Archive for the ‘Memories’ Category

Quite simply one of the most chilling, life-altering scenes of all-time. Anyone who has viewed it cannot be in an empty hotel hallway without thinking about the scene when Little Danny peddled his three-wheeler around the hotel. It’s not just the smooth, ominous low-to-the-floor shots that track behind Danny, giving you the sense that someone is right behind him. It’s the silence: Hearing the wheels go from carpeting to floor to carpeting to floor, you feel the enormous emptiness of the hotel-which then sets you up perfectly for when he turns that one corner and there they are: Those spooky Grady girls. Chills, man.

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In coaching there are a million things you do that have nothing to do with basketball, believe me. Here’s an example . . .

Last season after a game I got a Facebook message from the mother of a player at a school we’d just finished playing. She told me her mother had left her cell phone in the gym and wondered if I knew somebody who’d be at the school to look for it.

It was closing in on midnight and I knew nobody was there, so I told her I’d run up and look. Then, after giving me a general idea of where her mom had been sitting, she gave me her cell phone number so I could call and let her know if I found it.

The first thing I noticed when I walked into the gym was that the bleachers were all pushed in against the wall. Just when I was getting ready to try and find the controller to pull them back out, I had an idea – call the woman back and have her call her mother’s cell phone. Boom. I’d know right where the phone was located. Perfect plan, right?

Except it wasn’t.

When I called to explain my plan, the lady said sure, no problem. Then, after hanging up I went to mid-court and listened.

Nothing.

At that point my phone rang, I answered, and was told by the woman that her mother’s phone was on vibrate.

Well, hell.

Guess I’d have to pull the bleachers out and do a grid by grid search of the east lower bleachers of Donald. E. Anderson Gymnasium, fondly known as “The Jigger.”

But wait. I had another idea.

I called the woman, who I was really beginning to feel close to by this time,  back and asked her to call again and let it ring. My plan was to go the middle of the pushed-in bleachers, put my ear up against them, and listen.

Sure enough, I felt and heard a faint vibration coming from close to the area I’d been told they were sitting. The sound got louder as I slowly worked my way towards it. When I got to the spot where I believed it was, it happened to be under the top row, so I didn’t even have to pull the bleachers out. Boom! I just reached under and there it was. However, the following conversation then ensued:

Me, happily: “Got it.”

Female Caller: “Jimmy?”

Me, flummoxed: “No, Dave. Coach Shoemaker. I have your mom’s phone.”

Caller: I’m Jimmy’s mom. Who are you again and why do you have Jimmy’s phone?”

Me, still not getting it: “No, you called me to find your mom’s phone. I found it.”

I swear I was still wondering why I wasn’t getting thanked profusely for finding somebody’s mother’s phone.

Caller: “I never called you. I called Jimmy’s phone and you answered. What’s going on? Where’s Jimmy?” 

It was probably the faint buzzing I heard in the background that caused my mind to engage and realize what had happened. There were two lost cell phones, dumbass. Rather than try and explain the madness, I simply told Jimmy’s mom he’d left his cell phone at a basketball game, told her how he could get it back, and hung up. I’m 99% sure she still had no idea what the hell was going on.

Sure enough, I then listened again using the same method and found the original phone, also under the top row.

What are the odds? Incredible really.

I answered the phone and thank God the original, and correct, mother was on the other end. Whew. At that point I expected a third mother to be on the other end.

In the end, everyone got their phone back so everyone was happy. All’s well that ends well I guess?

Note: That Jimmy must have a hell of a game, and I’m not talking sports. Had chicks texting him all night.

Every teacher I know has experienced tough classes, those groups that were a little more difficult than others. One particular year I had a really troublesome group, and to make matters worse I had them the last period of the day. Any teacher will tell you that having a demanding group of kids at the end of the day is never a good combination.

Anyway, one year I had one such group, and when I say they were bad I mean bad. I had to constantly stay on top of them or the class would spiral into total chaos. There were one or two boys in particular that the rest of the class sort of fed off of, and it was just a difficult group to deal with all-around.

The year I had this particular class I was teaching Social Studies, and for the few years prior I’d been a part of our local Junior Achievement program, where local business men or women would come in and teach a class once a week for 8-weeks. They’d be given a lesson plan from the Junior Achievement folks and apply their knowledge and experience in teaching the class. As luck would have it, the Junior Achievement class was assigned to my last period.

Uh-oh.

Whatever poor schmuck was assigned to my class was in for a terrifyingly enlightening experience. Hell, I had some problems with this group and I rarely had problems with any class. There was simply no way this could end well.

Could the situation get any worse? Turns out it could. The businessman assigned to my class turned out to be . . . wait for it . . . my 75-year old retired father.

Dad had been the Purchasing Manager at the Mead Corporation for many years, he’d been asked to take part, and the woman running the program thought it would be nice to assign him to my class.

Oh boy. All I could envision was a bunch of 8th grade heathens running roughshod over my poor father. He’d never taught a day in his life and he’d just been handed the worst group of kids I’d ever had as an educator. I mean, I knew my Mom was a badass teacher, but Dad? I was worried.

As for Dad, I tried to warn him but he just sort of chuckled and shrugged it off. I also mentioned to my class that my father would be their Junior Achievement teacher, and they too sort of chuckled and shrugged it off. Man, did I dread seeing Dad walk through my classroom door on that first day. Poor guy was being fed to the lions and he had no idea.

Well, the day finally arrived and as I let Dad into my classroom the kids were, unsurprisingly, laughing and joking as I introduced him. I raised my voice at them and implored them to settle down. And then, my father began to speak . . .

He spoke quietly as he addressed the class. He never implored them to quiet down, never asked them to please pay attention. Incredibly, one by one the kids stopped talking, and one by one they slowly turned around, watched, and listened. There was something about his bearing, his attitude, that had the class in rapt attention.

And I swear to God he never raised his voice once.

