On Spencer Dunkley and unrequited nostalgia

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If you’ve followed this website through the years, you know that most Marches I post some sort of ode to my all-time favorite sports journalism experience—the 1991-92 run of the University of Delaware men’s basketball team.

I was a college sophomore at the time, part of the sports staff at the student newspaper, and the Hens’ run toward our school’s first-ever NCAA Tournament was nothing short of magical. First, it was the saga of a tiny state making a mark. Second, it was a relatively obscure conference (the newly former North Atlantic) that seemed to be screaming for attention. Third, it was a team (Delaware) that posted a 27-3 regular season mark. Fourth, it was the characters. The Hens were fun and cool and full of life. Their shooting guard, Ricky Deadwyler, liked to Cabbage Patch. Their small forward, Anthony Wright (aka: “Sweet”) was a former prep football standout whose battered knees led him to mid-major hoops. There was Alexander Coles, high-flying dunker. There was Steve Lubas, the goofy bench warmer. There was Brian Pearl, the savvy freshman point guard. There was Spencer Dunkley, the shot-blocking center who made Vin Baker, a star at Hartford, work for every point.

I’ve never had more fun doing this sorta work, and I likely never will.

Anyhow, last week I was speaking to Bob Huggins, West Virginia’s basketball coach. We were talking about Nick Van Exel, Huggins’ star at Cincinnati back in the early 1990s, and the chat turned to the Hens facing his Bearcats in the first round of the 1992 NCAA Tournament. It was a joyful little convo, and I shared it on Facebook.

Then, this happened …

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Now here’s the thing: Spencer Dunkley is a moron. Has been for many moons. I’ve tried to forget that from time to time. I’ve tried to think of the good things, the warm moments, etc. But then, inevitably, I’m reminded of reality.

What really gets me, though, is when people don’t share your sense of nostalgia—especially the people you’re nostalgia for. I’m not sure I can fully explain it, but it makes you (well, me) feel like a moron. Like, why do I look back so fondly at something, when the people involved have moved on? It stings. But it’s also my lot in life, because I’m blessed/cursed with forever thoughts of yesteryear. I don’t live in the past, but I enjoy pondering the past, recalling the past, dissecting the past. That probably helps explains some of my book topics; certainly the 1986 Mets and USFL projects.

Hence, when a participant like Spencer Dunkley comes along and says, “I’m sure people are tired of hearing it by now,” it’s a gut punch.

Which sucks.

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