Friday, May 20, 2005

Cohens, Clutch and Kenobi: A Sentimental Thursday

Warning: The following contains spoilers from Star Wars: Episode III, The OC season finale and Game Six of the Pistons/Pacers series.

After the cameras stopped following Reggie Miller back into the Conseco locker room Thursday night, I started thinking about what an amazingly emotional 24-hours I had just partaken in. It had seemed to start a week ago with the Star Wars premiere at midnight, then The OC finale earlier that night and then finally the last game of Reggie Miller’s career.

Episode III was powerful in the wee hours of Thursday morning, but not until I started biking the first hour of A New Hope did I realize how fantastically it tied everything together. Think it’s painful to see Ewan McGregor’s Obi-Wan’s look of complete despair and disappointment when he realizes he has to kill his best friend and apprentice Anakin? It’s even worse when Alec Guinness’s Obi-Wan is describing Luke’s father to him, adding that “and he was a great friend”. The last scene of Episode III, with Owen Lars holding his new adopted son on top of some rocks and looking out at the setting suns of Tantooine, with the John Williams’ score drifting in the background, is powerful enough on it’s own, but it makes it absolutely chill-inspiring to see Luke in the same position early on in the first Star Wars film.

There was a dozen or so of us that ended up going to the midnight show at South Pike, and I went into Revenge of the Sith expecting something really good from the reviews I’d seen. The crowd was hyped up, some people dressed up in full costumes, others waving lightsabers and everyone cheering for the beginning of the trailers and the magical “Lucasfilm” image that ripples across the screen. By the time the scroll, which had been my away message all day, had started, Fonz and I – who had lucked into two second row seats in the dead center, due to the carefully trained eye I developed spotting tables in the dining hall - knew we were in for a treat.

I all but assured myself there would be awkward dialogue between Hayden Christiansen and Natalie Portman (Who is now bald?) – and of course, there was – but the last half of the movie is acted fine. The disappointment, fear and anger portrayed by McGregor, Portman and Christiansen is so powerful, simply because you knew what was coming the entire movie, and you are as helpless as an audience member as they are helpless as victims of George Lucas’ pen back in the 1970’s. From the time Palaptine orders the elimination of the Jedis, and you see the valiant warriors slain by clone mutineers, Episode III takes on the emotional weight of The Illiad, men you’ve come to know and care about whose doom is already sealed by a power much greater than their own.

Episode III didn’t disappoint, and after napping my way through the day, it was time for The OC season finale. However, it was a melancholy event to begin with, considering the usual Cohen-viewing group was spread out across the country, but we managed. Patrick, our newest OC convert, called me as soon as the opening credits had finished, exclaiming he was taping it while he was watching it just incase he was drawn away from the television for some reason. Matt had assembled a group of friends to watch, Katie and Anna were both at graduation-type events and were watching it later in the evening, Pete was in China and Brendan’s cell phone hadn’t been reactivated yet, but Christina and I traded phone calls and texts throughout the show, so it was sort of like I was back in South Bend.

Even the return of The OC’s Resident Miami Dolphin Fan, Jimmy Cooper, couldn’t take away the sadness of Caleb’s funeral. Sandy delivering the eulogy, Marissa actually being nice to her mom and the music was sad to start, and then at the wake you had to deal with drunk Kirsten - Alcoholism is really a well-rooted problem for her, starting back at the Thanksgiving episode last season and rolling right into the wine-tasting trip with Carter a month ago, so it’s not like this was suddenly sprung in the last few weeks of the season - and awkward North Shore references between Jimmy and Hayley. (Christina put it best: “They should have just looked at the camera and winked afterwards.”)

I’m glad I watched A&E’s Intervention at Gina’s Sunday night for the first time, because it really prepared me for what my beloved KiKi had to go through. The last few episodes, with Sandy desperately trying to save his wife and the marriage, make you realize even more how awesome the best dad in TV history is, and his questioning whether it was right to do this brought out the best of Peter Gallagher. When Kirsten snapped at Ryan before he could even talk, you felt terrible for the both of them, and when Seth (who was fantastic the entire episode – kudos to Adam Brody) finally decided that rehab was right for his mother, the family coming together showed that the heart of the show still was in the right place, no matter how many mall episodes or lesbian kisses they threw out there.