Incredibly, this continued for 8-straight classes. Dad had them in the palm of his hand, man. They respected him simply because of the way he carried himself and the way he treated them. And boy, did I learn a lot from watching him.

Sure, teachers can learn a lot from in-services, education classes, and other resources. But I also think a lot of good teachers are simply born with that ability to relate, and to connect, with students. That first day I learned that my father was one of those people.

And I also learned to never, ever underestimate my Dad.

Back when I was Athletic Director at our school I pulled a pretty good prank, although admittedly it was a prank that was a little on the edge. OK, it may have been over the edge. Here’s how it all went down . . .

For reasons I don’t remember I was over in the elementary building of our school, which is separate from the high school but only about 30-feet away. I probably walked over to shoot the breeze with some little kids, because nothing can cheer me up quicker. Well, except Sparky. Anyway, I turned a corner and saw nearly 20-students standing there in a nice, organized line outside the teacher’s lounge, albeit with no teacher in sight. I soon ascertained that their teacher was in the lounge, presumably using the restroom or possibly hitting up the snack machine, I can’t be certain.

Anyway, I knew the teacher pretty and I knew all her kids, and when I was going down the line knuckle-bumping the shawties it hit me – this is the perfect time to pull a fast one.

I was going to steal her class.

Quickly and with the precision of a master sleuth I explained my diabolical plan to the kidlets – follow me and we’ll pull a great trick on your teacher.

They were in.

Oh, there were a couple new kids looking at me with trepidation, possibly even fear, but even they were overwhelmed by the wave of peer pressure brought on by the majority of little prankster imps.

With a silence that surprised even me, the little dudes followed me like lambs to slaughter. Wait. That’s probably not appropriate. The little dudes followed me like the imminent threat of death. Nah, way too dark. The little dudes followed me like little 3-foot shadows.

Bingo.

I took the class all the way to my office in the high school. We took the back way too, so no other elementary teacher could spot us and narc us out.

Once there we camped out in my office, which really wasn’t built for 18-people plus me but most of them were pint-sized so we made it work. At one point I recall our high school principal walk by, look in the room, shake his head, and continue on his way.

He didn’t want to know.

In the meantime, here’s what went down over in the elementary hallway, as told by the irresponsible teacher who’d lost an entire class of innocent children that day . . .

Upon her exit from the lounge, at first there was confusion. Then, she assumed they’d walked on down to their classroom so she went there. Nothing. It was at this point where confusion slowly began to turn to panic. She jogged to the gym. Nobody. Looked outside on the playground. Empty. Asked a couple teachers if they’d seen anything. Nada. Now she was coming to the grim realization that she had to tell the principal the unthinkable, that she’d lost an entire class of 9-year olds. Then, because I have impeccable timing, her cell phone buzzed . . .

“Hello?”

“Hey, what’s up?”

Oddly and inexplicably, she knew immediately upon the sound of my voice I was somehow responsible for this. How dare her?

“Shoemaker, damn it! Where are my kids! You scared the hell out of me! Bring them back!”

“Why, I have no idea what you’re talking ab . . .”

Nah, I couldn’t do it. I was laughing too hard to continue, not to mention there were 18-munchkins giggling maniacally in the background. Eventually I was convinced to return her class to her, and after taking a couple really hard shots to the sternum all was forgiven. Hey, so the kids missed a few minutes of Science class. The knowledge they gained regarding the Art of the Prank will last them a lifetime.

 

 

 

Before we begin, let us simply recall the iconic opening to every episode of one of the most amazing TV shows of all-time, The Twilight Zone . . .

Yes, there were variations of the same opening, but you get the gist.

I recorded the Twilight Zone Marathon recently, and I just finished watching nearly 70-episodes. There were 156 total, but these were deemed some of the best. I learned a few things while watching, and the most striking of these was that Rod Serling got away with a lot of crazy and outrageous stuff.  More on that later.

I also learned that lots of stars and future stars were on the show. People like Mickey Rooney, William Shatner, Ron Howard, Burt Reynolds, Carol Burnett, Buster Keaton, Robert Redford, Dennis Hopper, Leonard Nimoy, Lee Marvin, and Don Rickles all guest starred. The décor – early 60’s Mad Men style.

Another aspect that stood out was the introductions and closing remarks by Serling. Just incredible writing. Here’s a sample:

Nobody else, and I mean nobody, could pull that off like Serling. Love it. Here’s a sample of one of his closing monologues:

Again, so well done.

It was also amazing how Serling touched on political issues of the day. Some episodes even touched on World War II and the treatment of Jews.  This was just 15-18 years after the war, and the scenes were brutal. They spoke of the experiments done on prisoners and everything. Pretty incredible for such a conservative era.

That said, I’ll now give you my 12 favorite Twilight Zone episodes. Let us commence . . .

Nightmare at 20,000 Feet

William Shatner (later to become Captain Kirk in Star Trek) stars in what might be the most famous and revered of all Twilight Zone episodes. He plays a man traveling aboard a commercial flight with his wife. He spots a monster on the wing, trying to damage it. He tries to alert the crew and other passengers to the potential danger lurking just outside his window seat. However, the clever being makes sure to fly out of view every time someone else peers through the glass, leaving Shatner to look foolish and delusional. In typical Twilight Zone fashion, the final shot is the killer. As Shatner is taken away on a stretcher, the camera pans away showing actual damage the monster has done to the wing. Awesome. On a related note, the shot where Shatner has closed the window, only to open it to see the monster’s face pressed against the window scared the bejesus out of me.

Note- Watching it now, the “monster” appears to have been created by a 5th grade art class. Still a classic episode.

