Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Catching Up With....

...Patrick Johnson or "Cyborg" as all of my friends and I call him. That moniker came from a column written by Rob Goodman, who was the best Duke Chronicle columnist, probably ever, in the spring of my sophomore year 2005 where he posed a question "Patrick Johnson:Cyborg?"
Yes. Or to be more perfectly accurate: Most likely. but I’d be lying if I said I was drawn to Johnson merely as a human-interest story. Rather, my attention was caught by the large, black brace obscuring most of his left arm. First, in person during the home victory over Wake Forest and later, on television during the loss to UNC, Johnson’s brace stood out to me, arresting the eye like glaring asymmetry. The brace is meant, ostensibly, to stabilize a shoulder injury sustained in a January 13 win over Wake Forest. But I have my doubts. I refer you to a Duke University Medical Center press release from the fall of 2003: “Monkeys Consciously Control a Robot Arm Using Only Brain Signals; Appear to ‘Assimilate’ Arm As If It Were Their Own.”

[skipping ahead]

No current member of the men’s basketball team would have been a better candidate for cybernetic enhancement than Patrick Johnson. The health of a J.J. Redick or a Shelden Williams could not have been chanced; by electing to enhance a reserve, Coach K would have been risking nothing. And should Johnson emerge by the end of the season as a cyborg gamebreaker, no opposing coach will have had time to prepare for him.
In fact, Johnson-as-cyborg would explain a great deal: the extra year of eligibility (when he will be fully functioning), the senior-year athletic scholarship (in return for undergoing experimental surgery) and, of course, the mysterious black shoulder brace. In accord with Occam’s Razor, the simplest explanation is usually the correct one. So let me leave you with this question: When Johnson started against Wake at home, played two minutes and was warmly embraced by Coach K and his Duke teammates upon his return to the bench, was it the celebration of a role player finally getting his moment in the spotlight, or of the unholy union of man and machine? It is not, I admit, an airtight case; that’s for the news pages. But this is opinion. In my opinion, Patrick Johnson is a cyborg.

It was brilliant and airtight enough for us and so from that moment on we called him Cyborg which is one of my favorite nicknames for anyone really. He was one of those players where if he was coming into the game late it was usually a good sign that we were up big or winning, but you never wanted to see him come in in the thick of the game because it meant that Shelden was in foul trouble (Shelden was too strong to be injured.) That was an indication of our lack of any inside help and thinness on the front line when he played big minutes in the 2005-2006 season (and as a quick aside since there is another white Johnson currently on the team, who only gets in in garbage time and wears the number 51, Steve Johnson is obviously Cyborg version 2.o with new advances where his robotic arm doesn't need that protective sheath.) But he was one of those guys that obviously wasn't the most skilled but walked on at first, for the love of the game and of Duke and always tried his hardest. And obviously was living a dream. You had to love him for that.

The intrepid (fun word) editor over at Scrapper Nation interviewed Cyborg about life after Duke basketball (though he didn't delve into what it must be like to live with a robotic and all powerful arm.) Apparently Cyborg is now varsity coach at Claremont High School and is married, which is a truly lovely thing. But this interview was so bitter sweet for me. I tbrought back great memories:

What would you say is your fondest memory from being in a Duke uniform?
My fondest memory of being in a Duke uniform is the UNC game at Carolina during my sophomore year. Chris Duhon won the game on a full-court buzzer beating layup and we all rushed the court. There is nothing like beating North Carolina.

I remember that game. it was our first Duke-Carolina game freshmen year and when Duhon hit that shot everyone in my commons room went nuts, we called a friend's brother who was a UNC fan and mocked him and celebrated on the East Campus quad before heading over to K-Ville to meet the bus as they got back and high fiving all of them. Shavlik Randolph was really into it and started chest bumping people and moshing and left. And then in typical awkward Shav fashion he came back like 5 minutes later asking us to help him look for his key which he lost during the chest bumping frenzy. I think I was too hungover and celebratory to go to class the next day. It was one of my favorite memories.

That was the sweet. Here's the bitter

What about the most disappointing moment?

The most dissapointing moment of my career was either the Final Four loss to UConn in my sophomore year or the Sweet 16 loss to LSU in my senior year because I thought we had a great chance to win a championship in both years. Uconn was tough because we were so close, but LSU was tough because it was the last time I would get to put on a uniform.

I will forever hate UConn for that. I have never seen the last minute or so of that game because at the time my head was in my hands and I was crying. We should have won that game and then we would have blown out Georgia Tech in the finals. Ugh And then when we left Cameron where they were showing the game all the news crews were trying to interview us. I fucking hate UCONN and everyone associated with that team. I'm still not over it 4 years later. And then that LSU was probably the worst because I know that was our last chance to win while I was at Duke and we just played like shit. When the game was over I really turned off the lights in my apartment sat at our table with a handle of vodka and a shot glass. I should have two titles. Still not over that either.

But because Cyborg was such a regular guy, such a "scrapper" to use the terminology he probably felt that exact pain and so will always hold a place in my heart (awww.) Seriously though, Cyborg was the shit.

Sphere: Related Content

No comments: