November 13, 2022 – Rindge, New Hampshire
Franklin Pierce vs Jefferson
I had never met Scott before we sat down together for lunch on this cold, dreary Sunday. Never seen him. Never heard his voice. Nothing.
We met in the comments section of Defector.com, an oasis of joy on an internet of thundering skies. We went back and forth in a comment thread and decided to meet for lunch and hoops on a Sunday afternoon.
We had a blast. The lunch was in a neat spot and the basketball was great especially in such a small, spartan gym.
I fight hard to maintain my friendships and try to grow new ones. I’m 31. I got a daughter on the way. For many in my position the concrete has set and cured when it comes to finding friends. Sure, there will be some folks that pass through as our daughter gets older but those can be fleeting and hinge a lot on the path our daughter blazes for herself.
I also read about the endless trail of lonely men who feel friendless once they graduate from college and people go their own ways. It’s why I’m so adament about making myself available to people to hopefully find a connection.
It was the reason why I was so excited to meet up with a guy I knew nothing about for basketball. We’re both college basketball people. What’s the worst that happens? He’s a bit dull, we have a fine afternoon, and then we pleasantly go our separate ways.
Instead he was a fascinating dude. A lover of the arts, he played D1 soccer and spent years working for a club in the top flight of Scottish football . He knows German and is close with his two siblings, both in spirit and in geography. His sister was a record-breaking volleyball star at a local D3.
We traded stories of games and museums we’d passed through on our travels. We both bitched about the uncaring wooden bleachers of the gym that made us watch the last 20 minutes of basketball standing in the entryway. We talked about the weird way we’d met through the comments section a sports/culture website.
Connecting with someone new is one of the best feelings. I remember when I felt a connection with my now wife. I remember when I felt the first bond of friendship with the people I invited to our wedding. It’s such a fulfillig feeling and it deserves more appreciation because as we get older it happens fewer and fewer times.
My little Claire might be able to make a friend in school because they both wore blue socks one day, but so many societal and institutional systems make that harder as we get older.
But at least for one rainy afternoon in southwest New Hampshire, I got to make a friend thanks to nothing more than college basketball and wanting to try something new.
Before heading off to Rindge, take a break and enjoy a moment with Bella.
Rindge is small in all the ways that small towns in New England are small. Its population is around 6,500. There’s no high school in town.
The most southeast town of New Hampshire’s most southwest county borders such charmingly named towns as Fitzwilliam and New Ipswich in the Granite State and Ashburnham & Winchendon in the Commonwealth.
But sitting on Rindge common, on Old US 202, sits the Second Rindge Meeting House. It’s a staple of many small towns in New England to have the colonial-era meetinghouse be the prominent building on the town common. It’s no different here.
What makes this noteworthy is how un-American the building is. Now that’s certainly a controversial line and it’s true because inside its walls there’s no separation of church and state.
The meetinghouse is home to the Rindge town offices and also a congregtation of the United Church of Christ. Built in 1796 it handled all the duties it does today, but when the state mandated the separation of church and state the folks in charge of the meetinghouse came to a unique decision.
The building would be owned by the town and the church would lease the space it desired. And 202 years later the agreement endures, and the church runs services in a small, cozy room on the second floor.
The meetinghouse was added to the National Registry of Historic Places in 1979.
The Good Eats
I met Scott about a mile from campus at the Hometown Diner. This could not have looked more the part. If you called Movie Props R Us and asked for a diner set they might just tell you to come here.
Inside it was the good kind of cramped. It was cramped with everyone excited for their eggs and burgers and pancakes.
I went with a classic: a veggie omelet with home fries and wheat. Now the omelet was one of the best I’d ever had. I’m a stickler for balanced portions. Don’t give me a five-egg omelet with a half pound of veggies in it. Have it make sense. And it was done perfectly.
The home fries though? Mid. Just fine. The toast was grilled, which was good, but was soggy and soft, which was not good.
Overall though, it’s a good diner. Scott liked his burger and there’s plenty on the menu that will satisfy.
Franklin Pierce University
By New England standards, Rindge is pretty remote. It’s 50 minutes from Worcester, 70 from Manchester, and 90 from Springfield. Keene is the closest city and that’s still a 30-minute drive. It’s just a small town on route 202 on the state border. It does have a Wal-Mart though.
