by Joe Boone
A follow up to our post on Phish's song about Darius Washington Jr.
“Darius Washington Jr.'s story was incredibly moving to all of us in Phish,” Trey Anastasio wrote in an email to the Flyer. Anastasio is the lead singer of the jam band Phish, which should in all probability have exactly nothing to do with Tiger hoops. But this is Memphis. Things get weird.
At a Halloween show in Atlantic City, Phish played a song called “The Line.” The song is about Washington's infamous free throw attempts against Louisville in the 2005 C-USA tournament. The song is also about overcoming adversity. Darius Jr.’s Twitter handle is @Mr_Adversity. Following the emotional loss on national television, Washington’s father, Darius Sr., refused to let his son wallow in self-pity and led him on a walk up and down Beale Street to face the fans and to revel in their support.
We reached Darius Jr. by Twitter. He is playing basketball for Olin Edirne Basket, a Turkish team, and deferred questions to his dad. We spoke to Darius Sr. by phone yesterday.
Explaining Phish to Darius Sr. is not what one expects to do on a music-writing gig. But, again, this is Memphis. Initially confused by the news, the Washingtons have developed a sense of humor and perspective on the song, the event, and what it means to people.
“Is he a famous country singer?” Darius Sr. asked. “I don’t know them.”
Phish is somewhat famous for being a jam band, primarily a touring act that invests less time in the studio and in pursuing radio success than in playing live shows for its dedicated fans. It’s not for everybody.
“If the people that sit there and listen to this — if they don’t follow sports and don’t know that this took place — what are they thinking? What’s going through the fans minds?,” Washington Sr. wondered.
“It really spoke to me on a personal level, because I've gone through some difficult moments in public, too,” Anastasio wrote. “I'm sure most people have, in one way or another. Those tough moments can ultimately become gifts though.”
The Washingtons were not immediately sure of the musicians’ motives when they heard about the song on CBS Sports.
“We had to sort through and figure out which rout to take. I’ve got rap artists — people that could have just blasted him out,” Washington Sr. said. “I had a lot of scenarios going through my head about how I would respond if it was something that I felt that he was trying to pour salt on a wound or something like that. Maybe I can get one of my rap guys to rap something about it.”
But the awesome possibility of a musical standoff between Phish and the Washingtons was quashed as Darius’ Sr. again demonstrated the character that led him and his son out onto Beale to face the music.
“They show it on ESPN,” Washington said. “They talk about it on March Madness and at the beginning of the year. It’s been following us forever. But it’s not a bad thing, though. There’s something that people fail to realize. Yeah, that was a history making moment, but we got up off the floor and we’re still doing what we do.”
Anastasio was among those moved by the display of family, character, and civic goodwill that went on display.
“You learn a lot about what's really important in life when
something like that happens,” Anastasio wrote.
“This is the question I pose to people,” Washington said. “If he would have just walked off the court after missing those free throws and sat on the bench like it was nothing, then people have said, damn that kid didn’t even care. But being that he is so passionate — and he hated to lose — that was the main issue. That wasn’t a national championship game. That was a freaking conference game to get into the big dance. That should show the world the passion he has for winning. The kid was always and still is a winner. He’s not a kid anymore, he’s a man. He did that in rec league. If he missed a shot, it bothered him. To this day, that’s how it stands,” Washington said.
In an even more conciliatory gesture, Washington laid the groundwork for what could become Phish’s masterpiece.
“If he decides to do a video, tell him to call us.”