But first, of course, I had to tell Elihu, who was still standing in front of the box office. As I rushed over to him I was still bewildered. Why was White here, anyway? But then I saw a poster announcing a college basketball doubleheader the following night at the Garden. Colorado would meet St. John's in the first game. In that moment, everything became clear. Whizzer, who had also been a basketball star at Colorado, had probably wanted to treat his ex-teammates to a night on the town. He was in New York—I remembered reading about his visit in the sports pages—because he was going to leave for England on an ocean liner in a few days. Because White was no longer at Colorado, it was likely he wasn't familiar with all the basketball players and thus had mistaken me for a member of the team.
I reached my brother just as he stepped up to the box office window. "El," I said, a little out of breath after having threaded my way through the crowds now entering the Garden. "El, buy only one ticket. Whizzer White gave me this one." And I brandished the ticket above my head. You can imagine the look of disbelief that crossed my brother's face. I told him the story as quickly as I could, but only the evidence of a ticket for a seat a mere three rows from the ice convinced him that I was not hallucinating.
"All right," El said, "I'll buy only one ticket. But you've got to let me sit in your seat in the second period."
We hurried to our sections, his high up at one end of the arena, mine close to the ice. When I arrived at my seat, I discovered that it was right next to White's. I was in such a state of euphoria that I was barely able to follow the hockey game. Although I probably knew more about hockey than Whizzer did, I was too overcome by my proximity to greatness to attempt to speak to him. Whenever he did say something to me, all I could do was muster a few monosyllables or nod my head.
Just after the first period ended, an announcement came over the public address system. I can recall it almost verbatim: "Ladies and gentlemen, we have with us tonight the All-American college and National Football League star, one of the most famous athletes in America, Whizzer White. And with him is the University of Colorado basketball team, which tomorrow evening will do battle with St. John's University. Gentlemen, will you please stand."
Whizzer and the members of the basketball team stood up. I dared not budge. But Whizzer, noticing that I continued to sit, turned to me, motioned with his hand and said, "Come on. Get up." Hesitatingly I got to my feet. Wave after wave of applause from all over the Garden rolled over me, and when Whizzer and the players nodded their heads in appreciation, I nodded mine. This is nirvana (a word I had just learned), I thought: Madison Square Garden, 15,000 fans applauding me as I stand next to Whizzer White. Who could ask for anything more?
A couple of minutes later my brother came down from his seat, and I had to vacate mine so that he could have the honor of sitting next to White. But I returned to my place of glory for the final period. Whizzer never noticed the switch and my return.
For the record, the Americans beat the Bruins that night 4-2. On the following evening St. John's edged Colorado 39-37, after coming up with 9 unanswered points in the final minutes. White was in the audience for this game, too, in a seat behind the Colorado bench, but this time he sat next to Ralph Carr, the governor of Colorado.
A few days later, White sailed for England. At Oxford he began to study law, and he later continued his studies at Yale. Whizzer White was appointed to the Supreme Court in 1962 and has been a justice for the past 27 years. I wonder if he still treats his ex-teammates—and the occasional interloper—to hockey games.