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A Cool Gloria Borges Update!

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You guys may remember Gloria Borges: we were impressed with the way she is fighting cancer and linked to her blog recently. Anyway, some big doings in Gloria Land, so enjoy!
In what is now almost a lifetime ago, I was a senior in college, worried about the draft, and trying to figure out what I might do next. I had applied to three law schools, Duke, because I had been there once, and also because one of my college friend’s father had played on the “Iron Dukes” under Wallace Wade.

A number of months later, I had flunked the draft physical because of an old football injury, had gotten into Duke, had scraped up the cash for my first year in law school, and headed to North Carolina.

When I got to Durham in the fall of 1968, Duke football wasn’t bad, and Duke basketball was at end of the glory years of Vic Bubas. Names like Mike Lewis, Jack Marin & Art Heyman seemed to be well known by all my new Duke friends. But I was such a small town Minnesota kid that I didn’t even know that UNC was in Chapel Hill.

Almost every day, at lunch time, we would go to the Indoor Stadium, now known as “Cameron Indoor Stadium” and play 3 on 3 or 4 on 4 half court basketball. They games were fierce. If you were winners you kept on playing, when you lost you sat down. Games routinely included Duke football players, undergrads, other grad students and even Hubie Brown, who as I recall was an assistant to Coach Bubas along with Chuck Daly.

When basketball season kicked in we never missed a game. Duke was OK, but not great like years past. And those were the days when the only team to get to the NCAA’s was the one who won the ACC tournament. And then I graduated, headed to Winter Park, Florida for my first legal job.

Fast forward 7 years, by then Duke Basketball had suddenly got better, and Duke made it to the Final Four in St. Louis, beating first Notre Dame, and then losing to Kentucky. Like I am sure most Duke fans the Kentucky loss was devastating. But it appeared that Duke basketball was back. But next there was some dispute, Bill Foster, the Duke coach resigned, and there was another dark period, including the first couple of years under Coach Mike Krzyzewski.

But then as all serious Duke fans know, Coach K’s first couple years were rough, but then Coach K recruited Johnny Dawkins, Mark Alarie, Jay Bilas and Duke was now back. In 1986, I managed to get two tickets and grabbed my best friend John from Duke Law and we headed to Dallas for the Final Four. Duke beat Kansas, and then lost to Louisville in the final moments. High in the stands we could feel the game slipping away, and we were desperate to do something to make things be different. But even with the loss, we had sense and belief that the Duke basketball world had turned.

Over the next years I managed to watch every Duke game I could, went to another Final Four and an Eastern Regional, both of which we lost, e.g., Connecticut in ’99 and Kentucky in ’98. And then for a period of time I shared two tickets to Duke games with two of my other Duke friends and would routinely hop on Southwest, fly from Orlando to Durham to watch Duke games.

In 2005 I moved to Seattle, which meant not much different other than the early Duke games came on at 4 or 4:30 P.M. in the afternoon , and just meant that you quit work earlier to watch the games. Moving to a city where I really didn’t know anyone didn’t mean much to me as there were a bunch of Duke alums who would rendezvous in one or another sports bars and watch games. Just like in Cameron, everyone knew all the players knew everything that was going on around the team, in large part because of the “The Duke Basketball Report” e.g., “The DBR”!

So as this season kicked in, I found myself daily reading the DBR, catching all the details, back stories, etc. And one day I found myself reading this truly remarking blog post by Gloria Borges entitled: How Duke Basketball Has Helped Me Fight Cancer.

And as season was about to start with Duke’s ranked number 1, and I was psyched. Once the schedule came out, I noticed that Duke was going to be playing Oregon in Portland, just down “The 5” so to speak, and set out to get 4 tickets so that my dear friend John of more than forty years from Duke Law and I could head to the game. I figured we would take dates and make a day of it. I reached out to another great Duke friend in Seattle, “Dan”, who has been to Coach K’s fantasy camps, and is better connected than I am, and perhaps as big or bigger fan of Duke basketball than I am. Dan got us the tickets and we were set. But then my pal John’s date cancelled, and I found myself on a rainy Seattle Sunday, heading to Buckley’s of Belltown, to try to get them to turn at least one of their TV’s to ESPNU to watch the Duke/Princeton game. When I got to the bar it was slammed with people watching pro football, and only by figuring out that there was just one booth with a TV set where no one was watching anything did I get them to turn it to the Duke game.

