March 1, 2005 > The Thrill of Victory
The Thrill of Victory
Maples Pavillion was silent as the ball followed its trajectory toward the hoop and net half a court - 47 feet away. Scott Daniels said that as he launched the shot, he thought, "It has a chance." The 20-ounce sphere sailed through the hoop and swished the netting hanging below. Pandemonium reigned as the crowd erupted in cheers and Scott began a victory dance.
Earlier in the evening, as Scott and his son Jordon drove from Fremont to Stanford University to watch the Cardinal women's basketball team compete with Cal, the thrill of personal triumph was far from their minds. Both profess a love of basketball, Jordan as a promising guard/forward who plays on the Warwick Elementary School team and CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) league play on the Corpus Christi (parish) team under his dad's coaching leadership.
Settling into the "nosebleed" section above the student section of Maples Pavillion, Scott and Jordan were enjoying the game, "just goofing off," when they noticed a couple of Stanford students looking for someone in their section of the arena. With no success finding whoever they were looking for, Scott was asked if he would like to be a substitute and take part in a simple contest during a television commercial break following halftime. To win a prize, Scott would attempt to make a basket from half-court within 30 seconds. He was assured that there was little pressure since no one had made the shot for the past two years. Scott was hesitant to try anything physical since he was recovering from a leg injury. However, after his cheering section of one - Jordan - gave him the necessary encouragement, the deal was struck. Scott and Jordan made their way to the sidelines in preparation for the challenge.
Once safely escorted to courtside, the conditions to win changed. Scott was informed that the half-court shot was the final part of the test; he would first have to make a layup, then a free throw, followed by a three-point shot and then, if successful, follow with the half-court skyball, all within 30 seconds.
Scott was to take a round ball with a diameter of approximately nine inches and throw it through an 18-inch diameter hoop 10 feet above the surface of the court. He was to do this from close range (a layup), followed by successful attempts from approximately 14 feet, 20 feet and finally, 47 feet from the hoop. No one would retrieve the ball for Scott - it was to be a one-man show.
Suddenly, the buzzer sounded and teams disappeared from the court. Scott was on and the 30-second clock was ticking. Worried that he might miss an easy layup, Scott walked onto the court. As a basketball coach, high school team playing experience and practice at shooting the ball, the layup proved to be no problem. A free throw went through the hoop cleanly and interest in the stadium moved up a notch. The three-point shot looked good and was in the basket when the phantom nemesis that preys on all sports and players - amateur or pro - bounced the ball back out. A collective groan rose from the stands and Scott was became very aware of thousands of eyes focused on his performance. Forced to retrieve the ball, he tried the shot again. The next try was successful and all sound disappeared from the pavilion as 3,500 spectators held their breath; 10 seconds remained on the clock.
Scott figured he had time for possibly two attempts. He stepped to the half-court line and looked a long way towards the basket. Practicing on a smaller court while coaching, he had made these shots before, but this was a full size NCAA regulation court. Watching that final perfect trajectory was an experience that would be impossible to duplicate. Scott remembers the crowd's roar of approval and a clear vision of his dance of joy magnified many times over when he glanced up at the jumbotron screen hanging above mid-court.
Jordan was ecstatic as his dad was presented with a Stanford fan's dream, a John Elway signed jersey. The jersey was kept in safekeeping for the remainder of the game as Scott and Jordan returned to their seats acknowledging congratulations and "high fives" every step of the way. A woman sitting near them told Scott that she had been coming to the games for two years and no one had come close to winning the jersey (the contest was held at both men and women's basketball games). A few made the three-point shot, but none came close to the half-court challenge. Jordan said that he thought his dad "had a chance" to beat the odds since he had watched him shoot the ball, but on a smaller court used for his team games. Afterward, people honked, and cheered as Scott and Jordan carried their precious cargo back to the car.
Following the game, a cell phone call to Scott's wife Suzanne was filled with the pure exhilaration of an experience of a lifetime. "I had to put up a free throw," said Scott. "Did you get it, did you get it?" said Suzanne. Savoring the replay of his experience, he replied, "Wait, I had to then shoot a three-point shot." "Did you win, did you win?" asked Suzanne. Scott finally finished the story. Scott and Suzanne's daughter, Alexa and her best friend Haley Joly, were the next to hear when they finished a rehearsal for the Starstruck production of Suessical, The Musical.
"The whole experience is just plain fun," said Suzanne. The framed jersey is destined to hang in Jordan's room. Soon the Daniels family will be receiving a video of Scott's "moment of glory" and Suzanne promises that anyone that comes over will be treated to reliving that moment too.
A big Miami Dolphins and Dan Marino fan, Scott said that he has always said, "Dan Marino was the greatest quarterback ever...until now." Now it is John Elway. Returning to Maples Pavillion for another game - Stanford vs. UCLA - with complimentary tickets and great seats, Scott and Jordan watched as a new prize was offered - a helmet signed by John Elway and Jim Plunkett. It may be a long time before someone is presented with that prize.