Saturday, March 29, 2008

Martin Biron: A Gentleman, A Role Model

As so often happens in the world of sports (and, I guess, the world in general as well) only the negative sports stories seem to grab the headlines. With baseball on the return, all of last year’s scandals are being plastered as “news” again.

But I want to write about something good today. And, as it so often is the case, it can take just one man to do something good that can leave a lifetime of happy memories.

By now, it no surprise to my brothers that I am an ice hockey fanatic. Though they have absolutely no idea why, and they seem determined to ignore it (my older brother refusing to even call ice hockey a “real” sport) – I love the NHL. And, when it comes to the Philadelpia Flyers, well … I really should seek professional help.

A few weeks ago, there was a notice at a local sporting good store: Martin Biron, the starting goalie for the Flyers, would be in the store signing autographs. Growing up I loved goalies. Actually, I still do. I mean, when you’re formative years have names like Bernie Parent & Ken Dryden … and one of your birthdays parties was spent watching Jim Craig shut down The Soviet Army … well, it leaves an impression. Bit I digress.

My three year old son, Ian, loves watching ice hockey with his Dad. He’s not sure why … he just knows that hockey makes his Dad happy – so that’s good enough for him. And, like his Dad, Ian gets a kick out of the goalies – and the “cool” masks they wear.

I decided to take Ian to meet Mr. Biron and to start his own autograph collection. By the time we arrived, a large portion of the fans had already been through the line. We were at the tail end of what I’m sure had been a long day for Biron. When Ian entered the store, he looked towards Biron and excitedly yelled: “Daddy … there’s the hockey man!!!”

Biron stood up from his table – looked at the three year old kid running at him and said: “How ya’ doing buddy? What’s in the bag?”

Ian was holding a bag that contained some of his prized possessions: plastic dinosaurs.

Ian told him: “I’ve got my dinosaurs.”

Biron’s response: “Well, let’s see them!”

For the next few moments, a man who’s talents I admire, played ‘dinosaurs’ with my son. I turned with a stunned look to the manager of the store. He told me: “Marty has been like this since he got here. He could be one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met.”

What more do you need to know? A NHL star who still thinks it’s the right idea to treat his fans like they are important. It was a great day. I have no idea where Mr. Biron’s career will take him. All I can tell you is that he has (at least) two fans that will cheer for him every step of the way.

Martin Biron: A Gentleman, A Role Model

Sunday, March 16, 2008

OFF THE BEATEN ST. PATRICK'S PATH: 12 Days of Irish — ZERO HOUR — It's Personal

No matter what we write, whose artistic virtues we celebrate or which heroic figures we spotlight — it comes down to people. And history. And remembering both.

So here's to toasting those before us, keeping their flame alive and dancing with the ones that brought us.

To the McClatchys of Crossmaglen, County Armagh.

To the Hogans of County Cork.

To the Cavanaughs of Glendalough, County Wicklow.

To the Eakins of Carrickmacross, County Monaghan.

To the Noonans of Ballindine, County Mayo

To the Cregans of County Limerick.

To the Thousands who sailed ...

The island it is silent now
But the ghosts still haunt the waves
And the torch lights up a famished man
Who fortune could not save

Did you work upon the railroad
Did you rid the streets of crime
Were your dollars from the white house
Were they from the five and dime

Did the old songs taunt or cheer you
And did they still make you cry
Did you count the months and years
Or did your teardrops quickly dry

Ah, no, says he, 'twas not to be
On a coffin ship I came here
And I never even got so far
That they could change my name

Thousands are sailing
Across the western ocean
To a land of opportunity
That some of them will never see
Fortune prevailing
Across the western ocean
Their bellies full
Their spirits free
They'll break the chains of poverty
And they'll dance

In Manhattan's desert twilight
In the death of afternoon
We stepped hand in hand on Broadway
Like the first man on the moon

And "The Blackbird" broke the silence
As you whistled it so sweet
And in Brendan Behan's footsteps
I danced up and down the street

Then we said goodnight to Broadway
Giving it our best regards
Tipped our hats to Mister Cohan
Dear old Times Square's favorite bard

Then we raised a glass to JFK
And a dozen more besides
When I got back to my empty room
I suppose I must have cried

Thousands are sailing
Again across the ocean
Where the hand of opportunity
Draws tickets in a lottery
Postcards we're mailing
Of sky-blue skies and oceans
From rooms the daylight never sees
Where lights don't glow on Christmas trees
But we dance to the music
And we dance

Thousands are sailing
Across the western ocean
Where the hand of opportunity
Draws tickets in a lottery
Where e'er we go, we celebrate
The land that makes us refugees
From fear of Priests with empty plates
From guilt and weeping effigies
And we dance

On To The Final Four!!!!

