Eight and Eight.
Losing at Xavier in increasingly soul-crushing ways.
For many years, this was Flyerdom. With hairs of blue and vests of sweater, we trudged into the Dungeon fully aware of our fate. Why then, when seeing the dark path, would we continue to move forward? Habit? Maybe. Passion? Perhaps. For all the pain, there was always a tiny glow on the horizon, as soft and warm as your childhood night light. Every season had one moment that couldn’t be spoiled. We circled the date and sounded the alarm. She was coming. Red. Panda.
On the surface it sounds like something you could only see in Blackburn’s basement. A tiny Asian lady in a skin tight dress climbed onto a unicycle nearly twice her height, gained control with her left foot, and used her magisterial right leg to flip bowls high into the air, falling ever so softly upon her head. Bowl after bowl. Year after year. Standing ovation after standing ovation. This was not merely halftime entertainment. This was God speaking to us through art.
The last time we saw Red Panda at UD Arena, things didn’t go so well. She put on a great show, but several bowls hit hardwood. We cheered and she smiled, but something was different. Perhaps we missed the sign, but deep down I think we knew. She had lost her fastball.
While some fly by night cocksmen choose to go out with a self-serving goodbye tour, our beloved Red Panda showed all the class of a Swampette. There was no ceremony, no parade of gifts. Like the pilot light of a water heater on the coldest morning of the year, the flame simply flickered and went out when no one was looking. The unicycle will hang on a hook in the garage. The bowls will be filled with cereal and milk.
She’s gone now, and we are left with only memories. Sure you have your monkeys riding dogs, quick change artists, jump rope teams, and kids with bucket drums. The Alter dance team will still entertain the grandmas and the creeps. But you can’t bullshit the bullshitter, these are merely acts to keep the non-smokers from falling asleep. It won’t be the same. This is a new era where halftime isn’t always a merciful break in the torture. Our eight is elite, it needs no partner on the other side of a dash.
The hero we deserved is no longer the hero we need. I like to think she will still look in on us. A silent guardian. A watchful bowl lady. The Red Panda.
Farewell, my friend. Thanks for everything.