THP #27: The Unicorn

January 2, 2022 – Waterbury, Connecticut
Post University vs. Holy Family University
Men’s Basketball

Sports are the ultimate communal experience.

Games big and small are held in front of crowds, sometimes numbered by the dozen and sometimes by the hundreds of thousands. All operate as unscripted theatrical performances for those in attendance.

And through this project I’ve learned to love these games by myself. I find a great joy in being alone among the crowd. I feel the energy vibrate in my bones, and I dictate everything about my own experience.

There is no friend who showed up late or wanting to leave early. Someone’s being a buffoon near me? I can quietly get up and move someplace else.

I love the nameless friendships I make along the way. Just two people passing through a point in time experiencing it together and moving along on their own path. I’m not myopic about personal friendships, and I hold those close me as close as possible.

I just love being able to not have any requirements. There’s no bullshit icebreaker or forced conversation like at a work mixer or the first day of school. We’re both there for basketball. Nothing more. It’s freeingly honest.

It’s the main reason why I’ve only been joined on four of these stops. My dad came to Bowdoin, my brother to UMass, my friend Paul to URI, and my friend Clayton to Middlebury.

There’s a few more people I want to come along to a stop or two, but I enjoy walking alone. We’re told from a young age the importance of going out and doing things with our friends, and it’s damn important to be social and create stories with other people.

But the kid at school eating by himself is a loser. And people feel ashamed about going solo to a movie. Why? As I’ve gotten older I’ve realized it takes a ton of confidence to go it alone for an afternoon out and about.

And I enjoy running the day myself. I research where I want to go, figure out my timeline, and just go do it. Over the last few months I’ve realized that a lot of my anxieties stem from mentally going to the most catastrophic result for a situation I can’t control. Running the day lets me enjoy the process of making this blog and gives me a respite from the V10 engine that can be the anxiety in my head.

This project has been peaceful from day one and through the pandemic for me. And there’s plenty left to do.

Now, here’s your moment with Bella.

The Good Eats

I try to eat at a place in the city or town where the school is located, but located just eight miles away from Post, in the town of Woodbury, was Dottie’s Diner. Ranked as one of the top 15 diners in New England, it was a no-brainer to take the short drive west and get a meal.

Opened in 2006 with a retro 50’s theme, Dottie’s nails the diner aesthetic bang on.

The bright teal booths and checkerboard tile bring an energy to the room that a more staid palette wouldn’t.

It was breakfast so I kept it simple, the two egg combo with home fries, multigrain, and bacon. And I always add a single chocolate chip pancake at the diner.

It was damn good and well-portioned. When I ask for two eggs I want two eggs, not two big ladles of eggs to make a scramble the size of a football. The eggs were almost dry but still moist, how I like them, and the toast and home fries were crisp.

The bacon was from a nearby farm and was damn fine, and that pancake was perfect. A place will always have my heart when they garnish a chocolate chip pancake with more chocolate chips.

And on the way out I bought four donuts, two chocolate dipped and two vanilla dip for my wife and I to split. The donuts were ranked in the top 25 in the country so I had to try them.

What an awesome donut. It’s a simple food. Light, airy fried dough with a rich frosting on top. I’ve had a whole lot of mediocre donuts in my day (thanks Dunkin) and not many good ones. You can tell why this is a top donut in the country. And for $1.25 a piece I felt like a thief. 10/10, will donut again.

A quick aside about the humble spoon. I love the spoon. It is, in my opinion the most versatile piece of cutlery. I love using it to scoop my eggs and my homefries up with a little ketchup. And yet, I almost always need to ask for the spoon. It’s rarely provided at the table.

The spoon deserves better and far more admiration than it gets. The spoon is capable of more than just for scooping ice cream and soup. I use it for my eggs and when I eat fish and for stews when the meat is so soft it can glide right through. Love the spoon. It’s earned it.

The City

If asked to name the 12 most populated cities in New England no one would blame you for missing Waterbury. Even with a population of 114,000 it flies under the radar.

Waterbury Green

Located 30 miles southwest of Hartford down Route 84, Waterbury has a long rich history but has seen time pass it by in a lot of ways. Known as the Brass City for its manufacturing heritage when it was one of the nation’s biggest producers of brass and clocks, there’s a whole lot of empty storefronts and boarded buildings in town.

Palace Theater, downtown Waterbury

And even against the backdrop of a wet and gray Connecticut weekend, the city’s character still shown through. There was the Union Station clock tower. Beckoning across the city at 240 feet tall, the tower cuts a striking figure in the sky just as it did when it was built in 1909.

The 14th-tallest clock tower in the country, and the 52nd-tallest in the world, it is impossible to miss. It is currently home to the city’s newspaper, the Republican-American.

 

 

 

At the end of the town green sits the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. A beautiful stone building nearly a century old, the basilica can hold 1,500 parishioners.

Just down the street from the basilica was the Mattatuck Museum. Dedicated to artists from Connecticut and the history of the Nutmeg State, it was a chance to have a unique museum experience.

I started on the top floor at the button museum. Yes, a button museum. It had tens of thousands of buttons, made in Waterbury during its heyday as a brass and metal manufacturing hub.

It’s buttons of all types and constructions. Buttons that were displayed at World Expos many moons ago. Buttons for clothes. Buttons for decor. It is a room covered wall-to-wall in buttons.

