2-13. 7-12. 2-19. 5-16.
That’s not some combination to a lock. Those are the high school basketball records my four years. 16-60. Just about any time we played on the road, it was “parents’ night” or “senior night” because opponents were just about guaranteed a victory after their festivities. If losing builds character, I have it in spades. Heck, the picture you see above is an air ball. I’m not kidding.
I was the best defensive player on the team. When I was telling this story to a friend a few years ago he chimed, “That’s like being the best in remedial reading.” Thanks for the perspective dude.
One night back in the winter of ’79, we were facing a team with the state’s leading scorer. Jimtown’s Troy Neely was pouring in 34-points per game. This is in Indiana, which is no amateur hour for high school basketball. And this is before the 3-point line (but well after peach baskets). When I speak to JTG students and tell them this story (which leads to a life lesson) I really sell the punch line, “My high school sports highlight was holding the state’s leading scorer to 6 points… (a few nods of “not bad”)… OVER his average.
Students stare at the sealing, doing the math.
It sinks in.
A smattering of laughter.
I go on, “Yep. Troy put 40 points on me that night and I know it was all 40 because when I looked over to my coach and asked if we were going to change things up because I was getting killed he shouted, ‘Nope, you’re the best we got.'” Awesome. Troy was good but maybe even a better trash talker. He really let me have it, embarrassing me in front of my parents, friends and girlfriends (yes plural… they didn’t know. It didn’t end well but another story for another time).
Fast forward seven years later. I picked up the phone in my office of the local ABC TV affiliate. It’s a buddy from high school who is now a loan officer at a local bank. He remembers how Troy treated me that night and thought it was time for a little payback. This was quasi-evil, but very clever and I gladly went along with it.
“Hey John,” he began. “I have Troy Neely in front of me applying for a small business loan to start a construction business. All his paperwork lines up but told him a person from his past will have the ultimate say on whether he gets to live his dream of owning his own business. I’m going to hand him the phone.”
Oh, this is gonna be fun.
“Troy,” I said. “You don’t remember me but back in high school you put 40 points on me one night.”
Troy blurted back, “Well, that doesn’t really narrow it down.”
“THAT’S what I’m talking about. You ran your mouth then and still do. Well, I get to ultimately decide whether you get your loan.”
Silence. Sweet silence.
“Are you going to run a respectable business where you treat your employees and especially your competitors with respect?”
“Yes sir. Absolutely sir. I understand sir,” Troy rattled back like a scolded 10-year old.
“Well good. I’ve decided you can have your loan,” I responded.
“Thank you sir. I won’t let you down.”
Now, you and I know there was no way I had any influence on whether Troy was approved for the loan. But man, I didn’t mind the image of drops of sweat dripping down his forehead and not because he was putting on a shooting clinic on a Friday night seven years ago. I tie up the story with the JTG students telling them that they may very well cross paths with high school rivals or classmates that they simply never like. Those same people could one day be their co-worker, or boss. I finish by telling them to find a way to get along with their peers on class projects and more importantly, co-workers when you enter the workforce.
(Full disclosure: This story includes some embellishments. Troy was actually, a pretty cool guy, not that he would remember me. Bigger point is getting along with everyone because you never know when you are going to meet up again.)
Do you have any similar memories where crossing paths with someone after some years have passed, went well… or didn’t go so well?
Let’s talk in the comments section.