The campus, like the town, is quite small. The university enrolls around 1,800 undergrads today as well as just over 600 post-graduate students as well.
The school was founded in 1962 as a college and was named for the 14th president of the United States, the only one to come from New Hampshire. It became a full-fledged university in 2007.
A quirk of campus life is the Franklin Pierce Fire Company. The FPFC is one of the only fully student-run fire companies in the world. It has four student fire officers and works in conjunction with the Rindge Fire Department. It handles every fire-related emergency on the 1,200-acre campus.
Architecturally, the campus is a mishmash of styles of building materials with a few odd little bits on the grounds as well.
Athletically, Franklin Pierce shines bright in two sports: soccer and basketball. Women’s soccer won five D2 national championships between 1994-1999, and the men’s team won the title in 2007. Both have won countless Northeast-10 titles and played in dozens of NCAA tournaments.
And the Ravens have found success on the hardwood with both the men’s and women’s teams having made Elite Eights in the past. Last season the men’s team made the Northeast-10 championship game.
Their home gym is simply called The Fieldhouse and it’s, well, a fieldhouse.
In the entryway, there are trophy cases for past successes and there’s a hall of fame room that doubles as a conference room. The lobby is, well it’s there.
The actual arena was either jarringly tiny or lovingly homey depending on your perspective. Regardless, the one side of bleachers sat maybe 800 or so people.
The gym had, without question, the strangest video board I’d ever seen. It was on the front of the scorer’s table and just cycled through a hand full of graphics and promotional ads for the school.
I took one photo of the board, and it encapsulated how wonderful and weird it was.
The game was the back end of a doubleheader. Holy Family defeated AIC 63-60 in an excellent game, and the cross-conference battle between Franklin Pierce and Jefferson started off the same.
It was a staring contest throughout the first half. With a few brief exceptions, neither team was able to get ahead by more than three.
The Rams fed big man Antonin Kemkeng, and the Frenchman ate.
And while Jefferson pounded the paint, the Ravens glided across the floor.
This three from Eric Timko put Jefferson up three with less than two minutes to play in the half.
But it would be the Ravens that would go into halftime with the 31-30 lead thanks to four straight points to end the half from Antonio Chandler including this pair that beat the horn.
And the staring contest continued into the second half as neither team could figure out the other enough to put together a big run.
But then about five minutes into the half cracks began to show for the Rams. And the duo chiseling away was the sophomore backcourt duo of Mohamed Traore and Jarnel Snow-Guzman.
Just like that it was a 48-39 game with 14 minutes to go. Of course, Jefferson would not go quietly into the cold New Hampshire night. Ahmed Barba-Bey hit a long two as the shot clock expired to pull the Rams back to within four.
The game fell into a new rhythm with the Ravens pulling out leads of seven or eight points and the Rams finding ways to get it back down to four. Jefferson couldn’t turn the corner, but the pressure was on.
That was until the bottom fell out and the Ravens pecked a hole in their face.
Snow-Guzman hits a long two to make it an eight-point game.
A Sean Bresnan putback extends the lead to 10.
Snow-Guzman and Sean Trumper run a nifty play that ends with the Brit finishing at the cup. Lead now 12.
And it just kept going. Franklin Pierce had cracked the game and were just having fun on the court. The lead kept growing, and the defense completely shut off the Rams. Jefferson had five points in the last 8:56.
Mo had the last word on this one.
Franklin Pierce 81, Jefferson 60. Final.
Time Of Game: 1:40:54
Player Of The Game: Jarnel Snow-Guzman (FPU) – 17 points, 6-9 shooting, 4 assists
I don’t know what the meaning of life is, although I don’t think there is an intrinsic one. I do what gives my meaning life, and that’s making stories. They don’t need to be pen to paper, but making stories is what makes us who we are, and those tales act as the glue that binds us to ourselves.
This cold Sunday was a story. I met a new person who I now call friend. I went someplace new and returned with memories and stories of good basketball and average toast and a place called Pizza With Attitude that I drove past on the way in. What even is pizza with attitude? Does the cashier kick you in the face after ordering?
Stories are humanity. I’m happy I get to make some here.
Thanks for reading. Here’s one for the road…