The SportsTalk Shop: “A Game of Community Spirit”
One of the responsibilities in my role as an on-air presence in the media is that I am privileged to be asked to speak at banquets and in classrooms, to emcee programs and to be asked to participate in special events. One of my favorite activities I continue to be asked to participate in is the Sacred Heart Celebrity Basketball game, played each year at the famed Rockne Hall in Allentown.
It’s not the biggest event of the year, nor does it warrant a healthy admission fee. However, it is a very special occurrence that the students, faculty and staff of the Archdiocese look forward to every year. It is the climax of a special week of activities in the school district. The basketball game is the brainchild of Morning Call writer and Sacred Heart Middle School Principal Jim Krupka … truly one of the very special school leaders in the community. Jim not only works tirelessly with the students in his building, but you frequently see him out in the community at Central Catholic events. He’s always there to support his kids in their endeavors, whether it be football, basketball, a school play or just about any activity a Viking student is involved in.
After a busy week of many diverse activities, the “celebrity” game features a team of politicians, community leaders, past and/or present standout Central Catholic players and others (that’s me) who take on the Sacred Heart students, faculty and staff members on the other squad.
The statistics from the game are of no importance (I went 5-7 from the floor, 3 assists, 2 steals, 1 TO and an embarrassingly badly missed wide-open layup). Truth be told, our objective each year is to have a lead late in the game to try to make us feel good about ourselves and our ..uh, ahem … athletic ability. We only “let” the other team win so that the kids also feel good about themselves (some years it’s MUCH easier to lose than others), which is a much more important goal.
The real gem of this activity is the bonding and school-spirit that is evident each year among the student body. In an age where you don’t go too many days without seeing a negative report on the news regarding schools and an adverse student-faculty relationship (there have been 3 ominous news events to this effect in the Lehigh Valley in just the last month), it is refreshing to see the bond the people at Sacred Heart have with each other. This event includes administration, teachers, students, parents, family and friends all coming together and cheering one another on. There’s no razzing, taunting, nor ever a negative comment said during this event. Each year I take a moment and absorb the good-feelings exchange exhibited by the teachers and students at this event. I’m truly impressed and admire the respect that these two groups show for each other at this time.
I remember one student vs. faculty game when I was in high school (before buses were invented, of course). There was shouting and heckling of the teachers and non-playing teachers were getting on students. The students who weren’t skipping school at that point could really care less what was happening on the court and were just thrilled to get out of their final classes for the week. It wasn’t necessarily a “bad” event, but it never really was a “fun”, school-spirited event. We certainly didn’t feel “unified” at this one-time game.
That’s not the case at this annual event. Several of the school leaders say a few words before the game, usually invoking a feeling of thankfulness of what we do have, and compassion for people who may not have the good fortune or the ability to participate in everyday duties we sometimes take for granted. With all the talk of anti-private schools in the community (see some of our other blog posts), this event helps the students rally around a feeling of pride for their school community. For this event, there are no thoughts of school politics, nor even a care about the final score.
A big thrill for me is to have played on the same court over the years with some of the all-time great Vikings and Vikettes basketball players — a few of them have gone on to be major starts on the collegiate level. This year I was honored to call Central Catholic current standout athletes Mike Kammerer and Jim Vaughn my teammates. It was interesting after having announced their games for RCN over the last several years and seeing them develop into wonderfully gifted adults. The players I face on the Sacred Heart team each spring include athletes that I’ll see a couple years from now playing for the varsity teams. Hopefully, they might even be writing their names in the Central Catholic history books! A recent player I played “against” in this game was current Viking star Jean-Lee Baez, who you could tell in 8th grade was going to be a great talent on the Lehigh Valley basketball scene.
Overall, it’s a fun day for everyone involved and I’m truly honored to have been able to play in most of the 18 games that have been held each spring. If only other school districts could come together and celebrate people’s unique talents, while at the same time bonding together for a common goal — even if it’s just to pummel a bunch of (mostly) out-of-shape and past their prime “celebrities” (that’s me again) in a game of hoops.