Saturday, March 05, 2011

Mayberry, Rockwell, Wooden, and the 3A State Championship

I think that in today's world we assume it's a thing of the past, a lost treasure, gone with the wind.  Sweet small town America, that is.  The likes of it inspired movies like It's a Wonderful Life and TV shows like Andy Griffith.  Does it still exist?  Is it possible in the midst of the hustle and bustle of modern technology and the trendiness of being overcommitted and busy?  It is a hurry, hurry world ~ an America that no longer glorifies small town life and building character.  Instead of Mayberry and Walnut Grove, today TV boasts in America's bright light big city world ~ tall buildings, business suits, cell phones, nice cars, and busy fast paced city streets.

But, you know what?  We are still here.  Small town American, that is.  We still exist, flourish, thrive.  And, dare I say it, we prefer our simple, slower paced life.  Quiet, slow, and easy, we live, we work, we are rural, small town America.  Mayberry still exists, and I know because I live here, and I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world.  I live in a place where the old men, the ones who've know each other all their lives, meet for coffee at Hardees each morning where they laugh and slap their knees and sit back slow and easy enjoying the moment, discussing local sports and politics. And, the women, they discuss the small town who's who and what's happening over hair cuts and styles at the local salon.  You hardly pass a car that you don't know the driver, and you wave.  The old men prefer to just throw up their hand in a slap the steering wheel type of method, but either way, you wave.  It's polite,  it's southern, and it's a way of life around here.  You aren't in so much of a hurry that you can't stop your car to let friends cross the street ~ even if there is no crosswalk.  And, when someone lets you cross whether there is a crosswalk or not, you wave a polite thank you to them. There is no hurry, and that bothers the fast paced city folk.  But, this is the way we roll here in small town America.

But, I think the part I like the best about my Mayberry like world is that we all root for the same team, the home team.  You live in a town of around about 10,000 people, and you play high school ball, then you have around about 10,000 fans.  Easy.  Just like that.  Win or lose.  Around about 10,000 fans.  And, that is the way it works in small town America, and it is truly beautiful.  You don't go to games just because the team is winning.  You go to games because that is what you do.  You support your team.  Old and young, rich and poor, you go, and you sit in the bleachers, and you root for the home team.  You just do.  And, if you happen to be a particularly good high school athlete, then you become a celebrity.  And, every little boy in town looks up to you, (I know this first hand because my little boys get starry eyed when we pass a football or basketball player at the grocery!), and all the old men know your name and your stats.  You become a small town hero.

If Norman Rockwell was still painting, no doubt he'd enjoy painting our town's high school basketball team.  The lanky, tall Kenny Paul, and the fiesty guard Tre.  But, even more than that he'd paint our coach, our neighbor, Michael.  Michael has studied John Wooden, his mentor, for years.  He has met him, even attended church with him.  And, as I told Michael last Thursday night after he became a 3A state championship coach, "Wooden would be proud."  And, I know he would.

Earlier this year Michael took his team to the trophy case and showed them the state championship trophy last won by our town's team back in the 1960's.  One of the players reached for the gold ball, touched it.  And, Michael stopped him, saying, "Hey, boy, that's not your ball.  You have to earn yours."

Little did Michael know, he would.

We were the underdogs.  We weren't expected to win.  Our school is at the small end of 3A, and theirs is at the big end.  They have experience and maturity.  We have one senior in our starting lineup.  One.  But, we wanted it.  Badly.  And, we wouldn't quit.  We held strong, kept up.  In the first half, trailing by anywhere from 1 to 10 points, we stayed with them ~ wouldn't let them run away with it.  Then, at half time something shifted.  Michael said he told the boys to look at the trophy on their way back into the gym. The trophy looked just like the one he had shown them earlier in the year ~ except this one was different ~ this one was shiny and new ~ this one could be their own.  They were minutes away from being given the privilege of bringing it home ~ these small town boys, these dreamers who believed in themselves, in their coach, and in the community who came out in droves to support them.