Living Doll

This episode is always referred to as “Talking Tina” and it was the single scariest thing I’d ever seen in my life. Trust me, as a 6-year old this was just petrifying and life-altering to witness. I still hate dolls to this day because of this show. In this one Telly Savalas plays a man who isn’t a fan of his stepdaughter’s new “Talky Tina” doll, especially after the doll starts telling him she’s going to kill him. What follows is a twisted domestic drama powered by the actions of an evil toy. There have been dozens of TV shows and movies that have told stories about talking dolls since, but Rod Serling’s take is still the best by far. Believe me, I haven’t looked at a doll the same since.

The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street

Ah, another great one that asks the viewers to decide who the real monsters are, the alien invaders or their very own friends and neighbors? “Monsters” finds the residents of an unnamed town in a panic when they conclude an alien invasion is afoot, and it began because of a loud noise and a power outage. Rather than team up to combat the terror from beyond the stars, they succumb to paranoia and vigilante-like behavior, leading their invaders to conclude that the best way to destroy mankind is to let us do the deed ourselves. Rod Serling, who wrote the episode, summed it up best in the closing narration, making a social point as he often did:

“The tools of conquest do not necessarily come with bombs and explosions and fallout. There are weapons that are simply thoughts, attitudes, and prejudices — to be found only in the minds of men. For the record, prejudices can kill. And suspicion can destroy. And a thoughtless, frightened search for a scapegoat has a fallout all its own – for the children, and the children yet unborn. And the pity of it is, that these things cannot be confined . . . to the Twilight Zone.”

Wow.

The Invaders

In this one, a poor impoverished woman (Agnes Moorehead, who went on to play the mother on Bewitched) lives alone in a rustic cabin. She is dressed shabbily, and there are no modern conveniences in evidence. After hearing a strange noise above her kitchen roof, she is attacked by small intruders that come from a miniature flying saucer that has landed on her rooftop. Two tiny figures about 6-inches high, which may be robots or beings wearing pressure suits, emerge from the craft. As a kid this was creepy as hell. Anyway, the small figures attack the woman, using small, pistol-like weapons that leave radiation burns on her skin, and, after following her into her cabin, slashing her ankle and hand with her own kitchen knife. The suspense builds as the woman searches for the invaders. She eventually destroys one, wrapping it in a blanket and beating it until it is still, then throwing it into the burning fireplace. She follows the other to the saucer-ship on her roof, which she proceeds to attack with a hatchet. From within the craft, she hears a voice speaking in English. These are the first words we’ve heard the whole episode, and the intruder knows he’s about to die. He then proceeds to frantically warn other potential visitors that the planet is inhabited by giants and they are impossible to defeat. Then comes the kicker. The camera pans slowly away to reveal the markings on the side of the ship, which reads U.S. Air Force Space Probe No. 1. You see, the invaders were human astronauts from Earth, and the woman in the small farmhouse belongs to a race of giant humanoids native to another planet. Another shocking ending.

The Bewitchin’ Pool

In my mind, one of most unforgettable of all the Twilight Zone episodes. A young girl and her little brother live in a beautiful suburban home, complete with a large swimming pool. Their parents are cold, short tempered, and forever fighting in front of their children. One day, a boy pops up from the deep end of their pool and invites them to follow him. Wait. What? The children then follow by diving underwater and surface in a beautiful countryside. It is simple and plain, and unlike their spectacular home. There are no adults except for a kindly woman who bakes desserts and offers kind words. The children go back home through the swimming pool because they’re worried that their parents have missed them. They break through the water to find that their neglectful parents haven’t even noticed that they were gone. The children return again to the idyllic countryside by diving through the pool, and this time, they stay. Their parents search for them in the pool, but never find them. The children remain happily ever after, cared for and loved, in this paradise. It wasn’t until I watched this episode as an adult that I saw that it could be perceived as legitimizing childhood suicide in response to bad parenting, and a child’s simple wish to get the hell away. No way this would be broadcast today.

The Hitch-Hiker

Another terrifying example of the plot twists Twilight Zone was known for. We begin with a young woman traveling alone cross country trip. She blows a tire and when she takes her car in for repairs, we get a hint that something is amiss when the mechanic tells her she should have called a hearse, not a car repair service. She drives on, but keeps seeing a man hitchhiking no matter how far she drives. Shaken, she finally stops and calls her mother, only to be told that her mother had a nervous breakdown when her daughter was killed in a car accident 6-days ago. She is in disbelief, but returns to her car, where the hitchhiker awaits her. She ultimately realizes that the hitchhiker is death, patiently waiting for her. What I see now that I didn’t see then is that you can’t outrun fate. In the unforgettable final scene, Nan returns to the car and looks in the vanity mirror on the visor. Instead of her reflection, she sees the hitchhiker. He looks at her and asks, “I believe you’re going my way?” Jeebus.

After Hours

There is another episode I can directly blame for one of my phobias and that is my fear of mannequins. In a department store, there is a 9th floor for no one else but the store’s mannequins. Once a month, they take turns living as humans in the real world. When their time is up, they return to the 9th floor, except for the day that Mannequin Marcy decides she likes being human too much and is not going back. My older and wiser take on it now? Serling was telling us that, sometimes, a small taste of honey is worse than none at all.

Time Enough at Last

What a great, great episode that is often ranked as the best Twilight Zone ever. Burgess Meredith stars as Henry Bemis — a man who just wants to get away from the everyday world and bury his nose in a good book. Henry gets his wish one day when the rest of humanity is wiped out in a nuclear attack. He soon discovers an untouched library — a place where he can read in peace for the rest of his existence. Thrilled with his discovery, Bemis settles in. As he gets ready to crack open his first book, the worst happens – he breaks his glasses. Virtually blind, Bemis is now stuck in a world with all the time and books he could ever want and no way to enjoy them. Damn you Rod Serling!

