It has been great fun the last few days to catch up with old friends from my years at Duke, many of whom I had not seen in 40 years. Thanks to “Niner” McNeill and George Grody for making it happen. The gathering was from a living group that spanned about 6 years, so all of us are in the age 60 range, give or take 2 or 3 years. The group has aged pretty well. When I have gone to similar gatherings of other groups I always walk away wondering “when did all those other guys get so old?” Not so this bunch. Doing pretty, pretty, pretty good, I must say.
However, this gathering added further evidence for the theory I’ve developed, to wit, that your personality at age 18 to 20 is pretty much set in stone for the rest of your life. I ran across no exceptions to the theory this weekend, which is actually kind of comforting. It’s nice to know that those chosen as friends 40+ years ago are still worthy of the designation today.
A gatherin’ o’ the auld clan such as this can help to fill in some holes in the old memory: one person will remember one name, another recalls that event otherwise long forgotten. Just recalling the origins of the nicknames gives a warm and fuzzy. Rest assured there was warmth and fuzziness aplenty when surrounded by the likes of Jupe, Jock, Niner, Robes, The Dim, Bup, Floater, Uncle Dirty, The Bert, and Fizzy. And we remembered fondly old comrades in absentia like Z-hole, Z prime, Scurvy, Fast, Fife, Stein, Mole, Wee Paddy, Road Rat and the late Wheels and the late Goat.
Some memories are so strong they require the briefest reference to rekindle a strong flame. Case in point: Fizzy and the road game vs the Tarholes in 1974. In our dorm there was a small TV room on the third floor: a couch, some chairs, a TV. Maybe 15 guys could cram in there to watch a game. Well, Duke was at Carolina on this day, this fateful day, so none of us were at the game. Duke had a crap team, Carolina had a very good one. But no sports cliché has more substance than “throw out the record book” when it comes to Duke and Carolina. Duke played very well and in fact had a lead of 8 points with 17 seconds left in the game. That’s when Fizzy, ever the sage, lying on the floor in front of the tube, made his pronouncement for the ages: “well, this game is in the bag.” Within 2 seconds the Fizz was flogged and flailed and generally scourged with every item that came to hand: couch pillows, popcorn, empty beer cans. The wiser souls in the room (i.e., everyone else but the Fizz) knew you can take nothing for granted in a Duke-Carolina game. Cries of “Jinx” and “Damn you, Fizz!” resounded throughout the TV timeout. Unfortunately, the ever-optimistic Fizzy was not vindicated that day, as turnovers, clanked free throws and blown layups by Duke led to a Carolina victory in overtime. Arguably it was the greatest collapse in the history of college basketball (although Maryland, still suffering from jaywilliamsitis, may have their own nomination to that claim)
So fast forward 42 years. As we were sitting at the Duke football game last night, enjoying a 49-0 lead in the second half, Fizzy comes over and announces that it’s time for his exit from the festivities. I asked if he didn’t want to stay until the end of our glorious victory. With a twinkle in his eye he says “oh, this one really is in the bag”. I laughed and promised that we weren’t going to throw pillows at him. It’s always satisfying when good friends and good memories trump Old Man Time. (Although Fizz, for the record, we lost the second half 6-0).