After Kirsten had decided it was best to do as her family thought, there was still way too much time left, and one had to wonder what in the world was going to happen to send the show to its finale. I hoped it wasn’t some random accident, and sure enough, they decided to resolve the Trey issue, or at least shoot him. The fight between he and Ryan was as violent as The OC has ever gotten, and one has to wonder if the talking dolphins taught Mischa Barton how to shoot the gun so well. I hope Trey dies, simply because that would be a fun emotional weight for Marissa to attempt to display during next season.

So after the second consecutive depressing OC finale (and you thought they might wrap up all the loose ends), it was time to turn to ABC and watch Reggie Miller fight to keep his team’s playoff hopes alive, along with continuing his career, as Miller had adamantly vowed he was retiring as soon as the season was over.

The Pistons, looking more and more like they can repeat as champs, eliminated the Pacers, but it wasn’t without a fight from Miller, who went down swinging. He was the only Pacer perimeter player to do anything, and he led his team with twenty-eight points. When Rasheed knocked down the three and the Pacers couldn’t get an open shot on offense, the game was essentially over, and after having his last NBA field goal attempt blocked by Defensive Player of the Year Ben Wallace, Rick Carlisle pulled Reggie Miller out of the game so he could get the ovation he deserved.

Miller never won a championship, but then again, I’m not sure if there was a season he should have won a championship. He never had a first-class running mate, and the best seasons of his career were ended by MJ and Shaq, who will end up being two of the best ten players in NBA history when all is said and done. He carried his team for stretches at a time, and his “eight points in nine seconds” against the Knicks will always be the moment he’s remember for, but my favorite Reggie moment came years later when he was in the twilight of his career, when he carried a rag-tag bunch of Pacers with minimal playoff experience into two overtimes against the number one seed in the East, the New Jersey Nets.

It was Game Five, and the Pacers were done three to a Nets team that was on its way to advancing to two straight NBA Finals. (If memory serves me correctly, this was also the night Mike Cameron hit four homeruns and took his fifth at-bat out to the warning track, but I may be wrong). Miller not only forced the first overtime with a buzzer-beating three-pointer, but he exploded through the lane with a thunderous dunk to tie the game at the end of that first overtime. His teammates – young, inexperienced and unable to stop Jason Kidd and Kenyon Martin – couldn’t provide the help and the Pacers fell.

So they were back in Indianapolis last night, and as Reggie exchanged hugs with everyone on the floor and chants of “Reggie” echoed through the rafters of Conseco, the state of Indiana’s altar to basketball, Larry Brown, who had coached Miller earlier in both of their careers, called a twenty-second timeout so the moment could continue. The usually verbose Al Michaels was left with nothing to say other than it was “so cool”, and as Brown and his Piston squad, on their way to a third straight Eastern Conference Final, came down to applaud the greatest clutch shooter in NBA history, you knew it was a moment to remember.

Reggie Miller never won a championship, and that’s just another reason why great players shouldn’t have their careers knocked for having not won their ring. Sure, I feel this way mainly because of Dan Marino’s situation, but players should be elevated for having won titles, not knocked for not have winning them. Wilt never won his title until late in his career, and David Robinson would still be title-less if it wasn’t for the Spurs winning the Duncan Lottery. John Elway would have retired oh-for in Super Bowls if Terrell Davis hadn’t carried the Broncos to two Super Bowls. The list goes on, and on the day after one of the greats went down to one of the great teams, he should be celebrated for what he did and not what he, and eleven other teammates every season, failed to do.

Star Wars and Reggie Miller will live on through DVD collections and ESPN Classic, while The OC will be back next season. Thursday was just the culmination of a lot of different things, and I was lucky enough to be able to see them all.

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