To Serve Man

Another classic. In this episode, mankind has seemingly found a kindly alien savior in the form of the Kanamits — a race of towering space travelers who are all too willing to help Earth get rid of the problems of hunger and war. But their personal manifesto, a book entitled To Serve Man, isn’t the guide for peace that everyone thought it to be. As the woman who figured it all out yells at the end of the episode, “It’s a cookbook! IT’S A COOKBOOK!” Ah, to serve man. It all made chilling sense in the end.

It’s a Good Life

Bill Mumy was absolutely terrifying as the 6-year-old Anthony Freemont, a boy with incredible psychic powers who holds everyone around him under his power. Little Anthony could simply think you out of existence for displeasing him. He was some sort of godlike child with the ability to read minds, make people disappear, mutate other living beings, and control the weather. The adults obviously tiptoe around the temperamental kid, but it never really matters, because he’s six, and six-year-olds aren’t particularly rational in the first place, amirite? Here’s Serling closing quote:

No comment here, no comment at all. We only wanted to introduce you to one of our very special citizens, little Anthony Fremont, age 6, who lives in a village called Peaksville in a place that used to be Ohio. And if by some strange chance you should run across him, you had best think only good thoughts. Anything less than that is handled at your own risk, because if you do meet Anthony, you can be sure of one thing – You have entered The Twilight Zone.”

The Eye of the Beholder

I watched this as a kid and it terrified me for weeks. A young woman undergoes surgery to improve her appearance and look like everyone else. She spends most of the episode swathed in head bandages as shadowy doctors and nurses talk around her. She’s terrified they won’t be able to make her beautiful. When the wraps are removed, the doctors proclaim the procedure a complete failure — but the audience sees the lovely Donna Douglas and wonders what the holy hell they’re talking about. It all becomes clear when the doctors and nurses are revealed. In one of the most memorable Twilight Zone endings of all time, the docs and nurses all look like some sort of mutant pigs. “Eye of the Beholder” indeed.

Long Distance Call

This episode frightened me so much that I promised myself I would never see it again. I lied. After his grandmother dies, a little boy is mysteriously given a phone. On this phone, only calls from his deceased grandmother can come through. Grandma then tries to convince Little Billy to kill himself to join her. And so he tries, several times in several ways. I can say without a doubt that today, this storyline encouraging childhood suicide would never be allowed to be aired. Just normal prime time entertainment for the Twilight Zone, though.

So there ya go, my personal favorite Twilight Zone episodes. What are yours? Let’s hear it!

I first heard this song back in 1973 when ELO appeared on The Midnight Special. The strings, the sound . . . I was blown away. Thus began a 40+ year love affair with Jeff Lynne and the Electric Light Orchestra. So damn good.

Yep. Five years today. Hard to believe, really. After months of meticulous and careful planning, conducting arduous interviews while assembling my crack staff, and clearing a myriad of government regulations, we launched Shoe: Untied on an unsuspecting world.

Since that warm, sparkling Spring Day back in 2012 I’ve posted over 5,300 times and have been viewed by citizens from all over the world. For reasons unbeknownst to me, our humble little site is very popular in Belgium and the Philippines. I know, that makes absolutely no sense to me either.

The site has had as many as 300,000 hits in a single day as we’ve covered sports, politics, education, history, kids, animals, music, entertainment, and God knows what else. We’ve posted original writing, weird, funny and outrageous videos, and we’re 87.3% sure Lebron James himself messaged us to defend himself once.

I’ve received death threats and angry messages from racists, nazis, clowns, midgets, Trump supporters, fans of Peter Cetera, the People of Facebook, and angry mothers of high school bowlers.

The other day somebody made the comment on Facebook (after I’d made fun of something or other) that we, “Shouldn’t judge.” My response? “If I can’t judge I should probably shut down my website.” Honestly, that’s true. A large percentage of my content is making fun of people. Not sure what that says about me, and I may not want to know.

I’ve also received some great response from stuff I’ve written that sort of came straight from the heart, blogs like Remembering Andy, Jigger, Jigger’s Tree, Sara’s Last Wish, Trusting Robbie, A Man called Pop, A Right Cross, With Love, “You Saved Me, You Know“, Losing Tim, and WE ARE PAINT VALLEY.

See, I might just have a heart after all.

Of course, a lot of my writing is an attempt at humor, and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Some of my more popular humorous blogs include Regarding Beach MidgetsTop 40 Eternal Musical Questions Answered! Sort of.OSU vs. Michigan and the Road Trip to End All Road TripsDodgeball: A Microcosm of LifeAn Incident at the MallHow a Convict Killed My Relationship, But Probably Saved Me In the Long Run, The All-Time Cartoon Football Team, My Reviews of the VMA Awards, and many more.

Of course, a lot of my writing involves my best friend, a 25-pound bundle of smarts and energy called Sparky. Just type is name into the search box up there to read all about him. Fair warning though – you might be up all night. I’ve written about that pup a lot.

A few of my articles have been picked up by newspapers and national websites, so that’s always cool. One piece, Requiem for a Tradition: The Demise of High School Sports, was linked to on The Big Lead, nationally prominent sports website.

Of course, sprinkled throughout has been funny, interesting or just plain strange videos, new articles with my commentary, and various other weirdness. I’ve had regular features like Cool Animal of the Day, Map of the Day, Incredible Photo of the Day, music videos, and a bunch of other stuff. I read somewhere once that if people visit a website 3-4 times and nothing new has been added they don’t come back, hence the crazy filler stuff.

Honestly though, writing is therapeutic for me. It’s an outlet that, quite frankly, I need. Is there ego involved? Absolutely. I get a thrill out of getting good feedback when I write something that touches somebody enough to make them cry, laugh, or feel something. Hell, I even get a kick out of the people I piss off. You know, except that one insane lady. She actually scared me a little.

All in all, though, the whole thing has been a positive experience. I’ve made a bunch of new friends a few new enemies in the last 5-years, I think more of the former than the latter.

I think.

Will this site make it another 5-years? Who knows. But hey, I’ll give it a shot, and hopefully you’ll hang around with me.

