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8:06 p.m. - October 19, 2006
Smed Meets Chocolate Thunder in 2012
It was about 9:30 at night on a Sunday in September of the year 2012. I was in Toledo, sitting at the bar of the Radisson Hotel. I’m in this city, yet again, for a conference – the same conference I’ve been going to since the year 2000. Every year, it’s in the same hotel in Toledo, and every year, on Sunday night, I’m here in the bar, watching football and nursing either beer or wine.

I’m thinking of heading up to my room, calling Liz and hitting the sack, as I’m a bit tired. I’ve driven about 4 ½ hours to get here, and I just arrived recently. I had to wait until after church as Katie had an important youth group thing on this Sunday and Kristin had a soccer practice, since she’s on the all star team even though she’s barely seven.

The bartender, Norm, who has been here ever since I started coming to this conference, asks if I want another draft. What the heck, I thought, one more won’t kill me. The game was nearing halftime, and I could watch the second half in my room.

Then I spot her. She was in her early twenties. She was about 5’7 and was of average build and size. Her face was a moon, with round eyes that had a certain sad quality to them. She had pale skin – but she wasn’t gothlike in her appearance. Her medium length brunette – almost black - hair was pulled back into a bun, and she was wearing a sweatshirt from Wittenberg University and a pair of capris and flip flops.

Something about her was familiar. Something, but what, I had no idea. She may have looked similar to other conference goers in the past. Lord knows, since 2000 I’ve met a lot of them.

She sat three stools down from me, with no one in between us. She asks Norm for a Jack and diet coke, and fumbles around in her purse for a mirror. Seeing she’s from Wittenberg, I give a little wave and say,

“Here for the conference?”

“Yes. It’s my first time. I’m pretty new.”

“Oh, you work at Wittenberg?”

“Yeah, since January. I graduated in the fall from Purdue, and I knew someone who had a connection here.”

“So what do you do?”

“I work in the admissions and financial aid office. I’m a report writer and learning the ropes of the business there.”

“Interesting. I know a lot of people in our admissions and financial aid office. They hardly have any time to come to conferences.”

“Really? Wow. That busy huh? Where do you work?”

“Wabash College. I’m the Advancement Services Director with emphasis on Major Gifts. I’ve been coming to this conference for a long time. My name is Smed.”

“Hi, my name is Daryl. Wabash, huh?”

“Yeah. Certainly you know about it, since you went to Purdue.”

“Oh, I knew it before I went to Purdue. I lived nearby.”

“Really? Where? I grew up in Crawfordsville.”

“Rockville. That’s where I’m from. Who-hoo. Big time, eh?”

“So, you were one of the Rox, eh?”

“Yep. I even played volleyball, but not much. My senior year, I only played junior varsity. I mean, they kept me on the team and I liked it, but I hardly played even on the JV as a senior. I always just kept the stats for the most part.”

My mind started to race. Volleyball player, Rockville, Daryl…no it couldn’t be.

“So you graduated from Rockville in 2007?”

“Yes.”

“So your senior year in volleyball was 2006?”

“Right.”

Oh, no. It’s her.

Chocolate Thunder.

“Wait a minute…”

“What?”

“Your last name isn’t Dockins, is it?”

“Oh, how did you know???”

She was a bit alarmed that I knew her last name. So I had to unpack my story.

Back in the fall of 2006, I started to write more for the Paper of Montgomery County. I covered more fall sports than I had in the past, and one of them was volleyball.

Crawfordsville had a decent volleyball team that season, and they played the Rockville Rox (yes, that’s their name, don’t wear it out) twice at home. Both times, I noticed that there was a senior that played JV only. Normally, they don’t have seniors on the JV, only the varsity, since the JV is for younger players who need experience.

And her name was Daryl Dockins.

Now, many of you reading now wonder why I make a big deal about that name, and why I gave a sweet looking high school senior from a small town in Indiana named Daryl Dockins the nickname Chocolate Thunder. Well, there is a reason.

There was an NBA player for the 76’ers in the 70’s and 80’s named Daryl Dawkins. Now, Mr. Dawkins was a big, black man with a shaved head and a menacing countenance. He wasn’t much of an offensive player, and had a penchant for fouling players. But he was a fan favorite in the league for many years.

He was eccentric and nutty – he claimed he was from the planet Lovetron. He claimed he spent offseason there with his girlfriend Juicy Lucy and practice “interplanetary funkmanship.” Basically, he was the NBA player that George Clinton would have invented.

He dunked whenever he could, and he gave names to his dunks - In Your Face Disgrace, Go-Rilla Dunk, Earthquaker Shaker, Candyslam, Dunk You Very Much, Look Out Below, Yo Mama, Sexophonic, Turbo Delight, Rim Wrecker, Greyhound Bus, Cover Your Head, and Spine Chiller Supreme.

He is most famous for, in 1979, breaking two backboards in less than a month. The first one, when he was facing Kansas City on the road, was ferocious and glass rained down on Kings’ forward Bill Robinzine. So Dawkins named it “The Chocolate-Thunder-Flying, Robinzine-Crying, Teeth-Shaking, Glass-Breaking, Rump Roasting, Bun-Toasting, Wham-Bam-Glass-Breaker-I-Am-Jam.”

He’s a memorable character, no doubt. And his nickname was Chocolate Thunder.

And there she was, the girl that I dubbed Chocolate Thunder those years ago. I told that nickname to some of the people on the bench and to the Crawfordsville AD, and all laughed the laugh because they knew that her parents HAD to know about Daryl Dawkins, the NBA player, since Daryl Dockins was born in either 1988 or 1989.

So, what do I do? Do I go right out and say how I remember her, over all of the players that I covered in that season?

I pictured in my mind her life with that name. When she went to meet a date’s parents and the Dad was all curious about her name without letting on why? “What’s so special about my name, anyway?” she may think. “Sure, Daryl is a bit unusual for a girl’s name but it’s not unheard of.”

Sometimes the Dad may be a bit disappointed, as they may have been expecting his son to be bringing home a 6’11 bald African American man, instead of a 5’7 white girl from BFE land.

Maybe she knew about Daryl Dawkins, and maybe she respected him. Or maybe she loathed him and wished she was named something normal, like Ashley, or Bethany, or Andrea.

She still had this look like I was a mad stalker, so I HAD to say something.

“Oh, I used to cover sports in Crawfordsville, and I think I saw one or two of your volleyball games your senior year.”

“Wow, and you remember me? You must have some memory.”

“Well, I do on some things. My wife says I need a purge button. Half the time I can’t keep the names of my two girls straight.”

“Hah. You’re just getting old.”

“Right! Well, nice meeting you Daryl, and I’m sure I’ll see you around the next two days.”

With that, I finished my beer, and left the bar after settling up with Norm, leaving Daryl alone with her Jack and Diet Coke. I walked away wondering if she’s counting the days until she marries so she can rid herself of that sobriquet, and have a more normal sounding name without any references to old NBA players.

Let’s just hope she doesn’t marry a Waltrip, or a Hannah.

 

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