Thursday, January 8, 2009

It’s Different Now, But It Was Better Then

An item in yesterday’s Maui News caught my attention. Members of a local high school girls basketball team, playing as the visiting team in another school’s gym, were reduced to tears by the heckling they were getting from a dozen boys in the stands. I gather from the news accounts, some of it was pretty raw. And apparently no one told them to shut up.

That brought back memories of a basketball game at my old prep school back on the east coast. The score was tied mid-way through the second half when one of the visiting players was fouled and went to the free throw line. Believe it or not, it was custom back then for the spectators to remain quiet while players of either team concentrated and prepared to take their free throws.

Anyway, the kid stared at the basket, bounced the ball a couple of times, and took his first shot. Just before he let the ball go, someone in the crowd let out a whoop, obviously trying to rattle him. The ball hit the rim and bounced away.

Immediately – and I do mean immediately – our school’s coach, who was also the athletic director, let out with a piercing whistle and marched out to the middle of the court. His name was Ralph Erickson and he was both loved and feared by all who knew him, students and faculty alike. Hands on hips and red-faced, Ralph did a slow, complete turn, fixing every corner of that gym with a terrifying glare. There was not a sound throughout the building.

Then he turned to the referee and directed that the youngster be permitted to take the shot over. He did but, for the life of me, I can’t remember if he made the shot or not. Nor can I remember which team won the game.

But I do remember that several hundred people got a lesson in sportsmanship from Ralph Erickson that afternoon.

1 comment:

Mike said...

Our country could use a few thousand Ralph Ericksons. You were lucky to have known this man.