"But as a parent . . . " Ewing said, and everyone knew what he was saying even as the thought remained unfinished. Everyone who has kids, anyway.
You dream for them and then you watch their lives play out
before you. You agonize for them and then you hope that the fates are kind. You tell yourself that you are just going to let them go but you never can, never completely. As Thompson said, "What good is being a parent if you can't meddle?"
And then he laughed. Thompson coached Georgetown during the glory days; John Thompson III coaches them now. Ewing was the Hoyas' greatest player in those glory days; Patrick
Ewing Jr. is now a Georgetown junior. And then there was Doc Rivers, the Boston Celtics' coach. His son, Jeremiah, plays for the Hoyas, too. Fathers and sons and eras collided in celebration; hugs, tears, the whole
As Thompson spoke, the party on the floor had begun to die down at Continental Airlines Arena. The Hoyas, trailing by
10 points with 7 minutes to go in the second half, had just stunned the top-seeded North Carolina Tar Heels with a 96-84 overtime victory.
The game had been so much fun to watch - so fast, so hard, and played at a brilliant skill
level. The comeback had been
so nervy, coming as it did against Carolina Blue, Inc. The overtime had been so dominating. It was Thompson's job to describe it all on the radio. He said he failed.
"I try to be objective," he said. "But I got to a point where I couldn't say anything. I'm not sure I said much at all in the overtime. I was just stunned."
He is Big John Thompson now, an old nickname that has become a necessary differentiation between him and his son. When Big John talks about the old days, he refers to Big Pat, to
differentiate him from Ewing
the younger. As the years pass, the legends are burnished and the lies grow more outrageous, which is natural enough. But the names are longer now, too, out
of necessity. In that, they know how George H.W. Bush feels.
They have their stories, Big John and Big Pat do - of triumph and disappointment and everything in between. They played in three Final Fours but won only once, in 1984. In 1982, Michael Jordan and North Carolina beat them in a classic final game. In 1985, Villanova beat them in the classic final game.
Those Hoyas played an intimidating style and gave off an intimidating air. The term of art back then to describe it all was "Hoya Paranoia." Of course, people sometimes forget that those also were times when Big East fratboy humor occasionally
included waving a bunch of
bananas at Ewing from the stands. It was all very complicated, as complicated as yesterday was simple; hugs, tears, the whole wonderful deal.
Thompson said, "This is their time, not ours."
Ewing said, "I'm not even thinking about '82 or '85."
Big John said, "This isn't Big Pat's time, it's Little Pat's time."
Big Pat said, "I'm just proud as a father to see my son and my university flourish. It feels like I won."
Across the way, Thompson and his son had already shared an emotional hug. The night before, the son had brought one of his assistant coaches, along with some pizza and chicken wings, to visit the father in his hotel room. It was 12:30 or 1 a.m.,
He said, "We always talk about strategy because that's our family . . . You don't ask the Hershey family, 'Do they talk about chocolate?' That's what we do."
The conversation went on for
a while, more b.s.-ing than anything, Thompson said. And then, the father said of the son, "He looks after me. I love it."
And then, asked to sum it all up, Big John said, "I'm happy - that's my child."
It is all a little bit jarring, to be honest. The notion that John
Thompson and Patrick Ewing would ever be viewed in the way they were viewed yesterday kind of shocks you if you lived through the early '80s. But there they were - helpless fathers,
joyous fathers, proud fathers, just fathers.
"Dad, Dad, you need this," one of Ewing's daughters yelled at one point, holding up an official pass that would allow him access to the floor.
Ewing looked at her, then waved dismissively. He was
going onto the floor to congratulate his son and nobody was
going to stop him - and if Patrick Ewing Jr.'s father knew anything yesterday, he knew that. *
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