In Down Home Delaware, close enough is always good enough

June 12, 2012

Induction function - I spent the first seven years of my track coaching career apologizing for not being Tom Hickman. Thirty-seven years later I've spent eight months hooking up his induction into the Ring of Honor at Legends Stadium.  It reminds me of 1975 and the off-sized track behind Shields School. I went to the legend Tom Hickman and asked him, “Who am I, Euclid, the father of geometry? How do I line that thing?” “Ask J.T. Moore, the outside custodian,” Hickman said. "He always lines the track.” J.T. was so North Carolina that even people back there in the mountains couldn't understand him. “Show me where to put the lines and that's where I'll put them,” he said. It took me days of calculating parabolas and the inside and outside of arc dimensions before it dawned on me: “This is Down Home Delaware, where close enough is always good enough, and approximately level is always followed by 'Nail it!'" Tom Hickman will be inducted at 10 a.m., Sunday, July 15. The ceremony and open microphone will be inside where it's cool and bug free and we can slurp coffee and tell stories and eat bagels during the ceremony if we feel like it. All you great friends of Coach Hickman need to find me and give me money as I need to hook up round-trip limousine service from Snow Hill and back and pay for food and a custodian. We mostly want you and your stories, and I will have a cowbell; when you hear it, it's time to give up the microphone. This ain't graduation.

Belmont to basketball - Last Saturday was absolutely brutal on sports television, the worst of it being the two hours leading up to a one-lap horse race and another hour leading into game seven of the NBA Eastern Conference Championship. How could you not hate LeBron if you hear his name 500 times before the game starts? Bob Costas is the best, won't pitch a softball question, but he borders on just being flat-out rude. I'd love someone to snap back at him, “Back off, you short, overcompensating Syracuse University dropout.” Are you enjoying Euro 2012 soccer? The athletes are exquisite. I watched a 1-0 Germany over Portugal game and a 1-1 Italy versus Spain. The most exciting thing to happen involved corner kicks where the insertion man had to dodge trash grenades. Gives clearer meaning to the term “Euro Trash.”

Mad Stork flashback - I played football for Temple. My granddaughter Anna visited and met with lacrosse coaches there last Monday.  Back in 2000, I took Tommy Sheehan of Cape for a visit. I brought my 1965 letter sweater in a plastic bag. Secretaries in the football office cried and said to me, “Welcome home.” Coaches Spencer Prescott and Blair Thomas, along with Tommy, Tim Widdoes and I went to the dining hall. Tommy sat down to eat and I jumped him hard. “What is that on your plate?” “A salad,” Tommy said. "Right, a salad. Now listen, you six-foot-five, 215-pound salad-eating Mad Stork. These guys line up against Miami and Syracuse and not with no-body-fat salad eaters. Now you better get up there and get a couple meatball sandwiches and let the sauce run down your chin. Jesus, what are you, a clarinet player?”  Two years later, Tommy called me from a stoop on North Broad Street. "I just found out from coach Bobby Wallace I've gotten a full scholarship. This is one of the best days of my life.” Coach Spencer Prescott - I was his high school coach back in 1974 - told me, "Sheehan got a scholarship just as much for who he is as what he can do on the field. Everybody on the staff just loves that kid.”

Snippets - This is the week the United States Olympic Field Hockey team is chosen. Twenty-four players from the national team are pared down to 16. It's done in a room and takes five minutes. Former Cape and Princeton player Maren Ford just missed the cut.  I always told my students, “Have a firm grasp of who you are and be OK with it, because the unprovoked drone attacks are coming; it happens to all of us.” I'm continually amazed at coaches who are in a privileged position to enhance a young athlete's positive self-image and don't do it. In many ways it's worse at the college level, where younger coaches don't believe that motivation and development of self-esteem are part of their job. I could tell a hundred stories and so can a lot of athletes of all ages. Grandmom Rose: “Sensitivity training doesn't make a dent in the chronically insensitive. They will just never get it.” "I know, Grandmom.” “Be quiet; who said you could talk?”  Go on now, git!

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