Tuesday, March 17, 2009

I Saw Tony Bobbitt Last Night...

I've slept for much of the last fourteen hours, and yet I'd still rank that stretch as one of the strangest fourteen-hour periods of my life. It's also sad, funny and overflowing with more jealousy than that jerk-off from the Gin Blossoms could ever understand.


It's the morning of St. Patty's Day and I'm not drinking. I continue to be reminded of this by the drunk dialers and texters who (a.) want to know where I am, and after I tell them I'm writing, they seem to (b.) take pleasure in calling me a homo. I'd like to say I'm unfazed by all this, but then I'd be a lying liar. Look, you can call me a homo for French kissing dudes and I'll smile and continue on with my day. But never call me a homo for not drinking on the morning of St. Patty's Day -- it will screw with my head.

That concludes the jealous portion of this piece.

Rewind about fourteen hours, when I returned home from my basketball game: Just as I'm getting out of my gold '98 Dodge Intrepid, five of the biggest goddamn deer were running down the middle of my street, about nine inches from my automobile. Was it kind of awesome? Yes, kind of. Was I terrified? Yes, and then some. Did the experience prove once-and-for-all that deer aren't man-killers, as I've claimed for 28-plus years? Not really. There's really nothing else to add to this but considering what happened to me exactly one hour before said deer attack it warranted mentioning in this space.

One hour before...

As I was entering the Western Sports Mall to play a basketball contest against a cornucopia of out-of-shape dentists, out-of-shape substitute teachers and out-of-shape wiggers I happened to walk directly past none other than...wait for it...wait for it...

Tony Freaking Bobbitt!

Tony Bobbitt...No.15 in your media guide, No. 1 in your heart.

Well, No. 1 in my heart. I loved that guy. He only played two years at UC, probably made an impact in half the games he played, frustrated every diehard who knew he could've been better and either quit or was thrown off the team on more than one occasion.

By all accounts, I should've hated Tony Bobbitt. But I didn't. Even when his disappearing acts and absentmindedness reared their ugly heads I rooted for Bobbitt. And it wasn't just a matter of believing in his ability, either. I mean, Robert Whaley was one of the five most talented humans to play under Huggs, and I couldn't care less about that waste of semen. With Bobbitt, there was something extra going on. I don't know the man personally, obviously, but he never seemed like a bad guy. He always seemed like someone who was worn down mentally and always needed a pat on the butt.

But anyway, I saw Tony Bobbitt leaving a crappy rec-league game last night and was overwhelmed with sadness. He's too good for this, I thought.

Me and Bobbitt have a strange relationship. I'll try to do this quickly...

1. Bobbitt arrives in Clifton as a ballyhooed (and much-needed) JuCo shooting guard. A month into the season he hadn't made an impact. He'd play sparingly, occasionally looked the part of a big-time player, do something stupid and sit for games at a time. That's how it went at first.

2. The Oregon game. Only twice in my life have I bet against UC. My win was when they played Troy Murphy's Notre Dame team in the Wooden Classic in Indianapolis and my loss was the game against Oregon and the Lukes at (I think) the Meadowlands for the Jimmy V Classic. Why was I wrong? Tony Bobbitt was on fire. He came off the bench and scored (again, I think) 27 points as the Cats blew out the fifth-ranked Oregon Ducks. I was immediately attached to the shooting guard from Daytona, Florida. Leonard Stokes was supposedly the go-to player on the team, and Jason Maxiell was an emerging sophomore, but that team was going nowhere without a big performance from Bobbitt.

(Note: Not only was the Oregon game the moment I grew attached to Bobbitt, but also the first time I realized that something wasn't right with the guy. After the game, as Dick Vitale interviewed him in a half-full gymnasium, Bobbitt was acting like he'd just won the Super Bowl. But it wasn't in a typical 21st-century-athlete-look-at-me sort of way. I'm having trouble describing the situation, but I'm telling you, something was a little off with this guy. Or as my dad would say, he's a space cadet.)