For the last week or so, we here at the Brothers McC blog have been trying to keep you updated on all things Irish that no other news organizations seem fit to cover. That's OK ... as Kev has noted, we like to walk off the beaten path.

Well, today will be no different.  As most "real" news coverage in the sporting world will be going to the Division 1 March Madness Brackets Selection today, we here at Brothers McC know that the true spirit of college basketball has been burning brightly in the already running, Division 3 NCAA Tourney, and ... to be more specific; at Ursinus College.

And yes, last night, with John Noonan's (Have we mentioned him here yet?  Have we mentioned he's our nephew?) team leading 21 points, the Ursinus Bears are on to the Final Four!!!!! Read all about it:
Ursinus 82, Coast Guard 76
Mar 15, 2008

COLLEGEVILLE, Pa. — Ursinus is headed to Final Four.

The Bears (29-2) got two foul shots from sophomore guard Remy Cousart 17 seconds left to send it to overtime, at which point Ursinus took over and defeated Coast Guard (24-7) 82-76 Saturday night in the finals of the Collegeville Sectional in the NCAA Division III Men’s Basketball tournament. Ursinus will take on defending national champion Amherst at 5 p.m. on Friday in the Salem Civic Center in Salem, Virginia.

“Obviously, I’m so happy and proud of our kids,” Ursinus head coach Kevin Small said afterwards. “We worked extremely hard against a very tough Coast Guard team. We had a lot of guys contribute tonight but the difference was the way we executed in the second half.:

Junior guard John Noonan had a team-high 21 points as Ursinus advanced to the final four for the first time since 1981.

“When we were down two, we kept saying ‘Get it to overtime’,” Noonan said afterwards. “Remy (Cousart) made those two huge foul shots to get us there and we worked hard in the overtime.”

Senior guard Nick Shattuck scored 19 points, while sophomore guard Matt Hilton added in 18 in the win.

For Coast Guard, senior guard Grant Johnson had a game-high 26 points, including eight three-pointers. Junior forward Craig Johnson had 16 points in the loss.

Trailing by two with 17 seconds left, Cousart sank two foul shots to tie the score at 69-all. Senior guard Al Sowers three-pointer with five seconds left did not fall and the game went to overtime.

In the extra period, Ursinus outscored Coast Guard 9-3 to take a six point lead at 78-72 with 40 seconds left and never looked back.
What a great year this has been.  It's been a fun, exciting and amazing ride ... and there's still more to come.  To all the teams & players: 'Thank You' for paying the toll so that we could all ride along with you on this adventure.

Good Luck Bears!!!
See ya in Virginia!!!

Happy Birthday Patty!!!   I hope you're seeing all this!!!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

OFF THE BEATEN ST. PATRICK'S PATH: 12 Days of Irish — DAY NINE — Protestant Hero Quartet

"He was a product of his time."

That rationalization has excused so much reprehensible behavior by so many "enlightened" people in history. However, there have always been the morally brave and truly enlightened few who puncture that statement — and, in the process, force us to look at our own decisions.

Four of the greatest warriors in the fight for Irish independence have been Protestants.

The "Father of Irish Republicanism" — Theobold Wolfe Tone (1763-1798)

Tone was an Irish Protestant lawyer who founded the United Irishmen and led the failed 1798 Rebellion. He was a tireless agitator against religious persecution inflicted on the Catholics. He was captured during the Rebellion, sentenced to hang, and committed suicide the day before his execution at the age of 35.

Robert Emmet — (1778–1803)

Emmet was the son of a successful Irish Protestant surgeon. Emmet's father often treated the British royal family when they visited Dublin — he was that connected. Emmet went to Trinity College and got his revolution on. In a big fuck-you to his dad, Emmet joined the United Irishmen and was part of Tone's doomed 1798 Rebellion. Emmet was able to bolt to France and asked Napoleon to help the Irish get their country back. The little man nixed that idea but Emmet organized another rising anyway in 1803. It was, like 1798, a disaster.
Emmet was captured soon after and at his trial gave the legendary Speech From The Dock. On September 20, 1803 Emmet was executed.

The Uncrowned King of Ireland — Charles Stewart Parnell — 1846-1891

Parnell was one of the great orators of the Irish struggle for independence and was a rich Protestant landowner. Parnell took the fight to England as a member of Parliament and crusaded for land reform on behalf of the Irish peasants he supposedly had nothing in common with.

