Growing up in a basketball-mad state and half an hour away from the school that inspired the movie Hoosiers, this time of year meant the culmination of the hoops season with the state-wide tournament.
In fact, Sports Illustrated devoted a feature story to my high school’s team during the last open tournament in ’97. That team had been ranked third in the state and, with the tournament being divvied into classes the following season (a highly contentious and unfortunate decision), the team from my hometown had become the darlings of fans statewide who hoped for one more run from a small school at the state title.
Fifteen years earlier, I was in junior high and the high school team replaced a beloved coach that had won a couple sectional titles. The new coach was greeted with the same open arms and small-town hospitality that Gene Hackman found in Hickory. But, he won and soon all was right with the world.
My freshman year, the team was loaded, led by a small forward who could have played Division I ball, opted for a smaller, Division III school and was an honorable mention All-American.
(dude was also a state-champion high jumper)
We lost two games all season.
Both games were to team from a school five times our size who had made several, recent trips to the Final Four. The first time was on their court, by a point, during the regular season.
The second time was on their court, by a point, with a trip to the Sweet Sixteen on the line.
The team which beat us went on to win the state title.
It was a fun trip to experience up close and it locked in the once-suspect coach as entenched. Two years later, I had the coach for a teacher – geometry class.
My buddy Bosco quickly dubbed him The Colonel – “Bobby Knight’s called The General, so…”
I’m not sure if it was an homage or a dig
(with Bosco, it was sometimes hard to tell)
Despite the drowsy hour – it was first period – we looked forward to The Colonel’s class. Bosco would often side-track the preceedings by bringing up the idea of dating The Colonel’s oldest daughter, a freshman.
Bosco was far more Spiccoli than scoundrel, so The Colonel played along and the two would good-naturedly banter. The Colonel often countered our antics by immortalizing us on his exams as stick figures with identifying characteristics (my stick figure had long hair, Bosco’s sported checkerboard Vans, another friend had oversized glasses, etc.).
The Colonel, like many of our teachers, was often subjected to having his house pelted with eggs on the weekends by disgruntled students. I’d see Bosco in school on Monday morning. He lived across the street from The Colonel and he’d tell of coming home in the early morning hours to find him in his yard.
“He was in his robe, hosing egg off his siding. He shook his fist at me.”
“No. He’s The Colonel, man. He waved.”
The Colonel was a good teacher. He seemed to enjoy it and, more so than most of our teachers, he seemed to remember that, though we were almost adult-sized, we were still kids.
I think he still was, too.
Here are some of the songs I remember during that run by The Colonel’s team in March of ’83…
Def Leppard – Photograph
There are few acts that seemed to explode overnight to the degree that the Leps did with Pyromania. I’m thinking that I might have heard Bringin’ On The Heartache from their previous album, but, if I did, it wasn’t a song that got more than a smattering of airplay.
But Photograph launched like a rocket. It was as though I heard it for the first time and – twenty minutes later – the song (and Union Jack t-shirts and shorts) were everywhere. It was just one of those songs that seemed so obvious that it would be mammoth and it still sounds stellar.
Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – Change Of Heart
from Long After Dark
I was non-plussed by You Got Lucky (though the video was pretty cool at the time), but there was something rough and tumble about Change Of Heart that I found far more appealing. I’d argue that the song is one of Petty’s most underrated hits.
Saga – Wind Him Up
from Worlds Apart
I know that they’ve released a lot of albums during their career, but the Canadian band Saga didn’t have much success here in the US. No doubt best known for On The Loose, I much preferred the follow-up, Wind Him Up.
And, it was always fun for us to mimic lead singer Michael Sadler saying, “No luck today.”
Frida – I Know There’s Something Going On
from Something’s Going On
I’m sure that, initially, I had no idea that the voice on I Know There’s Something Going On belonged to one of the women from ABBA. And, I doubt at the time that I recognized the drumming on the song to be Phil Collins (although I’d soon become familiar with the cavernous sound that was his trademark).
Instead, I loved the thunderous sound and omnious vibe of the song. And, in retrospect, it’s odd to think of Frida’s lone hit getting played on the rock stations playing Petty, Saga, and Def Leppard that would have never touched ABBA.
As Bosco would have no doubt said, it was a one-eighty.