Saturday, March 3, 2012

Adrift....

Yesterday was the 50th anniversary of the game in which Wilt Chamberlain hung 100 points on the New York Knickerbockers. It was a game that the Knicks lost 169-147 to Chamberlain's Philadelphia Warriors. 169 points? And Knicks fans think that the team's current coach has an aversion to defense; eh?

There was a nice piece on the Chamberlain 100-point game in yesterday's Star-Ledger, courtesy of Dave D'Allesandro, in which D'Allesandro told the story of Chamberlain's friendship with a fellow named Joe Ruklick. Ruklick played his college hoops at Northwestern and had the misfortune of being the guy against whom Wilt put up 52 points as a freshman at Kansas. Ruklick had the better fortune of being the Warriors teammate who assisted on the hoop that got Chamberlain his 99th and 100th points. And Chamberlain had the best fortune of all as he/Ruklick enjoyed a friendship that lasted the rest of Chamberlain's life. A good story, well-told by Dave D'Allesandro. Check it out here.

Work took me to the Middlesex County Courthouse in New Brunswick yesterday afternoon, where the State of New Jersey is currently prosecuting former Rutgers University student Dharun Ravi. In the fall semester of 2010, Ravi was a freshman at RU and his roommate was a young man named Tyler Clementi, also a freshman. The synopsis of the crimes against Clementi with which Ravi has been charged and for which he is on trial can be found here.

I know nothing about this case or the principals involved in it other than what has been available in the media, whether newspaper, radio or television. Based on nothing more than the little bit I know, I am not convinced that what Ravi did is criminal. It was, at least to my way of thinking, awful. The Law does not necessarily recognize the two as interchangeable concepts, which is why when one is acquitted in a criminal matter the verdict entered is one of "not guilty" and not one of "innocent".

A lot of ground has been covered in the fifty-five years since Joe Ruklick and Wilt Chamberlain first met as college kids in Lawrence, Kansas. But has all the ground we have covered with all of the technological gadgets and toys and gizmos we have at our disposal - ostensibly for the purpose of making us smarter and better informed - been covered while moving forward? Ruklick and Chamberlain, kids of different races from decidedly different places who attended college in different states and whose first meeting was in the setting of a single event, might have very well never taken the time to get to know one another - it was 1950's middle America after all - without anyone having given it a second thought.

But they did. And what each learned about the other was that he gave not a rat's ass about the color of the other's skin but, instead, cared wholly about the quality of the man who walked around inside of it. That knowledge formed the basis of a life-long friendship.

In the Fall of 2010, in New Jersey two young men of different races and apparently different sexual orientations, brought together to live under the same roof at the same college, never developed the skill set to look at - or for - the content of one another's character. A shortcoming that had profound consequences for them both.

We have come a long way from 1956. Which way have we moved? Beats the hell out of me....

....and I am not sure that the goings-on at the Middlesex County Courthouse these days are at all helpful in trying to answer that question.

-AK

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