Especially my good friends in Belgium and the Philippines.

The basketball season before this one we went out to play in a big tournament in Morgantown, West Virginia. Our game was against Morgantown High School, whose enrollment of 1,700 was over 6-times larger than ours at Paint Valley. However, since the Bearcats aren’t the backing down types, we’d accepted the challenge and headed out there for the game. It was a great all-around experience for our kids, spending a couple days out of town, staying in a hotel and eating at nice restaurants, all paid for by the tourney organizers.

The game itself was a pretty good one, but in the end the eventual 2016 West Virginia State Champions wore us down and won by 20-points or so. The score, however, isn’t the point of this story. It’s something that happened in the last few minutes of the game . . .

We had a freshman on the bench that day who didn’t play much varsity, and it happened to be his birthday. As the clock wound down, I walked to the end of the bench where he sat. The following conversation then ensued:

“PJ, I’m putting you into the game now. You’re going to make a 3-pointer on your birthday.”

“OK, coach.”

Except he just sat there.

“PJ, go into the game.”

At that point it hit him that he was in fact entering the game to compete against the best D1 high school basketball team in West Virginia, so he stood up and ran to the scorer’s table.

He then checks into the game and we run a couple plays for him, trying to get him that big birthday 3-pointer. Of course, our bench knows what’s up so they’re standing up on each shot, disappointed when each one bounces off the rim.

Of course, our fans have caught onto what we’re trying to do so they’re into it as well, rising up with each of PJ’s high arching rainbows, only to let out a loud, “Awww . . .” when the shots wouldn’t connect.

And then an interesting and somewhat confusing thing happened – the other team and its fans started cheering for PJ too.

What the heck?

Now, PJ is a cool, likeable kid and all, but the other team and their fans didn’t know that. They had no idea it was his birthday. Why the hell were they cheering so loudly for him?

Anyway, on his last chance PJ launches one of his patented high-arching threes, and of course he drains it. Our crowd goes wild, their crowd goes wild, our bench goes crazy, their bench is waving towels, and PJ gets hugs from both teams. I also recall a kid in the Morgantown student section stepping out to give him a high-five.

Still, it seemed odd and didn’t really add up, and after both teams shook hands (PJ got a lot of hugs and head rubs), I brought it up in the locker room. That’s when PJ cleared it all up for me:

“Uh, coach, I’m pretty sure the other team thought I was a special needs kid or something.”

Ahhhhh. That explained a lot. PJ, being a skinny little freshman who everyone was clearly rooting for, was mistaken for one of those kids you see on YouTube videos or the news that get put into a game for their one big chance at glory. They thought he was, you know, mentally disabled or something. To them it was a heartwarming story of a young man who got his big chance and came through in the clutch, and not the simple story of a coach trying to get a freshman player a 3-pointer on his birthday.

In retrospect, hilarious. Those fans in Morgantown are probably still talking about it.

Bottom line, that shot is etched in the memories of all who attended, that high-arching rainbow that drained through the net as an entire gymnasium erupted, the shot that will be known forevermore as . . . The Morgantown Drainbow.

‘Twas special night indeed.

Note: Please save the messages ripping me for making fun of special needs students. I am not. Nor am I making fun of PJ. It was his birthday and the whole thing was completely misread. Hence, it’s funny. In addition, if you know PJ it’s twice as funny. 

duke

Not Duke but awfully close.

Looking back, growing up in the small southern Ohio town of Bourneville wasn’t a bad way to go. Everybody knew everybody else, everyone looked after each other, and we were sort of unaffected by what was going on in the turbulent 1960’s. Oh, I knew about the Vietnam War and all the protests, but that was mainly because of my oldest sister Karen. Sis, always the rebel, made sure her little bro knew about the injustices of the world. As far as the Civil Rights movement down south, my father had made all that clear to me years earlier during our vacations to Florida. I distinctly remember him pointing to the “Whites Only” signs over bathroom doors in Georgia and explaining how it was wrong. All-in-all though, my daily life was pretty idyllic, to be honest.

I say all that because it’s pertinent to the story that follows.

For a few years in the mid-60’s I had a dog named Duke. Unlike all the dogs I’ve owned as an adult, Duke was an outside dog. We didn’t really know what kind of a dog he was, he sort of looked like a Greyhound with longer, collie-like hair. He was light brown with some white on his face and tail, and he could run like the wind.

How do I know this, you ask? Because he chased every car that drove by our house. Pull in our driveway? Fine. Drive on past? Get chased.

Anyway, Duke was a great dog.  He went with me everywhere, followed me whether I was on my bike or walking. He’d wait patiently outside the local store or gas station while I was inside, hang with my friends and I, or just generally be a great companion for a kid growing up in Southern Ohio.

And everyone in town knew my dog Duke.

Then one day, for some reason I was all by myself at home. This wasn’t unusual, parents left their kids home all the time back then. Hey, we could fend for ourselves. Compared to now it was a totally different world.

Anyway, the phone rang and it was the guy who owned the gas station in the middle of Bourneville. He basically said to get down there, that Duke had been in an accident. Obviously, I was distraught. I raced down there on my bike, and as I rounded the corner I saw a group gathered, maybe 8-10 people. When I got near they sort of separated so I could see, and there, on the ground, was Duke.

He looked normal, no visible injuries at all, and no blood. He was breathing normally and just looked very at ease and peaceful. Still, something was clearly wrong.

What happened next could only happen in a small midwestern town. Somebody backed up a pickup truck, and some of the men helped me place Duke gently in the bed. Somebody put my bike in as well, and we were driven back to my house where we carefully lay Duke on a blanket on my garage floor.

At that point everybody sort of backed away and left, leaving me there with my buddy.

And so here I was, a 10 or 11-year old kid, sitting on my family’s garage floor, with my dying dog’s head on my lap.

