Sharing stories in coastal Sussex is a cultural pastime

December 23, 2022

One-on-one - The song by Daryl Hall and John Oates, a couple of Temple guys, contains lots of basketball references ... or maybe it's a love song or a narcissistic bedtime lullaby? In my sportswriting world, one-on-one involves sitting down with an athlete and sharing stories as I develop an athletic/academic biography of 150 words to go with a fresh headshot photo that will be featured in a Cape Gazette Friday lineup of four athletes. My interview technique is conversational, as I’m prone to go off-road sharing my own experiences as a player or coach or longtime tracker of athletes over the last 40 years. There are always repeat performers, but I do my best to highlight the depth and breadth of talented athletes “crossing my face,” as we linemen for life like to say. On Monday, I visited Cape. My focus was boys’ track. I visited with Liam O’Donnell, distance runner; Billy Cerf, hurdler and high jumper; Bailey Fletcher, pole vaulter and summer sailor; and Nate Horn, football player and shot putter. All four athletes are honors students. They were all relaxed and conversational, and all had the elusive trait of attentive listening and reacting with smiles. Bailey commented, “Now that's a funny story” after hearing about former Cape vaulter Bill Zimmerman snapping his pole in three pieces as he went to clear 15 feet back in 1983.  

Don Burton circle is always a happy place - The celebration of 91 years in the life of Don Burton was held Monday morning at Parsell Funeral Home (see obit). It was Sesame Street by the Sea at its deepest, warmest and most loving relationships. As Eric Gooch walked in with me, he said, “Mr. Don was like a father to me, not just a Little League coach. In many ways he was the only father I knew.” There was no travel ball back then. Lewes Little League was the social center of the summer universe. I saw Eric in the reception line hug Stevie, Don’s younger son. I was OK until I saw them crying. Stevie knew what his dad had done for Eric and what they had done for each other. Ninety-year-old muppets usually sneak out of town because most of their friends have ascended into an afterlife of kicking back and sharing stories. Storytelling controls the clock in this community. Some outsiders see it as a detriment to productivity, often lamenting, “These people would rather talk or fish than work. It’s just tough getting them to show up for a job.” The line to see the Burton family was out the door, and included all  generations and walks of life. If the sermon scheduled at 11 was the job at hand, there was no way. There was a week's worth of storylines circled around itself in the warm lobby. This community, traffic aside, is still here like concentric circles. We all move in our circles – flying high like a bird up in the sky – and intersect some other circles, but perhaps not all. Like always, I don’t know how I got in the room. Anthropologists call it acculturation and assimilation – you leave one culture and become a part of another. It helps that Don Burton was a Phillies fan and I became a fence hanger at the Little League park.

Uncle Rico - I’m hoping Gardner Minshew gets to start against the Cowboys on Christmas Eve. The 26-year-old quarterback is a gunslinger, and next season he’ll be starting for some NFL team. If the Eagles lose to the Cowboys – they are five-point dogs – it won’t be because they didn’t have Jalen, it will be because Dallas is loaded, and when they show up, which is not every week, they are tough. Minshew had 9,705 yards and 88 passing touchdowns in high school. He was the PAC-12 Offensive Player of the Year his senior year at Washington State and finished fifth in the Heisman Trophy voting in 2018. His coach at Washington State was the late Mike Leach. Minshew is currently a $2.5 million backup. Anyone who thinks he can’t play has something in common with a Christmas turkey. 

Delaware State - Delaware State University hired Lee Hull as its new head football coach. Hull comes to Delaware State from Howard University, where he was offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Hull, with 25 years of coaching experience, was previously head coach at Morgan State and served a season as the wide receivers coach with the Indianapolis Colts in 2016. Lee and his wife Stacey are the parents of son Jordan, a four-year football letter winner as a wide receiver at Lafayette College (Pa.), and daughter Laila, who has committed to the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill on a full basketball scholarship. The men’s basketball team at DSU is currently 1-11, while the women’s team is 2-7. Cory Barnes (Mariner-Cape-Archbishop Carroll) is a sophomore on the Hornets squad. 

Snippets - Abbey Hearn (Lewes-Cape) has started all 10 games for the 5-5 Kutztown Golden Bears, averaging 12 points and five rebounds per game. Morgan Mahoney is playing for the 6-4 Millersville Marauders and averaging six points per game. Go on now, git! 


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