"When we have undermined English misgovernment we have paved the way
for Ireland to take her place amongst the nations of the earth. And let us not forget that that is the ultimate goal at which all we Irishmen aim. None of us whether we be in America or in Ireland . . . . will be satisfied until we have destroyed the last link which keeps Ireland bound to England."

Parnell's longtime affair with Katherine "Kitty" O'Shea became a scandal as she was still married. The Catholich Church issued one of their typically courageous condemnations when the affair was made public. He would ultimately marry O'Shea but his time as a towering political figure was gone.

He died of complications from pneumonia at 45.

Bloody Sunday march organizer — Ivan Cooper

Ivan Cooper is a working-class Protestant who was born right into the thick of it in Killaloo, County Derry in 1944. Somehow — ya know, being a product of his time and
all — he was committed to non-violence, believed that Catholics and Protestants could work together and was involved in the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association. For presuming to think Ireland should be free, he was branded a traitor by his fellow Protestants.

Cooper was the driving force behind the civil rights march that took place on Sunday, August 21, 1970 — Bloody Sunday.

The story of that incident was re-created to amazing effect in the film Bloody Sunday.

So what are we to make of these four men — all products of their time — who managed to do what was right?

I guess we're all out of excuses, huh?

Off The Beaten St. Patrick’s Path: 12 Days Of Irish: Day Eight: The Luck Of The Irish

OK … here we are … Day Eight of our 12 Days of Irish … Off The Beaten Path … and I realized that there is one topic that the Brothers McC have yet to touch on, that is: The Brother’s McC.

What, you say? Egotistical? No! Not in the least. College basketball is full swing, the Flyers are in a fight for a place in The Stanley Cup playoffs, my son is in bed, my wife is out with the girls … I’m a few pints of Harp in to the night … and, the Irish are … what’s the word … loquacious! So … here we go.

What does it mean to part of this particularly verbose and (most times) well-minded trio? Well, let me tell you … sometimes it aint easy … and sometimes there is a hell of a lot of pressure. But, I’m not here to talk about us (per se) tonight.

Tonight, let me just say, we are three of the luckiest Irish knuckleheads that you will ever meet. Sure, out of the gate, and growing up, there were a few rough miles (some of which I’m sure will find their way in to later postings). But, in retrospect, I’m pretty sure it was those … how shall we say … ‘tougher days’ … that have made us the men that we (hope, think, pray) we are today.

But, like I said, we are some lucky keiwo (re; keiwo: look it up … it’s Gaelic). I mean … for fooks sake; have you ever met our wives? Sweet Jeebus – did we out-kick our coverage or what??? Go ahead … I dare you … find three brothers that have married up as well as we have.

Trip??? If anyone can ever explain to me how he scored, the pints are on me. And this just isn’t a Brothers McC thing, here’s how his Teenage Kicks partner puts it: Clearly, (Trip) has some sort of sinister powers that could be unleashed on the Midwestern test subject at any moment. There’s no way that guy gets a woman like that. No. Freaking. Way. The term “better half” was invented for this couple.

Kevin … well, he owes somebody ‘big time’ for the fact that he gets to share a home with McFuss. Where do we even start? I know that only three of us were there to see it … but at her first live viewing of an NHL game (on my birthday, no less) she proved to be everything that any man (much less Kevin) deserved. “Shoot the fooking puck!”

And me … my wife married a fooking musician … what more do you need to know about her cojones? She’s already got one foot in heaven for that. Yeah … I know the saying … “Blessed are the music makers, they are in God’s heart.” But trust me … God has a special place for those who put up with the music makers. What’s that they say about needing an inquisitive mind & a fearless heart?

And I haven’t even started in on how blessed we are with our kids! ;-)

So … here we are. Three overgrown, over-hyped, overworked, over-the-hill sport fans … who majored in music (or music fans who major in sports … whatever)… who have found three great ladies, living three separate slices of life, by following three separate highways … but have somehow ended up in the same place:
Neck deep in the luck of the Irish!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

OFF THE BEATEN ST. PATRICK'S PATH: 12 Days of Irish — DAY SEVEN — John Lynch

A native of Newry, Northern Ireland, John Lynch has been called the cinematic face of the Irish Troubles. On screen, he also has two-timed Gwyneth Paltrow, romped with Lassie and been one of the most touching schizophrenics in film history.

You'll recognize his face, no doubt, but John Lynch is one of the greatest actors you've never heard of.