After maybe 10 or 15-minutes Duke sort of gave a sigh, and I knew he was gone.

I then held Duke, waited for my father to get home, told him what had happened, and he and I proceeded to bury Duke in our backyard.

Was it a tough moment for a kid my age? Hell, yes. But it was a different time, a different era. What happened wasn’t unusual for a small midwestern town in the 1960s. While people looked out for each other, ultimately you had to be independent and deal with life on your own.

And I did.

And in the end, I was better off for it.

 

Hey, we all have regrets, right? Dumb things we’ve done that we wish we could do over? God knows I do. What follows is one of the dumbest decisions I ever made, not including relationship mistakes of course. If I included those this one would be knocked down to about #79. Anyhoo, I shall now take a deep breath and come clean . . .

Back in 1988 a friend of mine had a buddy who worked for CBS Sports. This guy got us tickets to the 1988 NBA All-Star Game in Chicago. We had passes for the dunk contest, the whole works. Well, by the time we checked into The Omni in Chicago that Saturday we were, uh, having a little too much fun. Later on we were in a bar near the stadium and were having such a good time that we decided, in our infinite wisdom, to stay there and skip the dunk contest. Hey, screw some dumb contest! We’re in Chicago! Plus they don’t have bars back home in Ohio, right?

Sigh.

Kids, I’m embarrassed as hell to report sad to report this would turn out to be the contest where Dominique Wilkins and some loser named Michael Jordan would have their legendary showdown. You know, the one where Jordan came in from the side, looking down on the basket, and nearly ripped the rim off? The one where Jordan jumped from the free throw line to win?

Yeah, that one. Personally I thought Wilkins won, but what the hell did I know? I was in a bar 3-blocks away barely paying attention. To put a cap on things, as we were walking into the stadium for the All-Star game the next day some guy offered us $300 for our tickets. Of course we promptly sold them. What can I say? We were idiots. But hey, it wasn’t like that game wasn’t memorable or anything.

I mean, Jordan only scored 40-points that night, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar became the all-time leading All-Star scorer in history, and the teams included, in addition to Jordan, Wilkins and Kareem, some losers by the names of Larry Bird, Danny Ainge, Kevin McHale, Patrick Ewing, Charles Barkley, Moses Malone, Isiah Thomas, Magic Johnson, Clyde Drexler, Karl Malone, Hakeem Olajuwon, and James Worthy.

Man, that actually hurt to type.

Dumb decisions? I’d like to see you top that one.

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Not me but damn close.

The following story took place a long time ago, during my 2nd grade year. Yep, way back in 1963. Here’s how it all went down . . .

We were sitting in class at Twin Elementary when our teacher told us that somebody wanted to talk to all the boys. In walked a guy, I can’t remember who, who proceeded to tell us all about the Cub Scouts. It sounded great. There would be hiking, camping, building model cars, all kinds of cool stuff to do. My buddies and I were all amped up. Couldn’t wait! All we had to do was go home and get the forms signed by our parents, which we couldn’t wait to do.

Of course, with my father there would be stipulations.

After I excitedly told him of the opportunity, he sat me down and we had a talk. Number 1, he thought the Cub Scouts would be a great idea. Number 2, he said there would be no quitting once I started. One full year would be completed, no excuses, end of discussion. Hell, that wasn’t a problem with me. I was stoked!

I couldn’t wait to get back to school to tell my buddies I was in, and it turns out they were too. It was gonna be fantastic.

We had our first meeting at the local church, the Cub Scout guy explained everything, and it all sounded great. Then he brought out the uniform. Hey, it was a little different with the little hat, scarf and knee socks, but what the hell, we’d all be wearing it so it’d be cool. I was ready to roll.

Not so fast Scout Boy.

Here’s what I heard from my friends when I got to school the next morning:

“No way I’m wearing that uniform, man.”

“That uniform looks stupid. I’m not wearing that thing.”

“Sounded good but I’m out. I quit.”

Wait. What? You’re quitting because of the uniform? After one meeting?

Turns out they were. My closest friends were out. The only other kid in my class who stayed in was a nerdy little kid named Quincy (name changed to project the nerdy).

Did I ask my Dad for a reprieve so I could stick with my buddies? I did not. I was dumb but not that dumb. A deal was a deal, man.

So, as it turned out every Tuesday Quincy and yours truly wore the uniform to school as required by the Scouts, and every Tuesday I was ridiculed, mocked, jeered, belittled and spat upon.*

*OK, nobody spit on me but it seemed like it at the time. It was 2nd grade hell I tell ya. 

On a related note I’m pretty sure that was the year I learned to fight.

Anyway, at the next meeting we learned who our pack leaders would be, and it turned out mine was a new guy who had recently volunteered.

That man was my father.

Did he join because he knew I was going through a tough time? Did he know it would help me get through it if he was around?

Probably, but if it was true he never said a word.

Bottom line, pretty soon we were doing cool stuff like building and painting little cars to race down a ramp, constructing airplanes to fly, even going on all-night camping trips. It wasn’t long before my non-Scout friends wished their parents hadn’t let them quit, and in fact they joined up the next year. Hey, maybe it was how cool I looked in that uniform. Chicks dig uniforms, ya know.

All-in-all it was fun, and we did it all while learning about being leaders, being responsible and providing service to others.

But what I learned the most was to never, ever quit.

Thanks Dad.

Hey, I taught all through the 90’s, plus I had a kid who was born in 1988. Hence, I remember all this stuff. Do you?

 

When I first began coaching over 30-years ago everything was different, and coaching-1I’m not talking about the kids I coached.

I’m talking about me.

Everything was sort of black and white for me then, and there has since been a lot more grays. How did that happen? Experience, I guess.

I’ve always loved kids, ever since the first day I set foot in a classroom. Not once did I regret the profession I chose. But teaching and coaching, although similar in a lot of ways, can also be very different. Students are there because the have to be, players are there largely because they want to be.

