The hot-dog game
In looking at the blog, how many times can we talk about our next game, how the season, is going, or what is coming next? So for this entry, I am telling a story about a game that happened two years ago, that I will refer to as “The Hot Dog Game.”
A couple of years back, we were playing George Mason at home. The Convo, as our home arena is referred to, was crazy. 5500 fans were screaming their heads off, going bezerk, and it was a great atmosphere for a college basketball game. We started off slow, getting down 15 in the first half, before fighting back to make it as five point game at halftime. But George Mason is a good team, and they extended the lead to 15 with 12 minutes to play. This is where we began our comeback. We chipped away and chipped away, and had the ball down four with a little over five minutes to go. Our center Denzel Bowles got the ball at the foul line, drove, and got fouled on the way up. Everyone in the Convo stood up, anticipating that he would make the shot and have a chance to make the free throw and cut it to a one-point lead. The ball rimmed out, and everyone let out a sigh of relief, but he was still going to the line for two free throws and a chance to cut George Mason’s lead to two.
And then it happened: Out of the sky an object came into view and landed right on the court as Denzel was taking his first free throw. He missed the free throw, distracted by the object, as it landed near the three-point line and end up inside the three-point area. We all looked at each other, stunned. I turned to Assistant Coach Corey Stitzel and said “What was that, a cantaloupe?” Why I thought it was a cantaloupe I still have no idea, but the fact was – it was a hot dog.
As the referees gathered at center court, the 5500 fans in attendance began to chant “THROW HIM OUT! THROW HIM OUT!” and within a minute the culprit was identified: it was a JMU student wearing a purple t-shirt. As security escorted him out of the building, the referees gathered again, and assessed a technical foul on us, since it was one of our fans – which was the correct call. GMU stepped to the line and made the two free throws, and after Denzel made the final free throw, what could have been a 2-point lead was now five, and George Mason had the ball.
We ended up cutting the lead to three, but never got closer than that the rest of the way as George Mason hung on for the win. Many of us asked the same question – why would a JMU fan throw a hot dog on the court in the middle of our comeback, with Denzel at the line? Did it cost us the game? I can't say that, but it sure killed the momentum that we were building.
As bad as we felt and as hard as we had fought, what we didn’t know was that there was one person who felt even worse than us – the student that threw the hot dog.
Two weeks later, before one of our practices, Dr. Josh Bacon, JMU’s Director of Judicial Affairs, and an unknown student to us, came into our locker room to address the team. Coach Brady said that, let's call him Bill, wanted to say a couple words to the team. He went around and shook every one of our player’s hands and introduced himself, and then began to speak to the players and coaches. As he began apologizing for what he had done, it hit me – this was the kid that threw the hot dog! He spoke for about five minutes and said he was sorry. Sorry for first putting in jeopardy the players from both JMU and George Mason, sorry for acting in the manner that he had and for changing the momentum of the game. Sorry for everything that he had done. Then he went around to every player and the coaching staff and said how much he loves this team, and how exciting it is to come to basketball games, and that he thanked us for everything we brought to the university.
When he was done, our whole team and coaching staff gave Bill an ovation, and Coach Brady said something that shocked me at the time. He invited Bill to sit on the bench with the team the next night against Hofstra. My first thought was “Are you serious? We’re going to let him sit on the bench?”
But after coming to the game, and realizing how sorry he was, and how much of a true fan he was, we realized that Bill needed to put the incident in the past, and this was the best way of getting past it, and moving on with HIS life.
Looking back on it, it was a great thing for Coach Brady to do, and a great lesson to learn in life. I’m glad we were able to be a positive influence in Bill’s life.
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