Liam Neeson, Colin Farrell, Colm Meaney and the incomparable Daniel-Day Lewis are the branded faces of Irish film. John Lynch is it's quiet soul.

He arrived on the film scene indelibly with Cal in 1984. Playing the title character — a reluctant IRA terrorist — Lynch brings a haunting sensitivity and depth to the affecting story of Cal's love affair with the widow (a stunning Helen Mirren) of the man he helped to kill.

Cal, like Lynch, is an under-appreciated classic.

Lynch was part of the combustible cast of Derek Jarman's searing Edward II (1991) as well as the heartbroken Lord Craven in the sweet and sumptuous film version of The Secret Garden (1993) — his first taste of commercial success. That same year came In The Name of The Father, as Lynch played Paul Hill alongside the Oscar-nominated Day-Lewis as Gerry Conlon — half of the railroaded Guilford Four. Deservedly so, the powerful, moving film was nominated for Best Picture.

Now on a full-fledged great-movie binge — Lynch, in the next three years, went from John Sayles' The Secret of Roan Inish to Angel Baby, where he was wondrous as a schizophrenic fighting for love and his independence to Nothing Personal — possibly his greatest performance — as a young father trying to stay apolitical in 1975 Belfast to his indelible turn as doomed hunger striker Bobby Sands in Some Mother's Son — which reunited him with Helen Mirren.

In the intervening twelve years Lynch has continued to give finely etched performances — most notably in the mini-series Bleak House, the latest incarnation of Lassie, the compelling drama This Is the Sea and as legendary soccer star George Best.

In those last two films — as well as 2004's The Bridge of San Luis Rey — Lynch was directed by his wife, the very talented Mary McGuckian.

Lynch is probably best-known to American audiences as the feckless boyfriend in Sliding Doors (1998) — which not only stars Gwyneth Paltrow but has been seen by Trip McClatchy nigh on 400 times.

In every role — John Lynch finds its heart. You believe him. He is an artist.

You really could do no better than a John Lynch film festival this St. Patrick's Day.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Off The Beaten Path; Day 6; How The Irish Saved Civilization

When I first read this book, I was kind of amazed that there was so much here that I had never heard before. And the more I read, the better I felt. And it wasn't the sense of Irish pride - you know: Hey!! We did this!!! It was more an amazement that anyone did what these monks did at the time they did it.

Here's what they said about this boo in Publishers Weekly:
With the fall of the Roman Empire in the fifth century, Ireland, according to the author, "had one moment of unblemished glory"-when Irish monks copied almost all of Western classical poetry, history, oratory, philosophy and commentary. But this book is more than the story of monks preserving manuscripts; it is an irreverent look back at how Ireland came to be. Celts who had traversed Europe, Irish warriors and their women were primitive and blatantly sexual. Next came a taming of the land with the help of St. Patrick, who hated slavery and loved scholarship. Patrick was followed by St. Columcille, a great lover of books who became embroiled in a war and, as penance, exiled himself to the island of Iona, off Scotland. It was here that Ireland became "Europe's publisher," as other warrior-monks followed Columcille's example and began to colonize barbarized Europe. They put Ireland in the vanguard of intellectual leadership, a position the Irish would not surrender until the Viking invasion of the 11th century. Cahill (A Literary Guide to Ireland) has written a scholarly, yet cheeky, book that will have strong appeal to Celtophiles.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Off The Beaten Path; Day 5; Dave Kincaid

Let me state out front – I’ve known Dave Kincaid for years. Always thought his band, The Brandos, were one great rock and roll outfit. I was honored to have Dave play banjo & mandolin on my debut CD (Blue Moon Revisited) – and oh yeah – that’s him singing the great harmony vocal on the title track as well!!

So, after years of rocking around this globe, Dave comes along with this side project: Dave Kincaid: The Irish Volunteer:

These two CDs are ‘must haves’ for any fan of Irish music, Civil War history, or just really great music in general. I was lucky enough to tour with Dave and I got to play a lot of these songs. My personal fave; “My Father’s Gun”

So … on Day 5, I’m offering up some really great music. Here’s a little info that I took from his website:

Recognized as both musician and historian, David Kincaid presents a compelling combination of the songs and history of the Irish in the American Civil War. Years of research, recording and performing experience have been translated into two critically acclaimed albums; “THE IRISH VOLUNTEER” and “THE IRISH-AMERICAN’S SONG,” collections of authentic Irish songs of both the Union and the Confederacy. Having performed at a variety of Irish/Celtic festivals, historical sites and folk music venues across the US, as well as European tours, David’s music has also been used in several documentary films, and he was engaged as a consultant and performer in the Hollywood Civil War film release “Gods and Generals.” David Kincaid performs in period clothing, presenting an engaging, all-ages program appealing to both history buff and the Irish/Celtic music fan alike.

