung on and became the 1994 Gus Macker All-World Tour Toilet Bowl champs.
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