OK, hereís the deal. ďAmerican BeautyĒ is one of my favorite films. Itís beautifully photographed, the music is quirky and free of sentimental string instruments, and all of the actors are magnetic. Itís not for nothing that Iíve got the movie in both DVD and VHS versions.
The thing that I most enjoy about ďAmerican BeautyĒ is the dialogue, which surprises me in good ways. The video of the dancing bag provides one of the best monologues in the film for Ricky, the weird-kid-next-door character, who says there's so much beauty that he feels he can't handle it all. But my favorite monologue is Lesterís voice-over that ends the movie. Set in the action immediately after he is shot, Lesterís monologue can be boiled down to this: the smallest images and smells and sounds that we absorb in our lives arenít really appreciated while weíre living. Itís not until everythingís gone that Lester savors each individual sensation, which seem to continue on for an eternity.
Shereka Wright will play her last game in Mackey Arena today, and as I face the certainty of never seeing her play in person again, images come to my mind. Some of them are fleeting moments, some take place over the span of an entire game. But when they're combined, one next to another, Iím realize that I may have finally found Ms. Wright.
∑ Itís the WBCA All-American game, shown on ESPN2. Iím excited to see the three Purdue recruits in action: Cherrise Graham, Erika Valek, and Shereka Wright. When I see Shereka, I am amazed at how slight and angular she is, and I wonder if sheíll handle the rigors of physical Big Ten play. Then she hauls in a long pass from Diana Taurasi, goes in for a lay-up, makes the shot despite being pummeled, and nails the free throw. My doubts are gone.
∑ Itís Sherekaís third career start, at home against Michigan. Katie Douglas was injured and wonít play against the Wolverines, who have enough depth, especially in the frontcourt, to make me anxious about the outcome. Not only does Shereka pour in a then-career-high 25 points against UM, but she also has the single most-amazing play Iíve ever seen in a basketball game: the game is close to ending, the Wolverine players are pressing to try to force a turnover, all the players are tired. Shereka gets the ball near the free throw line, sprints past every Wolverine playeró-including one at the opposite free throw lineó-and converts a lay-up.
∑ Itís the national championship game against Notre Dame. Katie Douglasís breakaway lay-up has given Purdue a lead, then Ruth Riley ties the score again. With less than a minute to play, Shereka has the ball on the baseline. She drives, pulls up, and shoots a short jumperÖ that rattles around the rim and out. Notre Dame goes on to win the national championship. In the next yearís media guide, Shereka desire to win a national championship is mentioned three times in her Q&A page.
∑ Itís Sherekaí sophomore year and the Boilermakers were taken to the woodshed by the Minnesota Golden Gophers, now in a tie for first with Purdue. The next game, at UMís Crisler Arena, Shereka scores a school record 40 points to help the Boilermakers clinch at least a share of the Big Ten championship. The Boilermaker players arenít told that Minnesota lost its game that night, so Shereka and the squad were under the assumption they needed the victory to stay tied.
∑ The next game, the Boilermakers keep the Big Ten championship all to themselves as they beat the Penn State Nittany Lions in Mackey Arena. Shereka gets a double-double in the victory, getting a key rebound and offensive putback over a 6í3Ē Nittany Lion near the end of the game. The crowd in Mackey is louder at that moment than any other time Iíve ever heard it.
∑ Itís Sherekaís junior year, and the Boilermakers are playing woefully undermanned Savannah State on Thanksgiving. There are few fans in the stands, little drama on the court, and a great smile on my face as Shereka scores her 1,000th career point before being taken out of the game by Coach Curry. Shereka receives a standing ovation and cheers on her teammates as the Boilermakers pass the 100 point mark.
∑ Itís Sherekaís junior year and the Boilermakers arenít looking like themselves against Connecticut in the NCAA tournament. Iím at BW3 on the Levee, which is quieter than a morgue. The second-half deficit expands until the Boilermakers take exception to a hard foul on Beth Jones during a lay-up, and go on an amazing run that gets the fans yelling and screaming. Shereka makes a number of three-point shots and, along with great play by Lindsey Hicks and Sharika Webb, the Boilermakers get within six points. Connecticut, however, makes its free throws to close out the victory. But Purdue came back.
∑ Itís Sherekaís senior year, during which she: blocks four Michigan State shots at home to keep the teamís lead intact, nails a 3-pointer near the end of the UCSB game to seal the victory, shoots 20 free throws on the road against Northwestern, goes for double-doubles against three of the Boilermakersí most difficult foes (Penn State, Minnesota, and Michigan State), and scores her 2000th career point on a lay-up against Ohio State.
Like Lester in ďAmerican Beauty,Ē Iím appreciating all of these moments just at the very end of a long haul: Shereka is ready to end her Purdue career with a flourish, and I'll soon have nothing of her but these moments. They may grow more mythic over the years, bearing little resemblance to the originals, but theyíre mine as I piece together and find Shereka Wright.