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Linking Laconically has found Moonlight Graham

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Nonlaconic Episode of "Where are Former MSU Walk-Ons Now?" After the Jump

So I can't let what LVS rightly called the most outstanding TOC comment thread ever pass without mentioning it on the front page.  Last week, in my post on MSU's historical returning-minutes percentages, I threw out this aside:

Just for the heckuvit, I included every player who's played a single minute for MSU in the table.  Five hundred bonus points to anyone who can tell us about Rob McKenzie, who literally played a single minute for MSU.

As it turns out, there were a remarkable number of you in a position to cash in those bonus points.


I knew Rob McKenzie!!!

Not only was he a good friend of a good friend, he was also a friend of other friends! And yet, Rob and I never managed to be actual friends ourselves! I believe he was a 5th year senior when he finally suited up. I knew him (by proxy) before that, as he was a couple of classes ahead of me. My good friend who later became a good friend of Rob’s told me his thing was being deadly from 3. I say this in all sincere nicety: you would not ever imagine Rob suited up for a Big Ten champ team if you met him in any other circumstance. But hey, that’s also exactly what you’d say of my current hero, Mike Kebler. The supposed great piece of trivia about Rob is that his last name was misspeled on his Big Ten championship ring.

Heckuva guy and heckuva shooter, apparently.

But that's not enough.  This man went on to more exotic endeavors post-college.


After School he came out to DC before deciding to move to Egypt to learn Arabic and study Middle Eastern culture – living in Cairo, and not really in the nice parts. He seems to think in Arabic expressions now and talks with an excellent accent. A few years ago he started working with Sudanese refugees coming north from the mess there and picked up some Swahili. Recently earned his doctorate and has been working on similar refugee issues in other countries as a post-doc.

I once went with him to the ESPNzone and watched him miss a first shot walking in the door before hitting 12 "three-pointers" in a row—putting him #2 in the score book there behind some NBA’er.

Whenever you see the Big11en/NCAA commercials about most of the NCAA going onto something besides pro sports, think Bobby Mack.

(Incidentally, his job on the team in practice was to lock down Mateen—and they had every bit the same tenacity and spirit. A true Spartan and he believes he can do anything – just tell him he can’t). Really good guy.

He's Indiana Jones!  With better language skills!

And an aura of mystery/myth surrounding him!


I’ve heard about this guy in passing on more than one occasion. No one, and I mean no one, really seems to know anything about this guy. Where he is or what he is doing is beyond anyone’s guess. Someone told me he was last seen in Cairo, Egypt. What the the hell he was doing there no one seems to know—one person said he was working with refugees, another said he was teaching at the American University in Cairo, another said he was studying Islam at Al-Azhar university, another person said he had only passed through Cairo for a few days. Then someone else told me he was in war torn eastern Congo, apparently living in a village known as Swima. Yet again there are more rumors or stories, but nothing concrete. Someone else said that he is coaching high school basketball in Indiana. And yet another person said he was working for a consulting firm or investment bank in NYC.

Alright, his existence and whereabouts aren't really all that mysterious.  Currently, Mr. McKenzie is studying at the School of London, working on a pretty impressive-sounding dissertation:

Based on twenty months of ethnographic research, my dissertation explores the lives of sub-Saharan refugees in Cairo, Egypt—one of the world’s largest urban centers for refugees. Through the narratives of refugees, my work outlines and critically examines the interconnectedness of migration due to war and extreme poverty, the ‘refugee business’ of Cairo, loss and suffering in exile, and it sheds light on the social world of urban refugees.

The core chapter of my PhD dissertation—titled The Disease of Traveling: African Migration to Cairo and Beyond—challenges preconceived assumptions about refugees, and raises important questions about the distinction between the categories of refugee and migrant. Through an ethnographic lens that examines refugeeness in an urban context, this chapter explores the relationship between war, poverty, and migration, while highlighting the role of globalization in the movements of peoples (whether they be refugees or migrants).

Rob McKenzie is, quite simply, the Moonlight Graham of Michigan State athletics.  He appeared in a single game, playing a single minute, and didn't post a single stat in the process (a trillion!).  But he's gone on to a career outside athletics that's having an impact in a much more substantive area of life.

I don't think I'll be contacting Mr. McKenzie (this whole thing is wicked cool from a geeky college sports blog perspective--maybe a tad on the creepy side from an actual-guy-living-his-life perspective), but, if I did, I imagine the exchange would go something like this:

TOC: Eleven years ago, for one minute you came within... y-you came this close. It would KILL some men to get so close to their dream and not touch it. God, they'd consider it a tragedy.

Rob McKenzie: Son, if I'd only gotten to be an expert on Egyptian refugees for one minute ... now that would have been a tragedy.