Sports guy with a big lens in a small room

Cape coaches (l-r) Greg Smock,Tommy Rushin,Pat Woods, Shemik Thompson and Steve Re show the Henlopen Conference hardware in the locker room after the Vikings' win. BY DAVE FREDERICK
February 26, 2013

Great Expectations - Everyone on Cape’s basketball team expected to beat Polytech and win the Henlopen Conference Championship, at least that’s what they said after winning 66-65 in overtime as a crowd of adult fans needed an electrical shock to get their heart rates back into regular rhythm. The scene inside the Cape locker room afterward was beyond my usual no expectations starting with Jordan Duffie, asked by teammates to lead them in prayer: “Thank you for helping us win tonight, God. Nobody got hurt, God. You brought us together tonight, God.” T.T. Hazzard just smiled broadly at each line spoken by Jordan. Then the trophy was passed around as players took out their cellphones and took photos of each other. They wanted one of just their coaches and there I was in a small room with a big lens - why does that sound funny? - so I had to go to the other side of the room just to get all five coaches in the photo. Each one of those five coaches has a unique and different story to tell, and I’d be the guy to write it, but I can make a blanket observation without hesitation and say they are all in it for Cape kids, which in this community means our kids. Thank you for letting me be there and get a focused photo and not get hurt, God!

Public school prayer - Player-led prayer by public school sports teams happens more than it doesn’t, and it's allowable by First Amendment restrictions if it is not organized and ordered by the coach and part of regular routine.   A player could say “I don’t play, I don’t pray” but it's hard to argue with “Nobody got hurt, God.” I found the optional post-game coming together after Cape football games this year by both teams a powerful and exhilarating demonstration of faith and keeping life in perspective. I taught psychology in public school for many years and was struck that no textbook devoted any space to human spirituality and belief in a higher power as a means of coping with life's curve balls and called third strikes. Publishers were too afraid that if there were a "big unit on religion," public schools wouldn’t purchase it. I like the joke that baseball is the first sport mentioned in the Bible: “In the big inning...”

Grace before game - The Bishop Egan 1962 junior varsity basketball team’s head coach, Paul Kerns, aka Peanut Head, was out sick, so Father Mathew Finnegan was asked to coach the team for one game. He got everyone together in a circle before the game and recited, "Bless us, O Lord, and these thy gifts which we are about to receive.” Father Matt had said the Grace Before Meals prayer, then argued it didn’t matter, that God knew it was a basketball game, not Thanksgiving dinner. Guess it doesn’t matter that in 2013 there are more former Catholics than practicing Catholics in the USA. Grand Mom Rose: “Religion without relevance is just someplace to keep warm until the bakery opens.“

Snippets - Jimmy Gill, a former basketball and baseball player at Cape who went on to start for the Garnet at Swarthmore College for four years and become team captain as a senior, has just been hired by Rutgers University as assistant director of athletic communications. Jimmy will serve as secondary contact for football as well as primary contact for baseball and gymnastics. Jimmy got his master's from University of Miami, where he worked in sports information as a graduate assistant.  He is smart and talented, a good writer and has a rare talent of being able to listen while others talk.  I’m considering letting him be my Facebook friend.

“Big ups” to Tommy Ott for winning his second state championship in wrestling at 220 pounds. It was announced during the Smyrna basketball game and went warp speed into cyberspace before the ref had time to raise his hand to signal the pin.

Smyrna won the Henlopen Conference Championship in girls' basketball with a win over Seaford. That makes three conference titles this winter for the Eagles - wrestling, girls' track and girls' basketball. Bud Hitchens presented the Henlopen Conference trophy to Smyrna coach Rachel Woodall. I told Athletic Director Bill Schultz  that Homer “Bud” Hitchens was the point guard on the 1966 Milton basketball team.  Schultz gulped. “It gets better. He was point guard in a game where Bill Cordrey set the state scoring record with a 57-point performance.” I once wrote, “Cordrey would have broken 60 but Hitchens grew tired of giving him the ball.” Bud is also a clever cartoonist - I was going to write “closet cartoonist” but I don’t want him making me into a comic strip. Go on now, git!

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