You have to encourage kids in both the classroom and on the basketball court, and you have to push them as well. However, coaching takes place in a much more public forum.

In the beginning, I’m sure part of the reason I coached was ego driven. It was a way to replace my playing days, a way to compete in front of a crowd. There was that initial thrill of working the sidelines as the fans cheered for your team.

Over time, that changes.

I learned the game from a lot of old school, in-your-face style coaches, great men like Rick VanMatre at Greenfield McClain, Gary Williams at the University of Maryland and Bob Huggins at the University of Cincinnati and now West Virginia. By the way, I just checked and those three have a combined record of 1942 – 872, a winning percentage of .693. That’s nearly 7 of every 10 games they coached. Pretty damn good. I’m not nearly the coach any of those guys are, not by a long shot, but I’ve sure learned a lot from all of them.

You know one of the most important things I’ve learned in my 30+ years of coaching? It’s that kids can handle anything if they know you care about them. Seems simple but it’s true. If they know you love them they don’t take the criticism personally. They know you’re trying to help them.

Quick note – People aren’t completely rational when their relatives are involved, and they shouldn’t be. You can’t take it personally when mothers, fathers, grandparents, aunts and uncles criticize you. Love is blind, man, and it’s OK.

And as a young coach, if you feel like you’re going through a bad time or being criticized unjustly, go talk to another coach. They’ll top your story every time. We’ve all been there, buddy. Many times. It’s all a part of the game, and it’s all a part of coaching.

I’ve seen guys who thought they wanted to coach start and not last more than a few years, mainly because of the pressures that come with the job.

Of the 33-years I’ve coached, I’ve only just completed my 12th as a high school basketball coach. I’ve spent time as a coach at the Junior High, JV, Little League, and AAU levels. I’ve also spent a zillion hours as a college camp coach and scout, and I’ve been the international coach of a team from the Caribbean on the beautiful island called Montserrat.

And as coaching has brought me to all these places, to college campuses and incredibly exotic locations like the one in the Caribbean, I’ve also seen the game save lives. I’ve seen basketball take kids from the inner-city to the bright lights, and I’ve seen it literally give young players a reason to live.

That’s not an exaggeration, believe me. I can tell you stories.

Being allowed to coach is a gift, one of the greatest you can be given. And you know why? Because as great as all the wins are (and I’ve been on both sides, believe me), that’s not what ultimately makes it all worthwhile.

Ultimately, it’s about relationships.

It’s about developing relationships with your players, because that’s what lasts. Sure, you remember the big wins, the upsets where you won a big game you weren’t supposed to win. You remember those trips to The Convo, the ultimate goal for teams from our area. But what is lasting, what is important, is the relationships. In comparison, the victories don’t mean so much.

Not really.

I’ve loved every player I’ve ever coached, and I hope they know that. How could I not after everything I put them through? How could I not after they stuck with me through it all, through the tough practices, through the blood and sweat and tears, through all the wins and the losses?

Think about it. What would bring you more satisfaction and fulfillment, winning a District Championship or having a former player ask you to be the Godfather to his son?

No contest, man. And it’s not even close.

Love it!

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So I’ve been getting up early every morning, grabbing my sturdy walking stick, bournevilleoh1and embarking on 3.5 mile brisk walk through and around the neighborhood.

I begin when it’s still dark, and I’ve mapped out a route that takes me down every street and alley that is the old town of Bourneville, Ohio.

Fun fact: Lewis Igo has the honor of being our first settler, having emigrated to the “Paint Creek Valley” in the autumn of 1797. The first baby born was the son of Lewis, named Tom. Oh, and Bourneville was platted in 1832 by Colonel Bourne, who the town was named after.

I’ve lived in Bourneville most of my life, although I did have a 14-year stint in Chillicothe and spent short periods of time in Columbus and North Carolina. Anyway, as I walk around the village a thought occurred to me, and it was this – I’ve been in nearly every house in Bourneville. Legally even. Seems weird I know, but as a kid my friends and I seemed to get around. Because of this nearly every house, street or building seems to hold a memory for me, many of which have been written about on this site.

But back to the walk. It begins down Taylor Street, past the houses of a few friends I grew up with including Billy and Richard. Richard was my buddy we all called Itch, short for Rich. As I recall his mom didn’t like that name, so being the kind-hearted kids we were, we quit calling him Itch. He henceforth went by the name of Scratch.

Kids, man.

As I round the corner past the house where Scratch use to live and head down the hill on Cropp Street, I’m reminded of the time I attended a Junior High party at the Ward house there on the left. Full disclosure: I had my first kiss in the driveway of that house, and it was spectacular (at least in my mind). I won’t mention names and I have no idea if she reads this site, but she knows who she is.

Past the Ward house and onto Keran Street, I wistfully leave my adolescent memories behind and roll onward. As I come to the base of a small hill where we used to race go carts, I recall the time I was run over by a truck. You read that right, kids. It’s all documented in a blog I cleverly entitled Run Over by a Truck. Fascinating reading I tell ya.

But hey, I lived so it’s all good.

As I come to the end (or beginning, depending on your perspective) of Keran Street I take a right on Upper Twin Road and pass the houses of two more of my childhood friends, Ted and Rocky. Ted, in particular, had my back on more than one occasion. He passed away at a too young age but I still think of him a lot.

The next turn is a right onto North Alley, which takes me through the backstreets of Bourneville. Oh, the memories of racing down that alley on my bike as a kid. I passed the back of my cousin Mel’s house, where many a shenanigan occurred. I once witnessed Mel shoot a kid square in the back with a pellet gun, then thoughtfully remove said pellet with a knife after heating it with a blowtorch. What can I say? It was a tough neighborhood.