The second floor was the art museum and featured a little of everything. Janet Maya’s Women/Strength/Beauty was beautiful, and the large gallery featured art across genres including a brilliantly surreal piece by Waterbury native George Marinko.

She, Her, Hers, Aura by Janet Maya
Hypothetical Gallipot by George Marinko

I like art that can stop me. I’ve seen plenty of portraits and plenty of landscapes. It doesn’t matter if the artist is world-renowned or local, they all eventually run together for me. Bright colors. Sharp lines. A piece that tells a story. That’s what I want.

Meant to evoke memories of Sunday dances at the Savoy in Harlem, Faith Ringgold’s Groovin High is kinetic, brilliant, full of things to see.

Groovin’ High by Faith Ringgold

And lastly, there was a special exhibition featuring the muses and work of Norman Rockwell that featured the only photograph credited to him. It was as Rockwellian a piece as I had ever seen.

Done on commission from Eastman Kodak in 1957, the piece was shot at a cottage in the small Long Island hamlet of Quogue from a camera mounted atop a station wagon.

In typical Rockwell fashion, the image is brightly colored and heavy on narrative, in this case, multiple narratives.

Closing Up a Summer Cottage by Norman Rockwell (Art Director)

It was a lovely art museum, and if I had more time I’m sure I would have loved the history portion as well. An excellent museum that is worth a stop if you’re riding through central Connecticut.

And on the way out there was a legitimate one-horse open sleigh. I promise, this will not be the last time Jingle Bells appears during The Hoops Project.

The Campus

Post University is the unicorn of New England college basketball because it is the lone for-profit university that has NCAA athletics in the region.

Founded in 1890 as the Matoon Shorthand School, it became Post College in 1931 and changed to a university in 2004. However, in between that, it was known as  Teikyo Post University in the 90s due to the school’s affiliation with Tokyo’s Teikyo University.

It moved to its current location in 1965.

Torrance Hall, home to admissions and the president’s office

However, on this Sunday it was too quiet. Yes, it was holiday break and it was still pandemic season but it was frighteningly quiet. There were five cars on the main part of campus and three people, including myself.

Add to that, all the buildings except for Torrance felt sterile and forboding.

Some of the dormitories
Post University Tree, a common gathering spot. Added to list of Connecticut’s Noble Trees in 2014.

Even in broad daylight I felt like I had to tiptoe around lest I woke something up. Seeing two people working out on the football field was startling because everything was so still and quiet. I’ve never been on a campus so silent that it bordered on spooky, but that’s what it was on this afternoon.

The Game

A short drive down the hill from the main campus was the Drubner Center, known as The Drub. Despite having the look of a strip mall daycare center, the Drub is the beating heart of Eagle sports.

Main lobby at Drubner

Now, I’d thought I’d long ago found the smallest gym in New England, but Drubner may take that title. With just five rows of seats and four feet between the baseline and the wall, it is as cramped as can be and made for a great place to watch a game.

The free admission certainly helped too.

Before the game I pulled out a chocolate chip cookie I purchased on an impulse as I walked out the door of Dottie’s. Gooey, toothsome, and crunchy on the edges it was my new #1 chocolate chip cookie in New England. Best way to prep for a game.

Part of the Central Athltetic Collegiate Conference, Post is one of two Division II schools in New England to not be in the Northeast-10. It’s the eastern outpost of an all-private league full of mostly religious schools in the Mid-Atlantic. On this day the Eagles welcomed Holy Family in from Philadelphia.

And early on it was a fun one as the teams traded buckets. Seven minutes into the game Post held a slim 14-11 lead. But then Post turned up the wick on both sides of the ball.

The Eagles found ways to open up the Tigers inside and out. By the midway point of the half Post had opened up a nine-point lead.

Post put the game away on the back of a ridiculous press defense that Holy Family simply didn’t adjust to as well as the shooting of junior guard Tyler Small.

After being held to just three points in the first nine minutes, Small finished the first half with 17 and would end the game with an insane career-high of 29 points on 59% shooting as well as 7-11 from three.

As for that defense, take a look for yourself. Small pokes the steal and sends Devonte McCall in for the highlight.

Post led 50-29 at halftime, and the game was well and truly over even before the intermission.

In the second half the Eagles kept pouring it on and the Tigers kept not adjusting.

Led by Small, Post finished with four players in double figures. McCall had 14 points in just 18 minutes of play, David Jasson had 18, and Abdul-Basit Ajia had a double-double with 10 points and 11 boards.

And the Eagles outrebounded the Tigers 56-29 to boot. It was as thorough a domination as I’ve seen in three seasons of this project.

I’ll let Tyler Small play us out.

Post 93, Holy Family 55. Final.
Player of the Game: Tyler Small (Post) – 29 pts, 4 rbd, 3 ast, 3 stl
Time of game: 1:32:44

After a month of adjusting to being a dog owner it felt real nice to get back in the saddle and be back in a gym. While Division III basketball is my spiritual home, I do enjoy the speed of a good Division II game. It’s just a shame that there aren’t many D2 options in New England.

I don’t think I’ll be back down at Post much, but I loved being there to take this little snapshot and tell its story. Not every game is going to be a classic, but every stop is a moment that I’m grateful to document. Thanks for reading.

And with that, here’s one for the road:

 

 

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