It was a tenure unmatched by any in sports, a longevity that made Cal Ripken feel silly.
40 million years.
And there it lay, shattered into countless pieces on my floor.
Only seconds earlier it was intact, as it had been for the absurd aforementioned time period. It had been secure, preserved and impregnable.
The Gators basketball season, on the other hand, was jeopardized, exposed and crumbling.
Who knew the status of each would soon be entirely reversed? Perhaps but a mere one person, perhaps only Dan Werner.
Allow me to rewind, not 40 million years, but circa January 3, 2010.
I sat on my “lucky couch”, while my friend Matt sat on the adjoining one. We stared stoically at the television, and its bleak portrayal of the Gator basketball season. My wife and newborn son lay sleeping in a nearby room.
I had already been warned several times to “turn down the volume”, “stop yelling” and “quit with the cursing”.
I sunk lower into my faded leather seat after NC State successfully inbounded the ball and accepted a seemingly meaningless Erving Walker foul. There was just over two seconds left on the game clock.
My beloved reptiles were surely set for extinction, and their postseason hopes were endangered by this potential non-conference loss.
Matt pulled himself from the couch, silently shook his head and stood waiting for the inevitable horn to sound our demise. His posture was angled toward the door and he poised himself for a quick, disgusted departure.
An NC State forward toed the free throw line, lined up his shot and pulled the trigger. That first swish made me wince.
A deep gloom settled into the room as Matt and I continued to watch, mainly out of some odd obligation. Call it an unhealthy, self-destructive behavior, that ever-optimistic fan’s sense of duty to ‘stick it out’.
The second free throw fell well short, banging off the very front of the rim and into the scrambling grasp of Chandler Parsons. Dan Werner backed away and watched.
So did we.
Heave . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
A referee raised one arm to signal “3-point shot”. It may as well have been a 300-point shot.
It was not going in.
Dan Werner raised two arms—wishfully or prophetically—as the ball traveled 50 of its 75 feet.
“HE GOT IT!!!! OHHH, HE MADE IT!!!!,” the television announcers blared through their microphones.
The instant that ball inexplicably, incredibly slipped through the net and ended its flight, Matt, who just three seconds earlier had one foot out the door, began his.
He launched himself at me a la Teddy Dupay following Mike Miller’s famous buzzer beater. Except Matt is not Teddy.
His 6’4, 275lb frame crashed onto me as I tried to jubilantly rise from the couch.
< SHOUT! >
< POW! >
< CRASH! >
Adam West called, and he said he wants his campy, old-school sound effects back.
The couch flipped backwards, carrying 480 pounds of Gators fans with it and sending a long, nearby end table crashing to the floor. The contents of the table flew everywhere, creating a 15 foot “blast radius” of framed photos, ceramic coasters, a flower vase and of course, a 40 million year-old fossil.
Per Wikipedia, the “Knightia” is an ‘extinct genus of bony fish’. It is also apparently the most commonly excavated fossil, so don’t get too upset that I had yet to donate it to the Smithsonian or Oxford or anything like that.
(But don’t tell Matt, I am still holding this incident over his head.)
But I digress. Matt and I emerged from beneath the flipped couch and toppled table to a debris field and the sight of a prehistoric casualty.
My wife emerged from her room to an archeological dig.
Matt and I scoured the floor and assembled the shattered remains.
I still have ‘Knightia’, initially given to me as a birthday gift. It is pieced together, although not very subtly, with superglue.
‘Knightia’ sits on the same table behind the same couch.
I laugh when I see it.
‘Knightia’ is no longer a prehistoric fish fossil.
Nah, it’s something more.
It is a relic of a great moment, a hilarious memory I share with one of my closest friends.
Some things last a really long time.
Others last forever.
As a new season approaches, here’s to Gators basketball creating more eternal memories—and maybe breaking a few fossils along the way.