Thursday, June 17, 2010

A Long, Long Time Ago

I realized this week that it has been 4 Worlds Cups since I graduated from law school and sat for the bar exam. Given my sieve-like mind, the thought was not fully formed in it until I read a piece about two documentaries that are airing on ESPN this month, which each deal with events that made news sixteen years ago today.

It seems both longer than and not anywhere as long ago as sixteen years ago this very day that the phrase "White Ford Bronco" became a permanent part of the American lexicon. Remember the crazy days before the talking heads on every cable pseudo-news network had to devote their energy to the news and not simply beating every ounce of breath out of one story 24 hours a day, everyday? When Orenthal James' search for the real killers takes him through your area - as it invariably will since he continues to leave no stone unturned in his quest for justice - be sure to thank him for his part in creating that phenomenon. Ask him too what happened to AC Cowlings after he parked the Bronco that evening as he appears to have slipped through a hole in the time-space continuum and disappeared.

I remember that June 17, 1994 was a Friday. I remember that solely because on what was the weekend of both Father's Day and my first wedding anniversary (Margaret and I having gotten married on the 19th of June one year earlier) I was spending more quality time than I wanted to with several of my friends and hundreds of other folks I did not know in a ballroom at the Hilton Gateway Hotel in Newark. We were all attendees at the PMBR Multi-State Bar Review, which was an intense, weekend seminar given by hyper-caffeinated little dude and was designed to help all of us get through the "universal" portion of the Bar, which was the Multi-State multiple choice portion of the test, which everyone is required to take irrespective of where you are taking the exam and what state or states into which you seek admission.

Our Friday evening session started at some point prior to OJ and AC's long, slow jaunt down the 405, which serves as my excuse for not knowing what the hell was going on when - during one of the 15-minute breaks our lecturer took - one of my friends and I sauntered up to one of the bars in the Hilton to get a liquid refreshment and to check on the score of the Knicks/Rockets game, which was (I think) Game 5 of the NBA Finals. (Forgive the tangent/rant right here but answer me this: Why the hell is the NBA season so long? It starts prior to Columbus Day and it ends at or about Father's Day? Tonight, in celebration of the 16th anniversary of the slowest moving parade Los Angeles has ever seen the Lakers will try to defeat the Boston Celtics in Game 7 of the NBA Finals. Given how absurdly boring professional basketball is, must they drag the season out forever.) While we were at the bar waiting for our beers we thought we were watching a commercial for Ford - looking at the screen of the Bronco driving down the highway. We thought that only until we realized that after sixty seconds the spot did not end. It simply continued to run.

The bartender did what he could to try and find alternative programming but to no avail. At least not while we were standing there. I later found out that at some point that evening NBC rigged up some sort of split screen so that it could continue to broadcast the NBA Finals game while simultaneously attempting to exploit as much mileage as it could out of the chase. I know not whether that happened after we completed our "intermission" beers or whether the bartender ended up on another channel but we saw none of the game during our time at the bar.

We did spend a few minutes talking to some of the World Cup fans who were staying at the hotel. The World Cup had just started - if I recall correctly - and folks in our neck of the woods were thrilled by the fact that Giants Stadium was hosting games that included Ireland, Italy, Norway and (I think) Mexico. I recall there being a number of Irish fans in the bar that night - along with their Italian counterparts, drinking with one another and having what appeared to be an incredibly good time. Then again, we were there studying for the bar exam. Had they been holding magnifying glasses over each other's forearms in an effort to singe one another's arm hair they would have been having more fun than were we.

I played soccer for four years in high school. I love the sport. I love watching the World Cup. I sat glued to my TV set on Saturday afternoon when our boys played the Brits in our first game in Group play. I cheered for Clint Dempsey when his most unlikely of goals made its way to and then through British keeper Robert Green and into the goal for the equalizer shortly before half-time. It did make me think back however to the '94 World Cup and the ultimately fatal mistake that Colombian defender Andres Escobar made against the United States, scoring an own goal in a game that the U.S. won 2-1. That game happened on the 22nd of June. Less than two weeks later - on July 2 - Escobar was murdered in Colombia. He was shot multiple times by an assassin who reportedly yelled out "GOAL!" in a style similar to that favored by Spanish-speaking soccer broadcasters after firing each shot.

In '94, as my friends and I occupied ourselves preparing for the bar exam, the American side acquitted itself very nicely in the World Cup it hosted and O.J. Simpson and his cast of characters were just settling into a drama that lasted close to a year and a half and provided fodder for lawyer-hating people everywhere.

Have we come a long way in sixteen years? Or have we moved not very far at all? Sometimes it it is damn hard to tell.

At least we will always have Kato.


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