Why I Like Georgetown, Part II: The Hoyas' Bard
So if you're wondering how it is that a
40 30-something pediatrician and message board poster from North Dakota came to be the bard of Georgetown, writing and recording Hoya-related versions of pop songs ranging from Joan Jett to the Monkees to Green Day to Gnarls Barkley, here's the shortish version. And if this is the shortish version, I don't want to see the longish version.
1) Dr. Christopher Tiongson comes from a musical family. Dad plays guitar, violin, accordion, trumpet, and trombone. Brother Jeff is a gifted guitarist. The good doctor himself started life as a mediocre trumpet player, but he was a big guy, so he got switched to tuba in sixth grade, a move that eventually allowed him to travel with the Georgetown basketball team to NCAA tournament games, since tuba players are more in demand than trumpet players. In med school, he taught himself to play guitar. He was on the shy side, but he took to the public performance thing, shocking his med school friends with a karaoke performance. "Mack the Knife," in the style of Louis Armstrong, naturally.
2) More to the point, Georgetown fans, you'll recall, long ago started chanting "Roy. Roy, Roy, Roy. Roy, Roy, Roy. Roy, Roy Royyyyyyy," a la "Eye of the Tiger," in honor or Roy Hibbert. Three years ago, the message boarders wondered about filling in the rest of the lyrics. Dr. Christopher Tiongson, by this point a pediatrician in Fargo, decided he was the man for the job. To wit:
It's the Heart of a Hoya
It's the thrill of the fight
Rising up to face our Big East rivals
And the next great Hoya Big Man
Stalks his prey in the lane
And he's blocking their shots with the Heart...of a Hoya
Not bad, right? Then he found the guitar chords online, faked his way through them, unearthed his $10 mic, "plugged it into the sound thing," recorded the track and posted it online. A way for a North Dakota Hoya to remain connected to the game. Message board folks seemed to like it. He received reports of students on campus listening to it on their iPods, getting it stuck in their heads during finals week.
"I thought that was kind of funny, that I might have screwed up some of their tests," he said.
Then his kids, Emily and Eric, did their own version. One of Eric's lyrics had something to do with an angel.
"I didn't understand the angel part, but he was three," Chris said.
3) That was supposed to be it. One song, one brush with musical history, and then back into pediatrics. But then Chris heard the Bowling for Soup song, "1985," on the radio, and figured hey, he could make a Georgetown tribute, only it would be called "1984." That went over well, too. Then he was listening to George Michael's "Faith," and figured he could make a Jeff Green tribute, only it would be called "Jeff." You know, "Best reconsider; that foolish notion; of driving in Green's lane baby, he'll swat that weak shot back! 'Cuz you gotta love Jeff," etc.
"So it just sort of kept happening," he told me. "I would hear a song and think, 'Oh it should be a Hoya song.'"
That's always the way with creative genius, no? Once the musical genie is out, you can't just shove it back in. And so we got the Jonathan Wallace ode "That's What I Like About 2" to the Romantics' "That's What I Like About You," and "Season on the Rise" to Green Day's "Time of Your Life," and "Then I Stormed the Court" to the Monkees' "I'm a Believer," and "Jessie Sapp" to Rick Springfield's "Jessie's Girl" ("You know I'm glad that we've got Jessie Sapp; I'm glad that we got Jessie Sapp; Where did we find a point guard like that?" etc.) and, "HOYA Basketball" to Joan Jett's "I Love Rock N' Roll" ("Ho-ya basketball, put another win in the scorebook baby, Ho-ya basketball, March Madness time come dance with me," etc.), and, of course, "Jeff Green's Mom" to Fountains of Wayne's "Stacy's Mom." There are 22 tracks, in all. It's hard to appreciate all this unless you go listen. Please, go listen.
The creative process is, as you might imagine, a tortured journey of discovery. Chris said he will listen to the original song probably 500 times over the course of a week, at his desk, in the car, churning possibilities over in his head. He'll wake up in the middle of the night to scribble down lyrics. He'll go to the basement in the wee hours to record, while the kids are asleep. His wife bought him a new recording program a year and a half ago, to make matters easier. Yes, that's right, he's married.
"She's very supportive, but she doesn't totally get it," Chris said. "She thinks it's... a little odd."
"He used to write poetry quite a bit, so I knew he had this creative streak," his wife, Lori, told me. "I'm very proud of him."
Chris plays his own music before games, to get right mentally. Co-workers have heard the songs coming out of his office on game days. At home, he usually uses headphones.
"I don't know if that's weird or not, that I listen to my own music," he said. "I usually put it on to psyche myself up a bit."
And fame, as you'd expect, soon followed. He was written up by student journalists and by more student journalists (see the sidebar), his lyrics were faithfully transcribed, and transcribed some more. His lyrics were quoted by SI.com. "Jeff Green's Mom" was even played during that NBC4 piece on Jeff Green's Mom. During that piece, Jeff Green said he believed the song was written by "a kid on campus." For the record, Chris graduated in '89.
5) But as is always the case with creative types, doubt creeps in, and now, believe it or not, Chris is thinking about retiring. He already has another musical outlet, playing guitar at church. (He used to help teach confirmation classes, during which he would remake pop songs for the kiddies with confirmation-themed lyrics.) More importantly, the Hoyas are now big-time. They're in the Final Four. They're in every newspaper, on every TV station. Hoya fans, Chris thinks, don't need to distract themselves any longer with silly pop lyrics written by a North Dakota pediatrician.
"I don't know, anything I would do would not be as good as the real thing," he said, somewhat wistfully. "Big East championship, Final Four....I don't know. I just don't know what I have."
6) Don't believe it. Five minutes later he told me he was thinking about unretiring. Why? He heard the Georgetown band playing the Eastern Motors theme song, and figured maybe he could lay down some rhymes.
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