Two goddamned weeks of sunset sleeps and cold dark morns, and it ends like this, and right at this moment we’re all Ian Baker-Finch, and regret flows through out veins like formaldehyde as bitter reality becomes the instant, awful realisation that the river Rubicon is a far wider beast than in our darkest dreams we ever imagined.
There is no gold left for newcomers in this vast expanse that was once a vibrant jungle filled with birdsong and the sounds of love and life and joy; all that remains is scorched, barren earth, the far horizons filled with dirty brown sweeping dead dusty plains. Where once grew God’s glorious lithe lianas, swathed in a Joseph’s coat of green and shimmering gold, stands only faded, broken beauty and cruelly despoiled dreams.
It was a foul. Don’t believe what you hear and read today. Patty was moving – backward, just like the Boomer’s scratch you head and wonder what the hell just went on Olympic basketball campaign, and the OMG-WTF Opals one too – and in the course of his retreat Mills for all money made contact with the fast-breaking advancing Catalan and drew the whistle that blew the Spaniards to Olympic Bronze, and sent out boys and girls home with empty hearts and hands, and minds full of questions about what could have been.
It wasn’t Patty’s fault. The diminutive point guard should never have been left totally exposed one-on-one under the bucket facing the fast-approaching and three inches taller Spaniard Sergio. But the forwards inside the zone had inexplicably parted like the Red Sea and the little Moses who had led Australia almost single-handedly to the summit of the jagged mountain ranges, from where the promised land below seemed filled with shimmering gold, was suddenly left all alone.
Contact. Whistle. Free Throws. Bang. Bang.
Spain are suddenly up a point. There’s just 5.6 seconds to go. Andrej Lemanis calls Australia’s last timeout. He plans the play. This is superhero moment, and it’s self evident that there is only one superman the ball can go to.
But someone’s got to get it to him, for in basketball not even Jesus Christ himself is allowed to shoot from the inbound pass, not even in the Redeemer’s own South American city with the 38m homage to faith in things you cannot see standing high upon Mount Corcovado overlooking the Olympic Stadium, and there is now way under the stars of the giant statue of the man rumoured to have raised the dead that the Spanish players are going to allow the inbound to go direct to the man with the hottest hand in the 5-ring circus.
Lemanis needs to run a point play. Get the ball inbounded to a player who will act as an automatic cricket-ball bowling machine and shoot the ball to Mills within a second of it being fed into his own hands.
The task of getting the pill to Patty is bestowed upon David ‘ Ando’ Anderson, a journeyman who has played and won championships in 5 countries in the ever-expanding globalised sporting world. Spain, Turkey, Russia, Greece, Italy, Australia, France. Andersen’s been everywhere man. But despite his myriad of achievements, the bid half-Dane behemoth has never quite cracked it in the Big Show. The United States of America. The NBA.
The diamond-stud eared Ando came to the cusp, being signed to 5 teams and late in his hoop-shooting life playing for 3 – the Hornets, Raptor and Rockets in a magical 2 years between 2009 and 2011- but averaged just 12 minutes on the floor and a meager 4.9 points per game during the dream, slim pickings for an NBA center cum power-forward, and was banished first back to the supporting act stage in the European leagues, and then 17 years after he first set out on his Exodus back to the NBL homeland where it all began.
And now here he was, center-stage at age 36 with the eyes of the world upon him. After all the wandering of the earth, all the hopes and expectations, the joy and broken dreams, now was Ando’s time. All that he had to do was get the ball to the golden-boy, take the inbound and dish it to the money man Mills.
Mills had his own mountain to climb. The wily Spaniards hadn’t conquered half the world all those centuries ago, or won medals in the past three consecutive Olympics because they lacked smarts. They knew that the Aussies would be looking to get Mills the pill, and he knew that they knew too, and so the double team with a floating triple team defender in the wings at the inbound waiting to pounce was no surprise to anyone but the absolute basketball novice, and their were none of them on the Olympic floor.
The whistle blew.
The clock’s fateful five second countdown began.
The ball was inbounded in Ando’s direction.
Before it even reached Ando’s hands Patty had pirouetted, performed a miraculous rapid-fire series of Michael Jackson-like swerves, spins and swivels, and had suddenly broken free of the bearded goons guarding his every move. In an instant, and with just 2.5 seconds on the clock, the messiah was away and clear and all alone under the bucket, and all Andersen had to do was rocket-fire him the ball. Mills had never missed from there, and there was no chance in a million that the Man of Steel would now.
The bronze medal was all of a sudden ours.
We leapt from our lounges, arms pumping the air, screaming in the expectation of Ando’s bullet-pass to Patty for the simple pump-lay-up and the accompanying 2 points that gave us the game and long-awaited Olympic glory.
But then, while we were looking straight at Patty ecstatically watching and waiting, without a millisecond’s warning the ghastly ghosts of Baker-Finch and Scott and Norman and Cate Campbell and basketball Olympic campaigns past suddenly descended upon evil storm clouds hitherto hidden in the clear Rio night sky, and the leading actors in our most terrifying nightmare reels joined hands together and landed smack-bang in the center of Ando’s broad aching, aging shoulders.
Under this For the briefest sliver of a second after looking up and seeing no-one at home in the empty back court Andersen froze, and then instead of looking downtown to the key – where the death or glory basket sat lonely as a cloud, with the waiting Patty Mills all alone and unguarded underneath – the journeyman inexplicably instead looked for a non-existent shooting option up-court, a thousand miles from the halo leading to heaven.
If you looked quickly and intently enough you could see in Ando’s face the reflection of a falling thousand-year old Amazonian tree destined for a dead future as a frog in a Tokyo origami shop, as his heart filled with the realisation that just like Peter in the High Priest’s courtyard he had totally and utterly f*cked up.
It happened in a heartbeat that appeared to stretch forever and then, as it has been throughout choked history and as it will always be while staring men blink when facing armed Romans come to drag them to their doom, the ball was stripped away from Ando’s indecision-stained hands, and the whistle blew, and the world caved in for those of us had watched the semi-final capitulation against Serbia and had known in our heads what horror the future would hold, but had refused to let our opal-hearts countenance such a terrible truth.
And as the cock crows thrice there is nothing left to say, other than that man is born of light and dark, and that they who are without sin are left to cast the first stone.
And that there’s a Lay Down Sally and an Ian Baker-Finch born everyday.
And that the one who popped out of the womb in Melbourne on the 23rd of June, 1980 was named David bloody ‘Ando’ Andersen.