I was just thinking about all the nice moments I’ve enjoyed in life and a little time I spent in Tucson last week ranks up there among the mellower of the refreshing respites from the troubles of the world I’ve had the pleasure of taking part in.
First of all I was in my hometown and that’s always enjoyable, not to mention that I was there for a very special event, wearing the lofty title of “guest speaker,” which I took to mean I was to have a good time so that’s what I did. Why not, I was around some of my favorite people: a bunch of folks wearing sunny smiles. We were gathered to honor a handful of brilliant athletes, old Badgers of Tucson High, who were about to be inducted into the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame – a place I call home. I was glad to welcome them in because I know that, like I was in my day, they were proud to wear that big red “T.” We’re all Badgers to the Bone.
And boy could these Badgers play. I can just see: Robert Gaona (’58) teasing a shot into the hole or turning just the right way to put the ball in play down the fairway into the wind; James Starkey (’49) throwing a fast ball by a batter who waited too late to take a swing; my childhood friend, Florence Chandler (’61), football All-This and All-That, ringing some overmatched gridironer’s bell or pinning some hapless wrestler’s shoulders to the mat or burning up the cinders on the track, shot putting; Ron Higuera (’62) doing pretty much the same thing, except for the grappling, with a little discuss tossing on the side; Sarah McKasson (’68), tennis phenom, state singles champion in ’67, chasing down a sharp shot and backhanding one of those rocket returns that make your heart sing.
They played their games, I’m sure, with no thoughts, no dreams of someday being acclaimed as worthy of being in a hall of fame. You just play because you have to, because you’re inclined to, because it’s a whole lot of fun to do. You’re just having a ball trying to smooth your moves, hoping to get in some kind of groove that would behoove the coach to call your name when it came time to play. And somewhere in there you get to where you can really play.
But, for those who look at sports as folly, as mere play, I have to say that refining one’s game isn’t something that can be done lackadaisically, in any way. No, it requires a range of dedications: stick-to-it-ive-ness, unselfishness, a keen sense of comprehensiveness. There’s multi-tasking, gut checking, constant reflecting, huffing, puffing, cussing, fussing, hustling – all the livelong day, almost every day.
We Badgers had to get down to the real nitty-gritty. We ran. We jumped. We hit. We bumped. We picked. We rolled. We slid. We stole. We soared. We roared. We went forward and scored. We scowled, “Whadda ya mean I fouled?!?!” We jammed. We rammed. We bunted. We punted. We hurled. We curled. We twisted and twirled. We faked and whirled. We somersaulted and vaulted. We dodged. We caught. We passed. We stroked. We punched. We poked. We trapped. We stopped. We chopped. We tagged. We lagged. We screened, preened, redeemed, careened, submarined, cleaned, meant to brush back and, instead, beaned, leaned, at times acted like fiends. We heaved, perceived, conceived, received, achieved, believed, deceived, relieved and weaved. We set and slid on our chests to make a good get. We would scheme and we would plot, we jocks, how our opponent might be got and/or stopped, primed to take advantage of a weakness at the drop of a hat. We lived for that.
It should be told how, so often, in the heat of battle we had to learn life lessons like how to get one’s self under control, how to constantly contribute to the betterment of the whole. And all the while we were dispelling the “dumb jock” myth in that a sign of intelligence is being involved, contributing to a cause, to a community. Tucson High was a place filled with a wide range of activities beyond sports for teenagers to do and we were in that mix too: school politics, the arts, the honor societies, the clubs.
We played a role in filling our city’s need to have an identity, something in which it took pride, something in which we took pride. The applause the inductees to our school’s sports hall of fame and my “guest speaking” received on this special evening was soothing to our souls, proof that we had, indeed, served a town we love well. We’re more than ever now “Badgers to the Bone.”
Ah, another great moment in my life to be stored with so many precious memories. Another wonderful trip home.