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Phish and Darius Washington Sr. Share the Story Behind “The Line”

by Rob Slater on November 06, 2013

Phish debuted new material during their Halloween show at Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall. That new batch of tunes from their forthcoming release Wingsuit, included “The Line,” a song written about former University of Memphis basketball player Darius Washington Jr., who infamously missed two free throw attempts against Louisville in the 2005 C-USA Tournament Final. Washington, with his team down two and no time on the clock, had three free throws to win the game. He made the first, and then missed the last two, causing his Memphis Tigers team to miss the NCAA Tournament, effectively ending their season. Washington's failure and subsequent reaction is one of the most memorable college basketball moments in the past 10 years.

Now, in an interview with The Memphis Flyer, Anastasio commented on the inspiration for the song. “Darius Washington Jr.‘s story was incredibly moving to all of us in Phish,” Anastasio wrote in an email. The song paints a picture of overcoming adversity, as Washington soon had to after missing two free throws in a big tournament game. And much like the Phish frontman had to following his 2006 arrest. “It really spoke to me on a personal level, because I’ve gone through some difficult moments in public, too. You learn a lot about what’s really important in life when something like that happens,” Anastasio said.

Darius Washington Sr. also chimed in about the tribute from Phish, first admitting he wasn’t aware of the Vermont jam kings. “Is he a famous country singer?” Darius Sr. asked. “I don’t know them.” However, Washington did add that he’d love to be a part of a potential upcoming video. “If he decides to do a video, tell him to call us.”

You can watch footage of the infamous event below.

"The Line" lyrics:

Dry mouth, push it out, I can hear my heart pound
A hero's what I'm not
Voices scream, flashes flare, frozen as the people stare
My crucifixion shot

Friends were electric on the western side while triangles
Were shifting on the floor
Squeezing out the breath that I don't have, they're quiet now
They only want two more

And you step to the line
And you step to the line

Every shot I've taken has led me to this moment
Since I was 4 feet high
Big D is watching, I remember what he taught me
Don't let 'em see you cry


Try to see your future from the line
You're clinging to the notion you'll be fine
But the circle's getting smaller all the time


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