A different kind of hero
His father played on a basketball team in the state finals. His son sets out to find the rest of the story.
(Page 2 of 2)
Theo Webb was known to be especially close to Dad. I asked him what he remembered. "I remember we were born the same day. We celebrated lots of birthdays together and we played lots of Monopoly at your grandpa's house."Skip to next paragraph
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"But what about basketball?" I asked.
"Every Saturday morning was open basketball at the Y. For a quarter, we got a hot dog, chocolate milk, and a doughnut. Your dad loved doughnuts."
Doughnuts? I tried to focus. "What was he like as a player?"
Theo was undeterred. "I remember he was notoriously slow getting dressed in the shower and your grandfather used to chew us out."
I became more direct. "How about the state finals?"
He paused. "I remember we had a lot of time in the hotel. We'd get hungry sometimes, and so we would sneak out to get sandwiches and milk. The coach caught us because the milk came in glass bottles and we had them all lined up outside our rooms."
Barney Beers also had memories of being stuck in the hotel. "We were four days at the Marriott with nothing to do but eat and practice."
"What was my dad like?" I was longing to hear a description of some sort of athletic prowess.
Instead, Barney said only, "He was just so dang smart."
"He was good at football, wasn't he?" I asked hopefully.
Barney's voice softened. "Before we went off to college, Ted and I went to the football field and spent hours playing catch and reminiscing."
Jim Schooley was the star of the '49 team and described Dad as "a smart kid who was interested in athletics."
"Was he a good player?" I asked.
"He passed a lot. And he was smart enough to understand his role."
"What about football?" I asked.
"It was a single wing offense. The quarterback had a different role. Your dad did a credible job."
"A credible job?" The disappointment resonated in my voice, and Jim tried his best to give me something to hang onto. "Athletics have the great feature in that you are not judged by anything other than your enthusiasm. Your dad was enthusiastic."
Jim and his teammates' polite honesty about my dad and their rather ordinary memories of the final four left me to reconsider what I had really been searching for. My quest for another "Hoosiers" story starring my dad had not turned out as anticipated. He was not a star but was smart, scrappy, and enthusiastic.
Back at home, I traded shots in a one-on-one game with my 7-year-old son. "Wow, Dad, you are a great basketball player," he said, beaming with admiration.
For a moment I thought I should correct his misapprehensions and tell him how poor a player I really am and that even his grandfather wasn't the star we all thought he was. Instead, I looked at his excited brown eyes and simply said, "You'll be a good player someday, too."
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