Men in black and giving back

Stories and faces pop from the front row of history
January 17, 2020

Men in Black - The undefeated Milford Academy Middle School boys’ basketball team hit the Central Academy court Jan. 13, with class and confidence, ready to face Georgetown Middle School. Milford reminded me of the Chester High Clippers in 1960, coming out of the tunnel at the Penn Palestra. Head coach Tony “TT” Hazzard wore a black blazer, shirt and tie; so did his assistants Jawon Sivels and Jaron Dukes. There was no fake hype, no “I’m Samuel L. Jackson playing Coach Carter in a basketball movie” foolishness. And then there was the game itself, and Milford was the absolute truth – fast, yet patient, heads up and looking for teammates. Plenty of family-connected people from both schools going back three generations were there to offer support. Milford ran the clock. The score was 39-8 at halftime. The Bucs throttled back and won 57-21. Coach TT Hazzard played the roster because he has been there and he gets it. The Milford girls, under the direction of head coach Leona White and assistant Prince Kemmerlin, won their fourth straight game, with a score of 24-8. My granddaughter Lina is a seventh-grader on the girls’ team and the reason I was there, but I was also there for everyone else. 

Be-Bi-Da-Co - Vada Sample led the football team prayer after a Cape practice in 1987. There is a line, “If we should win, let it be by the code,” but it sounded like Vada said, “Be Bi Da Co,” and we coaches and players kidded him, the way friends do, making sure he thought it was funny because no one wanted to be snatched off the ground and rocketed into sub-orbit like Sputnik. Vada was Cape’s first natural powerlifter, benching 350 pounds on genetics. Vada is a volunteer fireman for Carlisle – the siren sounds and he shows up. Always a great guy and teammate, another story from the front row of sports. 

Hey Milford Chronicle - Charles Brewington rocking row one with Slaughter Neck friends from my past assumed I was a photographer from the Milford Chronicle. I said to him, “Get your popcorn ready, Terrell Owens.” I had seen him eating popcorn earlier. Charles, a big man, laughed large. He ran track for Milford in 1982, the 200 and 400. I was the Cape track coach during that era. Charles later joined the Army and was the real deal, breaking 22 seconds in the 200 before injury. “Strangers are friends you haven’t met yet,” and that is especially true in sports. I honestly don’t know what other people talk about. 

BAM - I know Granville Hazzard, he was part of the front-row crew at Milford Academy Monday afternoon. He was wearing a BAM hat, which he said he got from his son Andrew who lives in Chicago and belongs to the group. I plugged in the connection. BAM was started by Joe Moglia, former coach at Archmere, who went on to be chairman of Ameritrade. He then became head coach at Coastal Carolina. Joe’s best friend and business partner is former Cape coach George Glenn, who was director of football operations at Coastal. Moglia described the BAM philosophy in an interview with the Huffington Post: “It has nothing to do with gender. It has everything to do with being a great leader. A great leader has a respect for others and cares about other people in his or her charge.” 

Snippets - Monday I watched a middle school boys’ game and felt hopeful that the beauty of team basketball could return to the hardwoods because mostly it has been on vacation. And then I watched a varsity game Tuesday at Cape, and older coaches were asking me, “What has happened to  Cape and really most every team?” A beautiful game has turned ugly. Without dusting off a sociology degree that’s older than the players’ parents or weighing in like a truck stuffed with shingles at the transfer station, I said, “Too many AAU coaches who don’’t know jack, not enough schoolyard courts, and the better the school, the fewer real people who can afford to live in the district.” And I freely admit there’s always a better than 50/50 chance that I don’t know what I’m talking about. Milford Middle School cheerleaders were rocking to their own created rhythms; it took me back to the “U-G-L-Y, you ain’t got no alibi” Philly gyms of my youth. “Take your hat and coat and leave.” Go on now, git! 


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