Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Left Bench... (04/05/11)

Hello Folks,

My mind was wondering back to younger days this morning. I think it was a reaction to my blood sugars dropping into the 80's... LOL!

I was reminiscing back to my basketball playing days in high school. I was a member of our junior varsity squad during my junior year and made the varsity squad during my senior year... until I quit. Let me explain.

I loved sports, especially baseball and basketball. However, as a young child, I was limited in my phys ed. activities due to the fact that I was diagnosed with Rhuematic Fever at he the age of five. I spent an entire year bedridden and not allowed to walk!

As time passed and I rebounded, I was allowed to slowly get back into physical activity. By the time I had reached junior high school, I was allowed to go out for basketball, but I was never accepted on the team. I tend blame this on my phys. ed. limitations and the inability of my phys. ed. instructor to truly understand Rhuematic Fever. (That's another story for another time)

The sad part was that I chose not to go out for basketball my sophomore year because I didn't make my 7 9th grade teams. That didn't stop me from constantly playing bball in the neighborhood and in the recreation (rec) leagues.

My skills were improving without any formal coaching. In fact, when I tried out my junior year, I was a few days late for try outs because I was recovering from a broken clavicle. The j.v. coach told me that he thought that I passed extraordinarily well even coming off the broken collarbone. But that wasn't my strongest skill. I was a pure shooter and shot well over 50% from the field and in the 80% from the foul line.

My j.v. year was a year of learning to be coached and skill building. I was very fast, not only on foot, but also with my hands. I could steal very well and was able to jump above the rim while only being 5'10"... I'm now 6'0".

I worked very hard my junior year so that I could make the varsity squad my senior year. We had a new coach taking the helm of the varsity team which delighted me. The past varsity coach was a phys. ed. instructor and wasn't very nice. He was cynical and took advantage of people's situations to make fun of them. People like that are not my favorite.

So, with the new coach on board, I made the team as a #2 or shooting guard. I played quite often during preseason, but once the season started, I was benched. I would joke that my position on the team was "Left Bench" or the furthest spot away from the coach.

I had several very good friends that played ball with me on that squad. The one teammate was a neighbor of mine and we ran together since elementary school. He was a bit heavier than me and was more of a "physical" player, rather than the finesse style I had.

We were playing Lebanon (Pa.) High School and there was an opposing player who was doing a number offensively on us. My buddy and I were sitting in our usual spots, Left Bench, when the coach approached him and said, "See that player? I need you to take him out."

That's right folks. It was 1971... 40 years ago... and this coach instructed my friend to "take him out"! I was shocked to hear that and watched my friend get up off the bench, enter the game, and proceed to run the opposing player into the wall behind the opposing team's basket.

He certainly did take the player out. In fact, he injured him and he was unable to continue. A technical foul was called and my friend was ejected from the game... As he should have been. He was not allowed to return to league play until the opposing player healed and was able to return a few weeks later.

That was the day I decided to quit. I couldn't in good conscience play for anyone who asked a 17 year old to "take him out" or injury another player on purpose.

It was the weekend and I had to wait until Monday after practice to speak to my coach. I was in the locker room, everyone else had showered and left, before the coach came walking through. He was a hyper-man who often stammered when he got excited. I asked to speak to him and he immediately began to "hem and haw"... "What? What is it Boyd?"

"Coach, I cannot remain on this team. What I saw take place at the game was just not right."

he tried to rationalize with me, but I wasn't having any of it. It was just wrong, plain and simple.

I left the team that day and played rec ball and also was on the rec traveling team that played smaller private and parochial high schools in our area. I actually got to play! In fact, I had a 52 pt. game in that league... Did you catch that? I said, "52 pts!" Yet, my position on my high school team was "Left Bench!" Go figure!