Proceeding on westward through the alley, I walk past the former Maughmer family garage where the famous incident with Drano, Max and Grundy took place, all the way to the end and take a hard left to what is now the Valero Station. When I was a kid it did some time as a Sinclair Station, which had those cool dinosaur logos. Seriously, take a look at that logo over there. sinclair_oil_logo-svgAwesome, amirite? It was also known as Brook’s at one point and was also a Texaco. Anyhoo, as I head back down Route 50 I remember what a busy little town Bourneville used to be. Seriously, besides the Sinclair Station the following businesses operated on the main drag:

  • Springer’s: Located at the corner of Cropp Street and Route 50, this was an old country store that had those big jars of candy. Great place that sadly burned to the ground one night in the 70’s.
  • Lance’s: Lance’s was on the left heading east, smack dab in the middle of town. Lance’s was a store run by Jimmy Jack and his son Butch worked there a lot too.
  • Ted Wisecup also ran a very busy gas station right by the firehouse, and I believe it was a Sunoco. I do remember him beating my ass for repeatedly running over the tube that rang when somebody pulled in. He’d warned me a few times to stop, but being the punk that I was I continued. Next thing I knew I was pulled off my bike and whipped with a fan belt. Back then, any adult could beat your ass. ‘Twas a better time in many ways, I tell ya.
  • Where the Dairy Hut now stands, there once stood a beautiful church. I’ll never forget sitting on my porch talking with somebody one beautiful day back in the late 70’s (early 80’s?) when I heard the church bell ring. It was odd because the church hadn’t been in use for a few years. It was only later when I drove by that I realized I’d heard the last ring of that bell, because the church had been demolished and the bell had rung as it fell. Sad. Oh, and this is the corner where the legendary story entitled Harold, Max and Me took place.
  • Catty-cornered from that church stood Homer Ward’s Sohio station, a place where I played many a pinball game.

Like I said, it’s surprising that a town the size Bourneville used to support so many businesses, but support them they did. And as I walk memories of all these places come back to me.

After the Bourneville tour I head back up Twin Road and the hill where the Bicycle Wagon Train made its infamous ride. There may still be scars in the blacktop, man. Then, at the top of the hill, I once again pass The Post for the zillionth time, where it still stands proudly today.

Next I pass a cornfield where Twin School once stood. I not only attended the school in grades 1 through 8 but I taught 6th grade for 3-years there as well.

Heading on up Twin Road, I pass the cemetery and my Uncle Myrl’s old house where I sent many a summer day, take a left, and circle around the new housing development. As I cruise the back stretch I can’t help but remember the time my beloved Sparky tangled with the coyote there. On a related note, I’ve seen some eyes glowing in the dark a few times at that spot and I always have my walking stick at the ready. Hey, I know coyotes don’t attack people but better safe than sorry I always say.

And then, my 3.5 mile walk comes to an end. You know, it’s funny how much different walking the neighborhood is as compared to driving through it. You have time to see things and not just drive by without taking everything in.

As a result, it’s a great way to get back in touch with your town, and also a great way to awaken some old memories. And that’s a good thing, right?

So I spent a few days in The Poconos recently, which gave me a chance to explore the little town of Stroudsburg and some of its haunts. I stayed in a hotel a few blocks from Main Street, and while the walk didn’t seem dangerous to me, I did pass through a somewhat sketchy neighborhood along the way. The folks at the hotel said it would probably be best to drive, especially late at night, but I thought what the hell. As my late great friend Jigger once said, “It’s always best to experience some of the local flavor.” Jigger was always right, so walking uptown became the norm those few days for me. Because of this I’d spoken to several locals along the way every evening.

Anywho, my last night there I once again forego the car and walked up to Newberry’s Yard of Ale, a cool little establishment where I’d come to know the bartender, a kindred soul named Frank. Frank and I became buds from my first sojourn up to Main Street and he’d been educating me on all things Stroudsburg. He even knew about Mr. Dominick A. Lockwood, a gentlemen I wrote about earlier in the blog entitled A Friend I Never Knew. Frank even supplied me with some anecdotes about him, which I used in my blog.

After sampling a couple of Frank’s adult beverages and eating an incredible grilled salmon wrap, I began my walk back to my hotel, just sauntering along and checking out the local architecture. It was after midnight and as I walked down a dark street I was suddenly met with an incredible aroma.

Barbecue.

At 12:45 AM.

And damn, it smelled good. Hey, I’d just eaten but for some reason that grilled salmon hadn’t filled me up.

I stopped at the corner and stared down the alley but could see nothing but some wisps of smoke coming from a porch a few houses down, accompanied by some laughter and back-and-forth banter.

On a whim, I headed down the alley, and as I approached the house I heard a voice:

You lost? The hotel’s that way.”

All I could do was laugh and say this:

“I know, but I was drawn by that smell.”

To my delight, at that point the voice invited me to join them on the porch for some of the best damn late night/early morning barbecue I’d ever eaten.

I soon learned that the barbecue was the recipe of Sheldon, who lived in the house attached to the porch I was sitting on, and that he’d gotten it from his grandmother, who he affectionately referred to as Noona.

Or Noomaw.

Or something.

Bottom line? Man, it was good barbecued chicken.

Perhaps the highlight of the evening (morning?) came when a car pulled up and cousin Marlin hopped out with a couple of his friends. They grabbed some chicken and sat down on the porch. It was probably 10-minutes later when they noticed the obviously out-of-place dude on the wicker chair in the corner. It was pretty dark after all. Marlin then leaned forward and asked:

Who the hell are you?

Amid much laughter we all realized that nobody knew the answer. I’d never introduced myself. I remedied that quickly, had a few more laughs, and I finally made my way back to my hotel around 2:00 AM, extra covered plate of tasty goodness in tow, courtesy of Noona.

When Jigger said “local flavor” I don’t think he meant it literally. But he did mean to not be afraid to experience new things, and that’s exactly what I did that night. And I made some new friends and experienced some great flavors because of it.

And damn, that was good barbecue.