3. Just as Bobbitt appeared to figure it out, he disappeared...literally. Over the next six weeks he either quit or was booted from the team more than once. For the first time in my life I blamed Bob Huggins, and not the player. I was furious. It seemed pretty clear to me that Bobbitt needed kid-glove treatment and Huggs was only offering tough love. Plus, he was the best perimeter player on UC's worst team since 1991...

(Note: Trailing by three, and on the critical possession of UC's first-round tourney loss to Gonzaga, Huggins drew up a play to get Bobbitt the ball for on open three-pointer. Bobbitt didn't follow instructions, the spacing was horrible and the Cats got off a terrible shot.)

4. 2004, senior year. Not a lot sticks out from Bobbitt's 2004 other than he was a remarkably consistent scorer off the bench, and the nation's best sixth man. And all of his past immature knuckle-headedness was washed away with the biggest shot of his basketball career:

Jesus, I was happy when he nailed that shot. It was his defining moment as a Bearcat (as long as you don't count the time a Depaul player punched his nuts). He had the purest jumper of any player in the Huggins era. Durden, Burton, Logan...forget about it. Bobbitt's was textbook, and the number one reason why he shouldn't be playing Monday night basketball at the Western Sports Mall.

5. I was out of commission for three months in the spring of '04 after complications from an appendectomy and I spent most of it (a.) reading Bringing Down the House, (b.) longing for Skyline, (c.) watching the Portsmouth Invitational on tape delay and (d.) swallowing percocet with alarming frequency. I must say, for a man fighting off death I was having a pretty good time.

But anyway, the Portsmouth Invitational...

Listen: Yeah, I'm a maniacal sports fan, and yeah, I had nothing else to do, but I'd never watch a second-rate draft camp unless I had good reason. Tony Bobbitt was a good reason. And he was great, easily playing the best ball of his career. He shared MVP honors with USC's Desmon Farmer (don't ask me how I remember this crap) and appeared to be a shoo-in for the second round of the NBA draft. Accurate long-range shooters will never go out of style in the NBA, and Bobbitt -- despite being a streaky shooter -- had a flawless stroke.

6. Draft day came and went without hearing Bobbitt's name called. Shortly after he was scooped up by the Lakers where he was taken under his wing by Kobe Bryant. I can't find any literature on the topic now (actually I don't feel like digging), but I can remember more than a few stories about Kobe really taking to Bobbitt. But that didn't really matter.

If memory serves, he was cut by the Lakers and picked up again later in the season. Basketball-reference.com (an Internet website) says that he played two games for L.A. (scoring five total points), banked $305,000 and hasn't appeared in an NBA game since.

That, I can understand. Maybe Bobbitt just wasn't good enough to cut it at that level. But why is he playing in crappy recreational leagues as opposed to overseas, making six figures? I mean, I'm sure Hungary isn't the coolest place in the world, but six figures is six figures, you know?

I'll never know Tony Bobbitt on a personal level, but I'll always just assume he's the weirdest person around. And seeing him last night at the Sports Mall, for whatever reason, kept me up last night.

Before hitting "Publish Post" on this sucker, allow to relay two hilarious Bobbitt stories, both told to me a few years ago by my close friend who was a backup QB at UC while Bobbitt was there...

1. While my buddy had just finished working out he noticed a dry-erase board in the weight room with UC's basketball roster listed on it. Next to the names were listed times of some conditioning drill. Everyone's time, from Maxiell to Hicks, was somewhere between twenty and thirty seconds. Well, everyone's time except for Bobbitt. His posted time: Two minutes and thirty-something seconds. That, in a nutshell, is the Tony Bobbitt Experience. And so is this...

2. Scene: weight room. Bobbitt was unable to bench press 185 lbs. just one time. The strength coach was yelling at him. "Come on, Tony. You did this a bunch of times the other day!" Bobbitt's response: Yeah, but I went to Martino's last night."

This should make me hate him for his level of dedication, but it somehow makes me remember him more fondly.

End of words.

(Important note: Opening-round Vickers will be posted sometime Wednesday.)

-Brad Spieser (
St. Patty's Day, 2009


ben said...

tony bobbit was a great shooter i wished he wouldve played alot in the nba