Go Huskies!

A bunch of fans of the UConn Women Huskies traveled to Madison Square Garden on Sunday to see them play Penn State. It was part of the third annual Maggie Dixon Classic. I had not heard of her until yesterday, but she was the women’s basketball coach at Army and died suddenly of a heart attack about two and half years ago. Since heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women, her death wasn’t surprising. What was shocking was her age: She was 28 years old.

She was in her freshman year of coaching when her team won a berth in the NCAA playoffs for the first time. A month later, she was dead. An autopsy revealed that she had an enlarged heart and a heart valve that did not close properly. This problem may have led to arrhythmia and ultimately cardiac arrest.

Along with two women’s basketball games, the Garden had its expo center filled with information about staying heart healthy. There were free EKGs and blood pressure screenings, CPR training, information about organ donation, and a basketball hoop for the young folks to practice their shots. The C.A.R.E. Foundation, which funds education and research on heart arrhythmias, received part of the proceeds from ticket sales. C.A.R.E.’s statement in the game program makes it abundantly clear that young people are very much at risk for the kinds of problems that killed Maggie Dixon.

Then it was in to the arena. The first game of the Classic featured Rutgers vs. Army. Rutgers, which someone called Don Imus’s favorite basketball team, is one of UConn’s biggest rivals. A couple of years ago one of the players and our beloved (and very handsome) coach Geno Auriemma got into some sort of nasty verbal exchange, and things have been rocky ever since even though the two said they patched things up shortly afterward. But we won’t face RU until conference play starts after the first of the year, which is probably a benefit for both teams.

As of yesterday, neither Big East powerhouse looked as though it was ready for primetime. Rutgers flailed around and finally beat Army 59-38, but Maggie Dixon’s scrappy team was able to make a good run toward the end of the game.

After a moving ceremony to honor Maggie, UConn and Penn State took the floor. Our Huskies couldn’t seem to get their shots to drop until well into the second half. (Power point guard Renee Montgomery only sank two of 12 three pointers, while Penn State began knocking them down right from the opening buzzer.) Geno has a habit of firing up the team at half-time – stories abound about the bad language and insults he hurls if he doesn’t think team is living up to its potential. The players obviously took this to heart and scored a bunch of points late in the first half. And the fans were looking for a completely different team to come out of the locker room after halftime. It was not to be. The players acted as though they hadn’t played a game for nearly two weeks, which they hadn‘t. The Hartford Courant called the effort “rusty.” In the end, though, they were saved by the massive number of fouls Penn State racked up and Tina Charles’s more massive 29 points. The Huskies finally pulled it out 77-63 and retained their No. 1 national ranking.

Aside from watching the Huskies play and win, I revisited little Babar before he leaves the Morgan Library. My first visit had to be curtailed (November 3’s post “New York, New York”) for an appointment. Yesterday I had time to study Jean deBrunhoff’s sketches and completed drawings that showed the little elephant’s beginnings. My friends Nancy and Harvey had been to the Morgan before, and we took a quick trip up the stairs into a couple of the rooms of J.P.’s vast library, which retains his ponderous mahogany desk, surrounded by some alarming red wallpaper and truly frightening and elaborate ceilings. At first it was a shock to walk into the space from the bright display rooms showing Babar where the only furniture was a couple of backless, unadorned benches made of blond wood with magazine racks on the side. Among the items that Harv and Nancy wanted to show me in the “as it was” section: a Gutenberg Bible, along with floor-to-ceiling book shelves filled with other Bibles. I do believe J.P.’s version is more impressive than the one at Yale’s Beinecke Library. In honor of the season the Morgan curators have also pulled out the original draft of Dickens’ Christmas Carol.

Both deBrunhoff and Dickens seemed to know exactly what to insert and what to remove to make their initial drafts sing in the finished product. It was a humbling experience to gaze upon the creation of magic in art and words!

Clarification: I did not mean to imply in Friday’s post, “Loot,” that under every circumstance should American and European museums be forced to return antiquities to the place of their birth even if they were removed by theft. It would be pure folly, for example, to send items back to Iraq or Afghanistan now or at any time in the foreseeable future. And I wouldn’t trust the Iranians with anyone’s stuff for fear the zealots would destroy it in the name of Allah. On the other hand, I do think the claim of right trumps pretty much everything else when the entity seeking the return is a (more or less) stable government – Italy, for example. Or when the items involve human remains as is the case with the Native American holdings at the Smithsonian. So as the legal beagles like to say, each claim has to be decided on a case-by-case basis.

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