Long Time Coming
Memories can’t wait, and change is good.
by Ryan Jones
Eight years is a long f*cking time.
I realize that statement is neither original nor particularly profound, but it’s on my mind, and I’m gonna run with it.
Eight years ago tomorrow, the nation, um, celebrated the inauguration of George W. Bush. I remember a lot of things about that day.
I remember The Onion publishing this story a few days before the inauguration. Still, arguably, their finest moment.
I remember the weather on the East Coast being as dreary as the mood.
And I remember being in Philly.
I used to go to Philly a lot, sometimes solo, but usually with then-Ed. Russ Bengtson. Living in Manhattan, working at SLAM, we could go to all the Knicks and Nets games we wanted, and we usually did. But two or three times a year, Philly beckoned. The Iverson-led Sixers would be hosting a game we didn’t want to miss, so we’d go: Ninety minutes on Amtrak from Penn Station to 30th Street, a cold 25-minute walk from the train station to the Doubletree on South Broad, warm cookies waiting for us on check-in. The dope, non-famous cheesesteak place on Locust, right across from the hotel, where we’d gorge before game time. The original Mitchell & Ness store two blocks over, where we were treated like royalty and copped jerseys at wholesale. Then picking up a SEPTA train on Broad and rolling out to the end of the line, to the FU Center. Watching the kids watching the players’ parking lot to see which ridiculous whip AI climbed out of that night.
Eight years ago—Sunday the 21st, to be exact—the draw was Raptors at Sixers, Iverson v. Carter. The result: 90 points between them in an overtime classic. If you’re old enough, think hard to remember what must-see-TV that was; if you’re not, check the box score and know that we weren’t surprised by what we saw. (Well, except for Keon Clark. That sh*t pretty much came outta nowhere.
The game was amazing, but I have a much clearer memory of what happened the day before. Saturday, Jan. 20. Russ and I watched the inauguration at a well-known spot called The Khyber. We sat on bar stools and drank a not insignificant amount of beer and grumbled about what this smug, smiling f*cker meant for the country’s prospects for the next four (eight?!) years. The bar was nearly empty when we got there; we stuck around long enough that it was packed for a show that night by self-described noise-rockers Girls Against Boys. They were indeed noisy, though none of them were girls; thankfully, there were a few of those in the audience, who I vaguely remember Russ talking to. At the time, I was drunk and almost engaged, so I mostly just leaned on a wall and watched.
Eight years. We spent a lot more nights in Philly, one of which ended with Russ and I drinking in Mark Cuban’s suite at the Ritz. We bought way too many throwback jerseys and drank too much beer. We watched a lot of basketball. I reproduced. And the country got pretty substantially f*cked up.
Tomorrow, I will watch the inauguration sober and hopeful—hopeful for all the obvious, important reasons, and psyched over how cool it is to have a serious basketball player and fan in the Oval Office. (You’ve probably read plenty about Obama’s hoop jones, but there have been a few interesting pieces lately: In the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and this predictably compelling piece from SLAM favorite Alexander Wolff, a sidebar to a longer article in last week’s SI—oh, and Chuck Klosterman gets at Obama’s brother in law in a new Esquire piece that will make you glad you aren’t a Beaver. Lots to read!) I’m glad my favorite ballplayer stepped (slightly) out on a limb to rep the right candidate. The world is a bigger mess than usual, but I’m cautiously optimistic.
And I’m glad the last eight years are over.