THP #5: A Eulogy

January 8, 2019
Springfield College @ Babson College MBB
Wellesley, Massachusetts

The first time I ever walked into Staake Gymnasium was December 10, 2015. I was there to disappear.

Four days earlier my mentor, my boss, my friend Bruce had died. He was battling back from cancer and everything seemed to be going well until everything went wrong permanently.

I heard the news third-hand from a friend via a Facebook message. I sat across from my girlfriend of two months, now fiancee, rifling through tweet after tweet confirming it. I wept. She held me.

I never got to say a goodbye to Bruce. We would chat regularly about work and pro wrestling and the bullshit of life. Eighteen years my senior, Bruce was the kind of guy who made you feel at ease while also keeping you honest.

A mutual friend once invited me to join them for drinks. I declined. I don’t regret much in this world, but that’s one of them.

I admired the man and am grateful to have worked with and beside him over the last few years of his life. It was a life lived with no parachute. He once told me that he didn’t expect to see the age of 50. He said that he lived his life as he wanted and when the time came it would come.

I told him it was nonsense. He passed at 42.

Bruce was just a sports writer and so much more at the same time. He gave a shit. Whether you were an Olympian or some high school sophomore playing two minutes a night, Bruce cared.  It’s why his wake was attended by hundreds. He left a mark, and they came to pay respects.

Death leaves holes. People tell you that time heals them and that you move on. You never move on; you change direction. The emotional scar remains forever. You continue growing and expanding your world, and that scar stays with you the whole time.

I miss Bruce. I’d love to ask him so many things. I’d love to listen to him again. I’d love to sit in some hockey rink somewhere solving the problems of the world. I miss my friend.

It was in that emotional swirl that I first came to Babson to watch basketball.

Division III basketball is one of my happiest places. A place untainted by the mass corporatization of sports. A place where five dollars can get you into an NCAA tournament game. A place hidden in plain sight.

It’s a home for me. And considering where I was I wanted to feel home. The game did not disappoint.

I’ll never forget that night. I’ll never forget Bruce. Pain and hurt are side effects of love and respect, and I will gladly pay that price.

The Game

Follow Division III basketball enough and you’ll notice a trend: quality shooters. The level of shooting in Division III can match most D1 players at its height.The difference between top and bottom is greater than in Division I, but the quality is there.

When I think of D-III baksetball I think of Aaron Toomey (Amherst), Marcos Echevarria (Nichols) and Babson’s Joey Flannery, who graduated in 2017 with 2,620 points, two final fours, and a national title.

Enter Jake Ross. The 6’4 senior from Springfield College is averaging 27.4 points and 11 rebounds a game this season, and on this night it will be a tall task as he takes the #25-ranked Pride to play the #14-ranked Beavers. It’s a league game too. Both play in the NEWMAC (New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference).

Staake Gymnasium (pronounced STAH-key), is a small place. Banners hang about and a short running track loops the hardwood from the floor above. A few joggers log laps during the contest.

The game itself is a banger by any measure. Babson leads 40-39 at halftime thanks to 20 points from Andrew Jaworski. His 14.5 a game is a solid number but he was playing in a  different universe.He finished with 32

Ross had the quietest 10 points you’ll ever see.

The second half, though, was different. Springfield jumped to a quick lead and maintained it. Ross heated up.

The lead flipped nine times in the final 20 minutes.

Ross had two free throws late to put the Pride up four. And it was Ross who pulled down the rebound on a Crew Ainge three at the horn, that would have tied it, to seal the win.

Springfield 84, Babson 81. Final.

Admission Price: Free
Time of Game: 1:30

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