The bounce of the ball turns back pages of time

BY BOB WACHS, News + Record Staff
Posted 3/8/19

A few weeks ago, during the height of middle-school basketball frenzy, I went with some family members and friends to take in a game in which my 7th-grade grandson was playing.

It was an hour or …

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The bounce of the ball turns back pages of time

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A few weeks ago, during the height of middle-school basketball frenzy, I went with some family members and friends to take in a game in which my 7th-grade grandson was playing.

It was an hour or more from his school, which brought up all over again one of my pet peeves that in a day and age when schools allegedly are struggling with finances why do they send teams across the world to play other schools. I know Dorothy told Toto in “The Wizard of Oz” that “we’re not in Kansas anymore” but I remember that long ago when dinosaurs roamed the earth and I was in my heyday of riding the bench in junior varsity basketball that it wasn’t all that far from Pittsboro to Moncure or even Pittsboro to Bennett.

Those little towns and communities had their identities and personalities and that was what made them unique and special. As it turned out, the school to which we traveled the other day was using the gym of what had been a high school in those dinosaur days — one that we did battle with often — and it had been about 55 years since I last walked into it. Turns out, too, that my better half had also been there in her high school cheerleader days.

For several minutes I stood outside the gym taking a long look at the old two-story school building. The windows have been replaced with plywood; the doors were locked. It could have used a coat of paint. At least it wasn’t a pile of bricks; maybe that’s because it could be full of asbestos and nobody in the community has the funds or the need to do anything with the old structure. The good news is that at least the gym is still being used.

As I climbed the old wooden bleachers looking for a seat at the top so I could lean against the wall, several things happened. For one, my knees sent a memo saying, “Stop. Cut it out. You’ve gone high enough.” The brain just ignored it. Also, I provided some entertainment for folks sitting nearby as I assured them as I wobbled that I would do my best not to fall into their laps and they meanwhile didn’t quite believe that as they scurried here and there clearing a path for me.

Finally reaching my preferred site on the top row, I looked around at the old polished floor with its noticeable dead spots here and there which make a basketball stop flat. I remembered we had some of those at our home floor and I found one the day I stopped my special behind-the-back dribble to shoot at the wrong goal.

While that place wasn’t where I went to school it wasn’t hard to visualize the folks who did, mainly by rambling through my mind. And I wondered how many times had Bubba made a foul shot to win a game and Mary Sue, his head cheerleader girlfriend, rushed out to give him a big squeeze when the horn sounded. Then there were his friends Stinky and Shorty and PeeWee and their girlfriends Brenda and Linda and Sue...and then for me there was Charles and Bill and Steve and Worth and Peggy and Valinda and Cathy and...well, you get the idea.

Turns out our boys lost the game that day, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, but that’s why you play the game on the court or field and not on paper. What I really got out of the day, though, was how much a community suffers when it loses its school or church or post office or store. Turns out some of the descendants of those long-ago folks are still around but now their schools are Central This or Western or Eastern That. You’ll never convince me bigger is necessarily better.

The ol’ boy taking up the $2 to get into the game the other day agreed with me on all that when I told him it had been half a century since I’d been there. Funny thing, I could tell we were about the same age and he did look a little familiar. I wonder if maybe I fouled him near the end of a game so he could make that free throw and get a hug and a kiss from Mary Sue.


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