The end is coming, and it could be wild
Do not go gentle into that good night
Old age should burn and rave at end of day
Rage, rage against the dying of the light
-- Dylan Thomas
YOU can feel it now, the end closing in. It seems real now, no longer some abstract concept, no longer some faraway future date. It's coming now, unstoppable, like time, like age, like the dying of the light.
It's closing in now, the end. Everybody realizes it now. After 20 years, tomorrow night is Riley Wallace's final home game as Rainbows coach.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Matt Gibson, who formed a special bond with his coach this past offseason, who so badly wants to win for Riley Wallace. Bobby Nash, who grew up with the man. Ahmet Gueye, who came back early from a knee injury for Wallace's last season, when the smartest thing to do may have been to sit out a year and come back fully healed.
All of them. Everything.
Bob Nash, who should get the job next, but, well ...
"I just hope he gets that chance," Wallace would say.
He said, "The reason we're winning, eight straight seasons, is because of that staff. ... That defense is Bob Nash's defense."
Bob Nash jumping off the bench, the fire coming out of him from deep in the pit of his gut.
Raging against the dying of the light.
Even the opponent embodied it, on this night (though it was pointed out that a young lady during a timeout contest shot a better percentage than the Vandals did). Idaho's Keoni Watson, refusing to give in, even as the time ticked and the deficit increased and the game slipped away. Still fighting, making spectacular shots. He played so hard the Hawaii crowd gave him a standing O.
He was also what these last few games are about.
Raging against the inevitable. Fighting to the very end.
All of them. Everything.
"I had a lot of fun," Wallace said of his 20 years.
"It's a little bit of a distraction," Rainbows guard Matt Lojeski said of the impending end. They try not to think about it. They try to just play.
"Coach Wallace said he wants the media to take a step back and have us focus on what we need to do," Bobby Nash said.
In the moment. Just fighting.
"We're never satisfied," Nash said. "We're always trying to get better."
Stephen Verwers, filling the lane, dunking. P.J. Owsley tipping a pass at the top of the key. Alley-ooping. Spectacular plays.
"Lojeski's always there," Wallace said.
Not savoring, not relishing these last few moments. Fighting instead.
The end is real now. You can feel it closing in. This is really it.
"He (Wallace) wants to go out a winner," Bobby Nash said.
It's been a little awkward this season, a slightly weird, wild ride. It struck me yesterday that it's almost been like the plot of one of those college-comedy movies. Herman "If I want to sign four games tomorrow, I can sign four games tomorrow" Frazier (Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Oct. 10, 2006) having cast himself in the role of the dean determined to revoke Otter's charter. "The contract states what it states."
(Note: Did Wallace sign that contract? Yes. Was that a good move? No. No, it wasn't.)
But this is real life. Business. Everyone accepts it now. The dean will win and all that is left is what kind of blaze of glory to go out in. (Flounder: "Can I have 10,000 marbles please?")
Everyone knows the end is coming now.
"It's going to be fun to finish," Wallace said, "and I hope it's a win."
Wallace said, "The big thing is I've got to keep my team from thinking about everything until after the game."
There will be a celebration, then, and leis and songs and tears and hugs. Then, it will be over. But not quite. The Rainbows want to go into the WAC tournament on a roll.
Wallace said, "I need some guys to step up and say, 'Hey, this is it. We've got everything ahead of us, let's go out and do it and have some fun.'"
They don't have much time left.
All that is left to do is to not go gentle.
Riley Wallace has never had a problem with that.