I had the booth to myself, which while a bit lonely, was OK, Duke was playing great. About 7-8 minutes into the game, two women and a guy peeked around the corner into the booth, and asked if they could watch the game with me. I said sure, would love to have company. We exchanged first names. They were Gloria, her husband Will, and her mother Becky. We proceeded to have a terrific conversation. I quickly learned that Gloria and Will had graduated from Duke, and then Gloria had gone to law school at Stanford, that Will was in the tech business, and that Becky was a real estate appraiser. At halftime I asked them what part of Seattle they lived in, and Gloria told me they were from Los Angeles. Then she told me that she was battling Stage IV colon cancer. I instantly recalled the article in the DBR, and asked if she was the author. Gloria said that she was and I thought what an incredibly small world. But I realized in an instant the common bond in our love for Duke Basketball. As we sat there and talked and cheered for Duke, I thought to myself, “things happen for a reason” , and asked Gloria as to what she had planned for Thanksgiving. She said nothing she could think of. And I said “how would you and Will like my two extra tickets for the Duke/Oregon game in Portland?” Gloria didn’t even take an extra breath and immediately said yes!

On the following Monday, I mailed her the two tickets, and we began to make plans for meeting up in Portland. By the following weekend, Gloria confirmed that she had the tickets and that she was set to go. And then we had a blizzard that completely paralyzed Seattle.

So I trudged in the snow to a local sports bar to watch Duke win the CBE games, and to return one night to get an E-Mail telling me that Gloria’s folks wanted to come to the game in Portland, and was there any way to get two more tickets. I said I have no clue, but will immediately ask. I tracked down my pal Dan in New York, he reached back out to Duke. I sent along the two links that Gloria had written, explained my chance involvement in everything, and on a very snowy Wednesday morning, a great lady named Trish E-Mailed me to say sure there were two more tickets. I called Becky, Gloria’s mother and made the connection.

While talking to Trish, I told her the story, she told me her husband had gone to Duke Law just after me, and we concluded that we had mutual friends from Duke. I asked her if would at all be possible for Gloria to meet Coach K. She said she had no idea, but would forward on the links to Coach K’s assistant Gerry.

On Friday night I got an E-Mail from Gloria’s husband Will telling me that Duke had asked if they wouldn’t mind swapping tickets and sitting behind the Duke bench. It was as if he didn’t want my feelings to be hurt.

I said sure by all means do it. We will see you at the game. And I kept thinking, “I hope Duke does something special for Gloria”… By Saturday the snow had melted and we headed south. When we got to the Rose Garden, e.g., the site of the game, the arena hadn’t quite opened up, and the lines of people waiting to get made it seem like a Duke home game in Cameron. All kinds of people wearing Duke sweatshirts/jackets/hats/t-shirts. And suddenly Gloria and Will caught up to us. They were thrilled and I was delighted to see them. We all headed into the game. Duke won big e.g., 98-71. Kyle Singler was sensational, and as game ended I tried to find Gloria to say good-bye.

But the crowd was all over, and we headed home. Little did I know that Gloria’s adventure was only beginning with the best part to come.

Early this morning I checked her blog to see if she had written anything, and was thrilled to read as to what happened next.

I have always rolled my eyes when people utter clichés like “things happen for a reason” , immediately concluding that when they say stuff like that it’s because they truly don’t know what they are talking about. But late on this Sunday night I am perhaps a bit of a believer.

Gloria is a terrific young woman. She’s surrounded by a great husband, loving family and friends, and best I can tell she is going to win this battle.

I happened to be at a particular intersection in time when all the right things came to play e.g., Gloria’s great blog post about how Duke Basketball had helped her fight cancer, my reading it in the DBR, my sitting watching the game alone, our chance meeting, and my having two extra tickets.

But it wasn’t just me, it was my pal Dan, his assistant Andra, Trish, Mike and Gerry at Duke, and most importantly Coach K and Mrs. K.

I have always rolled my eyes when people utter clichés like “things happen for a reason” , immediately concluding that when they say stuff like that it’s because they truly don’t know what they are talking about. But late on this Sunday night I am perhaps a bit of a believer.

Gloria is a terrific young woman. She’s surrounded by a great husband, loving parents and supportive friends, and she is going to win her battle.

Go Gloria and Go Duke!

And “things do happen for a reason….”

by Buzz Bruggeman

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