The Basketball Kid’s Official Results

June 21, 2008

A couple hours after I posted the photo of me suffering through my final moments in the 1983 Northfield Mount Hermon Pie Race, my mom sent me the following message in an email entitled “esp exists”:

“you won’t believe what I located, put into an envelope for you, and sent off this morning. [6/18] …BEFORE I read your day’s blog.”

And so, yesterday’s mail:


The clipping from the high school newspaper spent the early stages of its existence taped to a yellow cupboard in the kitchen of the house I grew up in. When that house was sold it went into a box, where it has remained for twenty years. It finally got jostled loose the morning I wrote about the Pie Race. As I was writing, my mom, preparing for another in a long series of moves, was going through her belongings, trying to lighten her load, when she found the clipping and put it in an envelope.     

I spent a disturbing amount of time yesterday scrutinizing the details of the list. It occured to me at some point that I may have underlined my own name, sarcastically, in 111th place. But it’s just as likely that my mom did it. She’s the one who saved the clipping, after all. A year and a half after the race she had to come and pick me up in front of my dorm before my senior year was over. Sometimes I take for granted that there are people in my life who will highlight my name in 111th place. There are people who cheer for me, who refuse to give up on me, who save things for me.  

I’d started crying when I called her to tell her I’d been expelled. I was in the office of the campus dean, a guy whose name happens to be the last full one listed in the excerpt of the clipping above. After the phone call I shook his hand, consciously trying to be a noble guy on my day of ruin. I wish I’d gone berserk instead, noting that he was cross-eyed, upending his desk, mocking him for coming in 49 places after me in the previous year’s Pie Race.

Many of the other names, 550 in all, in the 1983 Pie Race Results carry a similar weight, the list a personal litany of longing, anger, embarrassment, curdled joy, regret. I was 15 and 16 and 17 when I was a name among those names. I never was so excited, so terrified. I never had bigger crushes. I never was so frustrated and lonely, confused and overwhelmed. I never laughed so hard. I never had so many boners. I never got so high.


  1. 1.  1983 was also the year of my crowning athletic achievement, also as a 16-year-old distance runner. I participated in a 5K race called the Love Run. When each runner crossed the finish line, a race worker handed over a slip of paper with the place number written on it. I unfolded mine and, lo and behold, I had finished 69th in the Love Run. I turned to my buddy (who finished 70th) and said, “Hey, check it out, that’s better than winning!”

    Then we went and played some pickup basketball. Ah, youth. Nowadays when I run the occasional 5K, I celebrate with a sandwich and a 3-hour zonkout…

  2. 2.  You lost to Kafka?

  3. 3.  1 : Heh. Congrats on the perfect finish.

    2 : I always lose to Kafka. I also lost to future cross-country team stars (then JV standouts) Caines and Abel.

  4. 4.  1 Nice!

    I wonder if this is the same Berlew?

  5. 5.  4 : That link didn’t seem to work (it just sent me to the tinyurl site).

  6. 6.  5 Try this one…


  7. 7.  6 : Probably the same guy.

  8. I see the other titan of Wilson Hall finished in 134th place

  9. Eat my dust, Wagner. That’s what you get for playing pussy-ass varsity football while the real men were taking a “jogging” class helmed by a Russian lit professor.

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