Thursday, October 22, 2009

Fan Appreciation Week Story (3rd Place)

The following is what I perceived to be the third best benchwarming story that was submitted for Fan Appreciation Week. If you don’t like it, don’t worry because there’s a better one coming tomorrow. If you do like it, be excited that there’s an even better one coming tomorrow. Either way, here’s a look into Kevin Hopkins' life as a benchwarmer.
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My high school athletics career can be viewed in one of two ways:
  1. The College Portfolio Version: Three-sport athlete, Captain of 2001-2002 Football & Basketball teams, exemplary leader and winner of "Class Clown" and "Best Eyes" Senior Superlatives(which may or may not remain on current Employment Resume).
  2. The Truth: At a 375 student school predominantly known for soccer, I was one of the 12 kids per class that preferred to toss the pigskin around and was one of the 3 seniors left on the basketball team after four seasons. Led the Varsity Football team at quarterback for three seasons with an overall record of 3-27(winless as a junior) as starter, racking up a Favre-esque number of records in the state of New Jersey for Most Sacks Taken, Interceptions, Attempted Tackles After Interceptions(ATAI), Pick-Sixes(as Simmons would call them, TAINTS), and Ambulance Appearances On The Field Madden '92 Style(unfortunately, true story). Since we actually had a good basketball team and I was Captain because I was a senior, I took it upon myself to lead both on the court and in the locker room with the following duties:
  • Clap Sequences during practice - My go-to would be the beginning to "The Car Wash", naturally.
  • Pregame Prayer - Now, for most games, this was a basic Hail Mary/Our Father combo, but on two separate occasions ('02 County Semi's and States), I pulled The Ultimate: "...and David put his hand in the bag and took out a stone and slung it...and it struck the Phillistine in the head...and he fell to the ground....Amen." Needless to say, Goliath kicked our ass both times. Those guys were pretty effin' good.
  • Pregame Warm-Up Music - Undoubtedly the most important of my duties, I realized the magnitude of the job. Most games, we would come out to standard classics like "Thunderstruck" (drinking game included!) and "Baba O'Riley" (CSI:NY still photo included!), but on games that I took lightly, I let my Napster Shuffle Playlist decide, which resulted in three songs on three separate occasions which I distinctly recall: "Stand By Me" by Ben E. King that I decided we all had to hum the bassline to, "Superstar" by the Carpenters ("I can live with it if you can"), and the straw that broke the camel's back (in this case, Coach Sponz's back), "Circle of Life" from the Lion King. I was suspended 5 games from Warm-Up Music Duty for that one and we had to come out to the Michael Buffer "Let's Get Ready to Rumbleeeeeeeee" Intro to Jock Jams. Ugh.
  • After the National Anthem was sung, I was in charge of handshake/chestbump duties during the announcement of starting line-ups and then became the Drew Brees/Under Armour Guy while we all got in the big group huddle.
  • Last but not least, I was the unquestioned King of Bench Jokes. My main move would be the water-bottle-squirt-on-the-crotch-of-the-guy-next-to-me-right-before-he-subbed-in-the-game move, but I also borrowed a buck from the trainer at the end of the bench one time and successfully purchased a hot dog and ate it on the bench without Coach Sponz noticing in the middle of the game. Also a true story.
As you may or may not have noticed by now, most of the above duties had nothing to do with actually contributing ON the court...but that wasn't always the case, my friends. Let's push the rewind button to the Spring of '99, shall we?


THE PLAY.


Having shot up about 7 inches between my freshman and sophomore years and making no special attempts at anything resembling a "gym routine", I was an awkward 6'3, 150 pounds, with no recognizable definition between the portion of arm between my shoulder-to-elbow region than from my elbow-to-wrist region. Basically, I was a Simpsons character, most closely resembling Jimbo Jones, without the awesome hair and skull-cap. That being said, I was decent at basketball, priding myself on the corner 3 and developing an up-and-under move from the block that was nearly unstoppable. Think Bruce Bowen Meets Kevin McHale. Now imagine he's white. Oh, McHale is White? Whatever. McConaughey NAILED that.

In a shocking move, I was called up to sit on the Varsity team my sophomore year for the final half of the season and grew accustomed to sitting next to the trainer and filling up water bottles after timeouts. At this point, I had developed a a small cult following amongst friends in the stands that would start "Put Hopkins In!" chants at the very hint of a blowout in either direction. With two games left in the regular season, I had the crew prepare themselves for the Butler game, the only one we might be able to win by 60...and prepared they were, with "We Want Hopkins" t-shirts and posterboards. Up by 30 by the start of the 4th quarter, I actually was a little nervous. The chants grew louder and started to seem like it might actually happen. Sponz looked a couple times, but turned away at immediate eye-contact. With 4 minutes left, everyone on the team had played except for me and we were up by 38. My friends were relentless and it was nearing "Rudy" levels in the stands, I think the kids on the Butler Bulldogs bench even started to chime in. I finally got the nod with about 3:30 left. It was my time, and all my boys on the bench and the seven 16 year-olds in the stands erupted while everyone else looked on in confusion.

Upon checking in, I did the nervous "I'm-just-gonna-pass-it-and-not-make-any-mistakes" maneuver on the first 2 touches and then it happened...the ball went out of bounds under our basket. I looked at my fellow teammates on the court and knew immediately that I was far superior at inbounding over all of them, if only for my unparalleled ability to yell 'break!' and slap the ball at the same time. I looked at Sponz. He nodded. "Inside!" I yelled to everyone. And then the defining moment of my athletic life occurred.

I passed the ball in to the left corner who then swung it up to the wing. The player I passed it to came down on the block and set a screen which I used to pop out to the Bowen Corner where I got the pass behind the three-point line with 5 steps of space in front of me. It was slow motion, I tell you. I caught it and set myself. I could feel the movement of my teammates behind me on the bench starting to stand and what looked like cameras starting to flash in the stands. The ball was in the air for what felt like an eternity as I held my follow through and started doing the fall/hop towards center court until I heard the splash.

I DRAINED IT. It didn't even think about not going in. And I knew it from the release. Like any classy athlete, I did what my parents always taught me to do and "acted like I've been there before," right???

Wrong. I went NUTS. And so did the gym.

Oh, what's that? You want a diagram??


My reaction could be described as somewhere between Shaq's alley-oop from Kobe to beat the Blazers in Game 7 in 2000 and Maximus's(Maximi?) "ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?!?" reaction after slaying the tigers and chariots.



Timeout was called immediately by Coach Sponz, for what I thought was out of respect for the moment, similar to how you'd call timeout to take the seniors out of a game or something. I was now at the other end of the court high-fiving and pointing to the stands. As I walked back to our bench, I was greeted at half-court with a harsh pinch around the shoulder by Sponz and a brisk walk back to the huddle where he said the following:

Sponz: Kevin, we're up by 41 effing points. Show some sportsmanship and class. And go sit back down.

I didn't play again that season, but took pride in the fact that for nearly 9 full months, I held the NJ State Record for Shooting % in a single season, minimum of one shot taken. And they can never take that from me, even if I finished shooting at a 27% career clip.

I never thought I'd want to be compared to an autistic team-assistant, but the parallels were all too similar to avoid it. I was J-MAC before J-MAC was J-MAC.


Now where's my effing ESPY??
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Your awesome YouTube was sent in to me by Roy H. This video was funny to me because it shows that Michael Jordan was both the best player in the world and that guy at the local rec who takes the games just a little bit too seriously. Anyway, there’s your shout-out, Roy. And here’s your video.




Your Friend and My Favorite,

Mark Titus

Club Trillion Founder