When March came my father would drive me to the tournament games. Rarely trips of less then 100 miles. Often at night and on weekends, and without a complaint. I didn't whine and bitch to get this opportunity. I was never sure it would happen again. He gave it willingly. It was passing along his enjoyment of the game. Of sport. Of excitement. Too bad it only takes me thirty years to think of that blessing he gave.
Those trips were always in snow. I don't remember a single time when the trip didn't happen if there was a snow storm. Fearless. It was just snow. Never once crashed. Never once hit the bank or got stuck. Never once failed to make the first tip. Never once left early. At that time rarely saw my home town team in the tournament. Sadly we had a very shitty coach who I tried to play under. He managed to win a state championship once and so no one would fire him, but he had nothing to do with the win. He as much admitted it, he'd ask us after a loss, what was wrong with us. Pretty hard when you have no leader. I have little doubt he was as worthless then as he was when I was in high school and we had records of 2-17.
There was a great coach coming. He went on to win two championships in 25 years. The typical finals were against teams with every single player 3-6 inches taller. From all private schools that recruited from the finest of metropolitan players. And he beat them like they'd never seen it coming. How? Out hustle. We never stopped running in his practices. How would I know? I had the drunken flake in high school? Because he was the junior high/middle school coach when I was that age. And we ran until our lunch was in our throats. And then we ran some more. And then we shot baskets when we were good and tired. Fundamentals. And the worst error you could make is to miss an open shot or layup. Especially when the game was on the line. Or a free throw. Shaq wouldn't have played two games in a row for him. He didn't care how good you were in general if you weren't fundamentally sound, you rode the pine. No whining allowed. No loud daddies permissible. He was coach and you were just one of many players. Don't like it? Leave.
I got tossed from the high school team for refusal to cut my hair. Stupid yes. My point was, I could lose with long hair as well as I could with short. It wasn't fun. He sucked. I couldn't be a man and quit. So I created the situation where I couldn't stay. Trust me, if the coaches had switched when I played instead of after, I'd have cut my hair. He "resigned" my senior year because he was such an abysmal failure. To play for a winner, I'd have worn a crew cut like it was the sixties. I'd have shaved my head 30 years early. Between playing for a loser drunk, I'd rather have a pony tail.
Speaking of cutting the beard is gone. November to March was long enough. Just to prove it existed, here it is.
Yes, its gone. A neatly trimmed goat remains in its place. Ready to extend next fall. Maybe. Maybe I'll have forgotten my dislike for it by then?