Mother: Did you watch the Final Four? Duke won?
Me: I know mother. The whole world knows mother — with the exception of certain drag queens and various trappist monks.
Mother: Well if they’re from North Carolina they should know it too.
When I think of the NCAA’s Final Four basketball tournament, I think of porn. It was 1983 and NC State — the “Cardiac Pack” — under the tutelage of Jim Valvano was slated to play Houston at the Pit, then known as University Arena, in Albuquerque, NM. I was with my fellow boarding school mate at her coastal home for spring break and while her parents were busy running their colossal fish house, we were left to our own barely-teen devices in their palatial seaside home that boasted a Florida Room, a pool and a cache of porn.
Scene: Shooting hoops in our puffy Kareem Abdul Jabbar high tops at the end of her street named for her family (she was Calabash royalty after all).
A: Yeah there’s a whole cabinet of them. Let’s go look… Hey what’s in that drawer?
Me: I believe that is what is known as pornography.
A: Should we watch it?
Me: It seems like it would be educational — since we are deprived of sex ed and all.
True to form, back at school I was the power forward on our listless basketball team and A, being 5-foot-11 in the seventh grade, was destined both in character and height to be center. We practiced diligently and made the varsity team early in our careers — the principal requirement of this being the ability to tie one’s high tops by one’s self and not trip over the dangly bits.
Also her daddy paid for our new uniforms and my parents donated a station wagon at some point.
The point is — much like that buzzer-ending dunk by Lorenzo Charles preceded by a 30-foot, high arcing airball of a pass by Dereck Whittenburg — it was destiny. We were players. We were going to watch that game. And that porno.
Splayed on preppy green carpeting in a crime scene of pizza bones, Cheeto dust, a bloodbath of Cheerwine and the viscous, chartreuse fluids of Mountain Dew, we watched that fateful game when NC State beat Houston 54-52 in the fourth biggest point-spread upset in championship-game history. We were pumped full of sugar and nitrates and imitation cheese and pride in our own pituitary cases. So when A asked again if we should watch the porno it was game on.
Me: Ew. Those guys are gross.
Me: Let’s fast forward. Maybe it gets better.
A: Let’s just watch the last five minutes. If I can stand it.
What we later came to learn was known as “the money shot” was a typical, misogynistic porn move brought home by the words of a fellow ménage a trois actor who bellowed out: “Come in her face, Ralph!”
This vile statement changed our game forever. Maybe it was pride in the Pack too, but we used “Ralph” to get us through a lot in life those next few years. It became an on-court cri de coeur that I don’t think our coach ever understood. “Ralph” meant pass the ball, I’m open. It was a post-game high five “Nice shot Ralph” that was either a legitimate compliment or a sarcastic nod to a player on another team. That guy’s a “Ralph” meant he was a jerk. “Ralphing on Ralph” meant telling said jerk off. When something was absurd, it was “Ralphable.”
Poor guy. He never knew what was coming to him.