The time i might just have won an nba game / by Dale Wiley

I was featured yesterday on Mid-Morning Live, a Savannah morning show on Channel WTOC. It is one of several TV appearances, all of which have been very well-done by the hosts, and well-produced. The people at Meryl Moss Media have done a great job in setting these up and it seems like they have been well-received.

In an odd way, though, this one was my favorite. I got to take my cousin Terrie (who has a character named after her in the book) and we were having a good old time. The running order was a dog, an insurance commissioner, a pipe organ restoration story (which was actually very cool) and then me. I was glad I didn't have to follow the dog.

When it came my time, I had an interesting experience. I'm sitting there, on the set, and I read the teleprompter that the wonderful host Jodi Chapin was given. And before the words are even uttered, i can see it:

It's written on screen for her to call me Dave.

When you're named Dale, it's pretty well established on the day of your birth, by the naming gods, that you are going to spend a noticeable portion of your life being called Dan or Dave. Not huge, but it happens. But when you're on TV, that's not the time. 

I thought about whether to correct her or not, but I decided I would gently steer her back and I did. She was a pro about the whole thing, and I've had it happen so many times it doesn't bother me.

Only one time is worth mentioning.

In late 1994, I was moving from Washington, D.C. I had lived there for several months, and unfortunately Donald Fehr and the MLB Player's Union couldn't make a deal with the owners, so there had been no baseball during my time in town other than visiting the Frederick Keys minor league team. It was fall sports season, and before I left, I was going to make sure I went to a Washington Bullets game. Yes kids, it was that long ago that their name was The Bullets.

I went by myself, and I was sitting on the aisle. An usher came up to me, and he said, or I thought he said, "Would you like to shoot for Bullets tickets?" 

I was oddly non-plussed. Maybe I wish I had been plussed, but I was non-plussed. But after a moment, I told him I would do it. He told me he'd come back to me and get me in order to shoot between the third and forth quarters of the game.

As the game went on, since I was leaving town soon, I was wondering whom I could give the tickets to if I won. I thought of friends and of my cousin Tom who frequently came to DC for work. I don't know what made me so confident, but it was a fun idea to kick around.

The 1994 season was the year when the NBA moved the three-point line in, to where it was basically a few inches behind the old college and high school three-point line to help increase scoring. I thought back to all the years in the high school gym, casting up three pointers as a part of gym class. I thought about how I would shoot it. NBA games are long. I had time for all these thoughts.

I didn't remember it was opening night, but it was. The Internet helped me with that. November 4, 1994. The Bullets played the Orlando Magic, who would go on to appear in the NBA Finals that year. They had Shaquille O'Neal and a rookie named Anfernee Hardaway and they were a forced to be reckoned with.

But so was I.

The usher came and got me as the third quarter was winding down. I got to go right behind the bench during a timeout shortly before the end of the quarter, and I just remember the immense size of Shaq. I walked right behind him. In my mind, he looked very much like an Old Testament giant, like Goliath. He didn't look human he was so large.

I walked to the end of the floor, and I shook the hand of the woman who would be shooting as well. The usher handed me a baseball cap and a shirt. They both said Boston Chicken. Hunh?

Turns out I had mis-heard, or maybe had misremembered, like Roger Clemens would say. I was not shooting for Bullets tickets. I was shooting for Boston Chicken for the whole crowd. 

The key to the whole story came next. The woman shot first. And shot badly.

She went to the three-point line and shot a granny shot (do you capitalize Granny Shot? If you do I'm sorry) and it never got above her head. The crowd booed her like a stinky dog, and all the pressure for me to be good melted away. 

I stepped up to the line, and for one of the few times in my life, I turned my hat around backwards before I shot. The PA announcer said, "And now to shoot, Dave Wiley." I didn't have time to correct him. I was in my zone.

if the NBA rules committee hadn't moved the three-point line up.

If the woman's shot had been better and not left me feeling no pressure.

If maybe I had remembered that I was not a very good basketball player at all.

But all of those things happened just right, and between the third and fourth quarters of opening day between a bad team and a very good team, when I think the Bullets were expectedly down, I launched the ball from the new three-point line and with the whole crowd watching, I sunk that shot, shooting in a modified Larry Bird style, wearing the hat backwards so I wouldn't hit the bill. Nothing but net.

The crowd went wild! I had cost Boston Chicken money! Everyone? Lunch tomorrow is on me! It was like an Oprah thing: You get lunch! You get lunch! 

The PA announcer was positively giddy as he screamed "Dave Wiley! Dave Wiley! Give it up for Dave!"

And the rest is history. Somewhere I'm sure, there is video of the event. I saved the chicken coupon and still have it. The Bullets, a team that lost three out of four games they played that year, whose highest-paid player was KEVIN DUCKWORTH, whom I had seen play many times in college (thanks Internet!), came back from that deficit and WON THE GAME against a really great team. I walked up the aisles to the roar of the crowd, getting high fives as I went.

(I need to take a moment and say if the tiny-headed Kevin Duckworth was ever going to be the highest-paid player on your team, you deserve to lose that much and you have a really bad general manager. Just needed to vent.)

Dave Wiley is one for one in shooting at NBA arenas. Dave Wiley won a full house some food, and contributed to a short-lived hunger respite that is rarely talked about. I'm pretty sure that the energy from the crowd is completely and utterly responsible for the fourth-quarter comeback, and that I saved the Bullets from another ignominious loss, that I kept them from being 20-62.

Give it up for Dave, ladies and gentlemen.

Give it up for Dave.