Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Tad Pad Takedown

One surefire way to limit readership is to bloviate at length about one's sports team.

It's a padlock guarantee to glaze the eyes of even the thirstiest reader.

The Colonel knows this.

But he ain't smart and you can't make him.

Besides, the readership of this blog would have to be measured in negative integers if it were to get any smaller.

Thanks, Mom, for hanging in there.

Yesterday afternoon, the Colonel attended an Ole Miss Rebels basketball game.  He last attended a Rebel basketball game over 40 years ago.

Let's be clear right up front.  The Colonel loathes the game of basketball.  At five - six and three quarters (and, never forget the three quarters) he never saw much future in pursuit of the sport. 

The Colonel loves football.  His diminutive stature never seemed to be the bar to playing football that he allowed it to be with Naismith's invention.  The Colonel's football instincts were far too ingrained in his sports psyche long before he ever tried to play basketball -- in his short roundball career, he once fouled out without ever leaving the bench.

The Colonel would rather watch purple and gold paint dry while suspended by his thumbs from hooks in the ceiling, than to watch an entire basketball game.  

The Colonel's number two son, who inexplicably excels at the game, reminded the Colonel a couple of weeks ago that yesterday's basketball game was going to be significant well beyond the importance of the non-conference match-up with a team whose RPI (the Colonel doesn't know what that is, but it adds a little basketballism to this treatise, does it not?) would matter less to the post-season tournament hopes of the Rebel roundballers (more gratuitous sport slang for authenticity sake) than the color of their socks. 

The game against Troy would be the last ever played in the Tad Pad.

C. M. "Tad" Smith Coliseum, named for a Rebel sports great from early in the last century, was built 50 years ago.  It's round, domed profile mimicked that of more well-known sports domes of the era.  A Rebel frat rat, fueled by a flask of Rebel Yell, could squint through his swimming double vision as he stumbled across the parking lot of the Tad Pad and imagine that he was about to attend a game, or a concert, in the Super Dome.  

With respects to the architects and builders of the edifice in question, the Tad Pad was -- and the Colonel is searching for the most delicate language possible -- a dump.

The Colonel apologizes to any dumps he may have just slandered.

The Tad Pad was supposed to be a multi-use arena, and it was.  

Kinda. 

In the old analog days, students filed into the coliseum to line up at tables in hopes of finding a seat in a too-quickly filled class for the next semester.  The pain of this contributed, in no small way, to the Colonel's antipathy for the building.

For the last two years of his matriculation at the Harvard of the South (by reciprocal agreement, Harvard is allowed to call itself the Ole Miss of the North), the Tad Pad was the second thing he saw every morning on his way to class.  The first was the sight of the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda -- the Colonel and his bride lived in an efficiency apartment in married student housing across the street for the even then crumbling coliseum.

The Tad Pad is finally being replaced.  Next to Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, a beautiful new multi-use arena is set to open for business next month.  The Pavilion at Ole Miss (to be renamed in honor of the next rich Ole Miss alum to shell out several million for the honor) will vault Ole Miss basketball into regions of recognition the team's play could never reach on its own.

So, the Colonel felt honor-bound to participate in the send-off of the venerable venue.  He joined several thousand likewise lured to the otherwise avoidable game by one dollar general admission tickets.  

The crowd, aged from 90 to 9 months, was missing a critical component.  Weren't many students in attendance -- they are home for the holidays.  

Nevertheless, the home crowd managed a modicum of meaningful, it not necessarily raucous, support for the Rebel B-ballers as they took to the Tad Pad court for the last time.

Did the Colonel mention that his consideration of the game of basketball ranks in the range of his appreciation for root canal surgery?

Near the end of the second period, Number Two noticed the Colonel's uneasiness and leaned over to reassure him.

"Don't worry, Dad.  It will be over soon."

He lied.  

Must get that from his mother.

In typical Ole Miss fashion, in the waning minutes of the game, the Rebels surrendered a 10 point lead to a team they should have dominated by twice that.  At the buzzer, the score was tied.

If the Colonel believed in mythological sports gods, he would have been convinced that the basketball gods were high-fiving and pointing gleefully at the look of absolute horror on his face.

The Colonel, who would rather play touch football with a pack of porcupines than watch thirty seconds of basketball, was in his own personal version of sports hell.  Overtime at a basketball game. 

Then, the unimaginable happened.

The Colonel found himself on his feet.

The Colonel heard his own voice screaming appreciation for the sweet swish of ball through net.

Filing out of the Tad Pad, the Colonel heard himself ask,

"Hey, when's the first game in the new Pavilion?"

Well..., the Colonel needs to be there for history's sake, doesn't he?                                     
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