Kris Dunn, AJ Dillon, Rajai Davis ... they represent the best of Our City
So it’s an hour or so before kickoff Wednesday night at the Pinstripe Bowl — the fighting AJ Dillons of BC against Iowa — and I’m sitting in the open air press box with coffee, my impromptu best friend, trying to withstand the notion that baby, it’s cold outside.
A writer from a national publication sits next to me, introduces himself and says, “Can I ask you a few questions about New London?”
“Of course,” I said.
He asked, “Is there something in the water there? I mean, how does a small city in the northeast produce an NFL player (Jordan Reed), NBA player (Kris Dunn) Major Leaguer (Rajai Davis) and now the ACC Rookie of the Year (Dillon)? What’s it like there?”
For a minute, I was unusually speechless. How does one answer this with brevity? So many possibilities, so little time.
And so I decided to lean on an old quote from Chop Parker, the basketball coach at the high school, who once uttered this gem after a state championship game.
“This is the town I love, the town I grew up in. I love New London, Connecticut,” he said. “I tell people it's the most psychotic town on the planet by far. But you know what? It's my town.”
The writer chuckled.
He said, “It’s screwed up, but the people are loyal?”
I said, “yep.”
We talked for a good half hour about all things 06320. He was fascinated at the contrast between the abstract (almost unconditional loyalty) and the daily realism (the recent string of three murders in eight days).
He asked about the schools. His jaw dropped when I told him how the aforementioned loyalty doesn’t necessarily extend into the school system.
“How?” he asked.
“An administrator once told the high school graduating class to go out, get educated and then come back to help,” I said. “Graduates have done that. And they tend to get dismissed or treated with levels of disrespect that betray their love and loyalty for the town.”
“Why?” he asked.
I said, “because most of the people who run the show in the schools now aren’t from New London and resent those who are.”
He said, “My perception of New London is that it must be a special place to churn out kids like this.”
I said, “It is. It’s just that the qualities of the athletes they ‘churn out’ aren’t necessarily practiced by the people in charge.”
He scribbled furiously.
We shook hands and parted ways. I made a new friend.
On the drive home from the Bronx, I got to thinking about our conversation. I’ve joked before that the only way to rescue New London from its morass is to bring in organized crime. No, really. They’re no barrel of laughs, but they’ve been known to be, you know, efficient.
In lieu of Vinny The Claw, though, it made me think: If the athletes New London has produced actually ran the city, wouldn’t it be a far less screwed up place?
Think about it: They haven’t forgotten where they’ve come from. They manage money well. They value loyalty. They value education. Dunn stayed an extra year at Providence to graduate. One of Dillon’s teammates said his “nose is in textbooks more than the playbook.” They’d return with instant credibility. Great mentors for the kids.
So I say this.
Mayor: Kris Dunn.
Superintendent of Schools: AJ Dillon.
Spiritual leader: Davis. He could tell the story of leaving New London one night in a purple Dodge Neon on nothing more than faith and prayer to attend a tryout camp of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Then we’d disperse Reed, Troy McKelvin, Lexus Childs-Harris, Cassius Chaney, Doug Henton, India Pagan, Allan Chaney, Charee Osborne and about a hundred others to various outposts.
What, they’d do worse than what we have now?
You may chuckle at this, mock this, dismiss this, love this or ignore this. Free country. Just think about the inspiring qualities instilled in the many kids who grew up here.
So when, exactly, do we start taking our cues from the people who represent us best?
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.
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