Champion Friends

Boyleing Points
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Here we go, Kingsmen!  Here we go!

That was a crowd’s chant from long ago that now echoes on Memory Lane.  

The trouble with Memory Lane is sometimes you’re the only one on it. It’s a lonely road, where there’s no one with you to recall the sights and sounds; no one to laugh and cry with; no one else to validate that memory or fill in the blanks.  

Memory Lane can be like an amusement park ride with highs and lows, and twists and turns. There’s crazy laughter and emotions filled with terror and joy.  It’s life affirming and it’s best shared with people you know.  And like an amusement park ride, Memory Lane comes to an end.  It was good while it lasted but now it’s time to get back to the real world.  You hope to get back on the ride some time, walk down Memory Lane again. But who knows when that’ll be. 

Lucky for me, I was hardly alone on a recent trip down Memory Lane.  There were sixteen of us who met in a Manhattan restaurant to mark an amazing, improbable championship season forty years ago.  Nazareth High School was far from a basketball powerhouse when a bunch of undersized overachievers toppled the mighty and undefeated Power Memorial in the City Finals.  It was every bit Hoosiers, Rudy, Rocky and Miracle On Ice -- movie stuff, for sure.

Winning the championship, doesn’t explain what happened in 1977 and ever since. Of course, winning a championship is special. All championship teams, no matter the sport, no matter the level, enjoy the memories and share good feelings.  But few teams become part of your fabric.  Who you are; who you’ve become. Teams might be like family during the season but few teams are like family forty years later.

Part of the explanation is we did it without a superstar; we did it with teamwork.  Part of the explanation is how our success was enjoyed by so many, not just the team and staff.  Eleven busloads of fans showed up to cheer us on that Sunday in March.  Others came by car and subway to Fordham University, where the David and Goliath match was played.

We won a close game before thousands who crammed the Rose Hill gym. If that were the end of the story, it’d be a good one.

But the story continues today. We’re a team still, and though guys are spread across the country, there are ties between us that transcend miles and time.  How lucky we are. 

I sometimes hear people say they hated high school or don’t have friends from those days.  And I can’t fathom that.  Because here’s the thing.  The championship was just icing on the cake.  What we were celebrating last week was not so much the win, but the friendships that have endured.

Winning the big game gave us basketball bragging rights forever. But the only things worth bragging about are the never-ending friendships. I don’t live on Memory Lane, but it’s a wonderful place to visit – especially when you can share it with people you love. I hope you’re as blessed as I’ve been.

Until next time guys.  Here we go, Kingsmen.  Here we go!

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