At half-time they interviewed the Superintendent of our school.  He is special to us, very much loved and admired by our entire community, my husband counts him a close friend.  When the TV reporter mentioned the huge crowd our town drew to the game yesterday, he said in his slow, good old boy, southern manner, "Well... It'd be a good day to rob a bank in our town.  I think pretty much everybody is here."  The newspaper estimated 2,000 blue and gold fans traveled four hours to cheer for their home team. And, the rest of the fans, those who stayed behind to see patients and take care of business.  Well, they had their radios and TV's on.  And, no doubt, half their brain was focused on the game and the other half was focused on the work at hand.  My husband and Sean were running in and out of patient rooms to the break room to watch their Devils play on TV.  Even Deana B dropped her sweet girl off at dance class,  then sped quickly to Sean and Erik's office to watch the end of the game in the break room.  The community nearly shut down for an hour and a half this past Thursday afternoon.

So, they came out in the second half, ready to play, ready to win.  It was obvious that they. wanted. it.  And, the tide turned and most of the second half it was the other team, the big school, the predicted winners, the more experienced, more mature team who trailed.  And, in the end, our Devils did it!  They pulled off the win. I think the other team was a bit shocked.  Our community had a fun little kick in our step that evening.  People I didn't know stopped me on my way in Wal-Mart saying things like, "They made us proud, ehh?" Town pride. And, I, yes, I was in Wal-Mart buying streamers and posters to decorate our coach's home.  I wasn't the only one who thought of this.  I was joined by a few others.  And, when our neighbors got in late last night tiki torches lit their driveway, streamers covered their bushes, trees, mailboxes, and posters were scattered here and there.  We love our coach because he does so much more than coach basketball.  In the way of his mentor, he coaches young men to have character.  He coaches them in the game of basketball, but more importantly he coaches them in the game of life.

Erik went to the high school around 10-10:30 Thursday night along with a huge crowd to welcome the boys home.  When Erik got in, I asked him about the evening.  I asked who was there.  His answer:  "The better question would be who wasn't there."  And, he listed a family or two that wasn't represented.  He told me how proud he was of Michael.  In his speech to the community that awaited him, he told them of a poem that he read to the boys on the team earlier.  It spoke of how any praise or glory that they received from this, they would turn right around and offer back to God.  In small town schools in the deep south, God is still allowed, invited, and from time to time even glorified.  And, around midnight the owner of the local Pizza Inn, kept his staff late and fed the team as he has done many other times throughout the season.  

Then, Friday morning as Michael drove to school, he stopped by our house.  Erik and I walked out to his truck.  Guess what was sitting in his passenger seat?  The trophy.  He handed it to Erik who smiled like a school boy and admired the golden ball ~ so proud of his friend.  They discussed the game. They discussed the blessing it was that neither of their wives went into labor during the game.  Michael said at one point he turned around and saw Shawna standing in her chair yelling (30 weeks pregnant).  Shawna  loves these boys.  She has them in her home, feeds them, and she was one of the first in line to hug them when the game was over.  Michael said he didn't sleep a whole lot Thursday night~ said he could sleep when he died.  This was just too good, too good to sleep through, and I loved it for him.

Our town will float on this cloud for the next month or so. It's a special thing, and I am so glad that we got to be a small part of it. No doubt, across our small town, preachers will weave the championship game into their sermons this Sunday.  I know my basketball loving pastor will! It will be mentioned.  It will be celebrated.  Things like this are a really BIG deal in a really small town.

Here are some pictures from our day. . .

The boys during the final seconds of the game. . .


The boys singing "Hey, Hey, Baby. . ." at the top of their lungs after the game was over. . .


Michael and Shawna's front door. . .




I put this where Michael parks. . .


I never got a picture after Lane lit the tiki torches, but we had so much fun fixing the place up for our friends!


Way to go, Devils!!  We are so proud of you!

3 comments:

Jackson said...

Ditto on loving the small town.. Rome is our home and we are sooo proud of it!!!

Jackson said...

This is Ali... don't know why my past post said Jackson!!!

LIsa said...

Thank you so much for sharing this...I grew up in your home town and graduated a BLUE DEVIL!!! I am ready to move back!:) This is a wonderful and beautiful picture of life!

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Hi! I live in a sweet country home overflowing with love, laughter, and little ones. I have been blessed to journey these days beside a man that I love, respect, and admire. He is my soul-mate and best friend. Together we are seeking to raise our seven children to be lovers of God, to be wise and discerning, and to be all that our sweet God created them to be. I am in the goldfish and cheerio stage of life, but I am keenly aware that these days are slipping right through my hands. This blog is my attempt to keep our memories safe for years to come.

 

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