by November 05, 2008

by Jake Appleman

Four years ago, I stood in line for seven and a half hours in Gambier, Ohio waiting to cast a vote in a Presidential election. My little college on top of a hill surrounded by cornfields became a national news story because it took many of us the equivalent of an entire work day to let our political voices be heard. It was my first experience voting. It was harrowing and it set a ridiculous precedent.

During my graduation a year and a half later, Senator John Kerry, the man most of us stood in line to support, started his commencement speech at Kenyon College by saying the following:

Class of 2006 — fellow survivors of November 2, 2004. I’m happy to be here at your beautiful school, which had my admiration long before that night when the country wondered whether I would win — and whether you would vote. Your Web site has a profile of a very smart math major in the class of 2006. Joe Neilson. He said that once, after a statistics course here, he realized “the probability of any event in our lives is about zero.” “I probably spent a week,” Joe said, “annoying my friends by saying: “What are the odds?” Well Joe, what were the odds that we’d be linked by those long hours – not that I keep track – 560 days ago? Like everyone that night, I admired the tenacity of Kenyon students. But what you did went far beyond tenacity.

What’s cool about that, other than the fact that the kid he referenced was my roommate for two years, is that our fight was acknowledged by the man we fought for. It was the second straight Presidential race fraught with doubt that lingered long past Election Day. What stung so much the following morning in ‘04—the only sunny funeral I’ve ever felt like I was a part of—was that we realized we couldn’t get what we so desperately wanted after truly sacrificing for the cause. The fact that it kind of seemed stolen only made the pain run deeper.

This time, I walked into a voting center and voted for Barack Obama in under a minute, knowing full well that most projections had him winning in a landslide. It was surreal. There was no line. Despite not getting anything back in the mail, I was on the roll. Walk in. Don’t stand in line. Pull a few levers. Walk out. It happened so fast and I felt so disoriented that I forced small talk with some older ladies, pointing to my purple (official color of Kenyon and, apparently, LRG) “I Survived Elections 2004” tee shirt. Voting? As easy as pie. Who woulda thunk it? I’ve had a tougher time eating a bagel.

As I listen to the jubilant chants echoing through my neighborhood, I’m still strangely sedated right now. I’m happy that the man I wanted to be President is going to be President, but I’m more keenly aware of how historic a night this is. It’s almost like I’m trying to flash forward fifty years in my mind to think about how I’ll tell my grandchildren about this. When you witness history, and you realize you’re witnessing history, it changes the experience. I guess this is because it isn’t history in the present tense.

As much as this night will have a tremendous impact on my life, there’s a part of me that is more interested in watching the immediate effect Obama’s victory has on others. I simply want to watch how happy this change makes the people around me, be they strangers, family, friends or the crying faces on television. I’ll have four–and hopefully eight–years, to cherish what I hope Barack Obama can accomplish. Right now, I just want to appreciate the giant step America took tonight.

Because this is a basketball website, we’ll move on to some day-old notes from a game I attended, the result of which mirrored the lopsided victory of America’s new President-Elect.



–I spend a good chunk of my pre-game time watching Bobby Brown play one on one against Kings assistant coach, Randy Brown. Why? I’m not sure. Even without playing offense, the Bulls’ former defensive specialist gets the better of the duel, jamming his elbow into his obscure, goateed counterpart on fadeaway attempts and doing his best to revive his once noted reputation as a ball-hawking pest. RB even has tattoos on his legs, which I’m pretty sure weren’t there back in his Chi-town days. This is mind-boggling. I wonder if this leg ink is a relatively new staple, something RB did to keep up with the crazy kids these days. Regardless, given what I saw from Bobby Brown, I hope RB plays defense next time out wearing his championship rings. Bling some sense into the fool that got his dunk-attempt sent back while trying to turn Marreese Speights into a poster during a blowout. It’s called a jump stop, Bobby.

–Shelden Williams and Kenny Thomas have a second-cousins thing going on and rookie Jason Thompson looks like Ryan Gomes, even though nobody told him until I did after the game.

–The incredibly poor turnout is understandable, I guess: it’s the Monday before the biggest day of the year, against a crappy team, with the town recovering from an Eagles’ Sunday and their punch-drunk hangover from the Phillies’ World Series victory still lingering. The 10,100 attendance figure published at the end of the night reinforces the reality that, today at least, few care about the Sixers.

First Quarter

–The Sixers try and establish Elton Brand, a wise move given his size and power advantages over Mikki Moore. On the first possession, Brand misses a high percentage baby-hook from the left block and gets to the line after penetration that followed a pick-and-pop with Andre Miller.

–Good, opportunistic second chance work by the Sixers (Iggy, EB, TY). It’s 9-6 after Brand splits a pair.

–There’s an entire Jason Thompson section here to the support local South Jersey (Rider Univ.) product. Literally, they comprise about 5% of the crowd—I did the math—and they’re all sitting together, so when they make noise, we all hear it.

–The Sixers open up a 21-12 lead behind Miller (nice look to Brand for a dunk) and Thaddeus Young, who shows off his improved jumper from the top of the key.

–Kevin Martin is impressive early, starting off 4-6 on a mix of jumpers and quick slashes to the basket. He makes a point stop the Philly run by getting to the line after being given a second chance, post-brick.

–Lou Williams crosses Bobby Jackson up badly and scores. Ooooh. The Sixers finish the quarter up 35-23, thanks to some bench-tastic-ness from Lou, Reggie Evans and Willie Green, each performing as a positive, pre-conceived stereotype of himself.

Second Quarter

–Jason Thompson is talking defense with the refs at the start of the quarter. He looks attentive and ready to learn. His jumper is nice and he’s active on the boards. His second jumper in a row cuts the lead to 40-27. His fan section goes predictably nuts when they win free hot dogs.

–Young Republican Spencer Hawes drills a three.

–Fun fact: Along with Randy Brown, Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Chuck Person are assistant coaches for the Kings. I bring this up because, while the Kings may suck, at least they’re the deepest team, one through eighteen, in the league.

–The Kings are just out and out sucking. Beno Udrih couldn’t guard me, and the bigs show no support off of the penetration he allows; they’re making dumb mistakes—turning the ball over after the Sixers miss bunnies; and they can’t keep the Sixers’ bigs off the boards. And if I’m reading Kevin Martin right, he’s pissed, either at his subpar supporting cast or his coach. Speaking of Martin, he’s a wonderful scorer, but surrounded with such an uninspiring cast of characters, the offense seems way too predictable, even when Kings score. When Martin gets his, it seems out of necessity, same for John Salmons. There’s very little continuity, in-the-moment spontaneity, and a whole lot of ISO-metrics, for lack of better phrasing. (I combined this note from two rants I scribbled down, one in the second quarter and one in the third quarter.)

–Thaddeus Young is really good. He helps the Sixers open up a 59-42 lead, wetting jumpers and gliding through the lane unimpeded for a fast-break lay-up.

–A blindingly quick five point sequence from Lou Williams—a sparkling drive followed by a canned three off of a Speights steal—puts the Sixers up 20 at the break.

–The Kings finish the first half with one offensive rebound.

Third Quarter

–I get it, the Kings are young team without their starting Center (Brad Miller), finishing off a tough four game road trip to start the season against probably the best team they’ve faced all season. Still, take some pride in your job and play some defense. This isn’t a back-to-back. I don’t want to hear or watch this, “Disney on Ice rented out Arco and we just want to go home” BS. For the love of defense, rotate on a jumpshooter!

Fourth Quarter

–Kareem Rush and Donyell Marshall come off of screens and vote for Barack Obama. They also nail 6-7 treys to push the lead to forty, mostly because they want the game to mirror the election.

Stay tuned for forthcoming Michael Tillery interviews.

But really, until then, BARACK OBAMA!

We have a baller for a leader. Pinch me.