So there ya’ go … a rock & roller with an Irish history heart.
What more do you need to know????

Go check out his website:

Take a listen to his stuff. Order it!!! And then enjoy one of my favorite musicians that still keeps the fire burning.

Saturday, March 8, 2008


Try as we might to bring the St. Patrick's Day countdown your way, the absolute magic of college hoops and BrothersMcC mojo refuses to be ignored.

John Noonan's (that's him administering the bear hug) favorite descriptive adjective is "ridiculous." It is summoned for good, ill and anything in between.

And now it must be applied to Ursinus College basketball.

These guys are ridiculous.

Tonight Ursinus took on last year's national runner-up Virginia Wesleyan (of the powerful — and I mean POWERFUL — Old Dominion Athletic Conference — which has produced its share of great teams, D-III Hall-of-Famers and slow, earthbound, fundamentally sound, Irish-American hotheads who get in fights and nearly tossed from games minutes after tip-off when their families have driven five hours to watch them play ... okay maybe just one of those.)

This second-round match-up had "Bad News" written all over it for Ursinus. Their leading scorer and All-American Nick Shattuck was hobbled by a painful bruised heel and Virginia Wesleyan was fast, physical and experienced.

By the way — this Shattuck fellah was cut from his high school freshman team and squeaked on JV as a sophomore. Now he's a college All-American. Mover over, Rudy. Here's a picture of the dude:

Long story short — Virginia Wesleyan comes out smokin' and Ursinus is down 17 at half time. Shattuck has as many points as I do to complement his three fouls and John Noonan is clanging everything outside two feet.

But soph guard Matt Hilton is on fire — or as his notorious relative might say, "hot."
And 6-10 Michael Shema is beating up Virginia Wesleyan inside.

In the second half — Ursinus chips away, Virginia Wesleyan gets tight, Nick Shattuck absolutely guts it out and scores huge bucket after huge bucket, Noonan finds the range and some French dude named Cousart has a zillion assists. Ursinus comes all the way back and finally takes the lead 60-59 as John Noonan, showing hops foreign to the rest of his gene pool, converts a sweet alley oop play.

It see saws the next couple of minutes. Helfferich Hall is pandemonium, my sister — John Noonan's mother — is in cardiac arrest, her husband — John's dad — is quietly aging decades and my nephew Sean is apparently plotting a media grab (see above photo — and dig the Ohio State sweatshirt — purchased by the wife and yours truly. Kid has taste.)

Ursinus rides clutch play and a collective huge pair to a mind-boggling 70-64 comeback win for the ages. And a spot in the Sweet Sixteen. And quite possibly the greatest post-game celebration picture in sports photo-journalism history.

Reached for comment following the game, John Noonan characterized the comeback, the photo, the gutcheck, the Sweet Sixteen, the celebratory embrace with teammate Keith Page, the Freak-a-Deak photo jubilation of his cousin Sean and the length of this sentence as ...


Off The Beaten Path: Day 3

It is not often enough that great movies are made. And, sadly, it is too often that when great movies are made – they are often overlooked. So, may I offer to you this great, little Irish movie: The War Of The Buttons.

This is the story of the children from two Irish towns (Ballydowse and Carrickdowse). These are poor, working class towns – where the best way to “get” your enemy is to get them in trouble with their parents.

So off these kids go to battle with each other … the twist … the vistors cut of the buttons, shoe-laces and underwear of their captured opponents. The “losers” of the battles have to go home and try to explain to their parents just what happened to their clothes.

One side decides that the best way to go to ‘battle’ is to go completely naked and exposed. A great idea – until they celebrate their victory at a barn-house … only to find some girls waiting for them … and seeing them in their “all together”

All the kids in the film are great. And the fabulous Irish actor, Colm Meaney, has his best ever “drinking” scene (I’m bucking the kid, up!!!!).

So … hunt it out … rent it … then post your review here!

Friday, March 7, 2008


(ed. note: First things first — never underestimate the power of a BrothersMcC blog entry. To wit:
I ignited an Ursinus-hoops-tastic burst of blog activity earlier this week — focusing on young John Noonan (great-grandson of Irish immigrants, mind you.) Tonight the Ursinus College Bears defeated Bible Baptist, 94-76, in the 1st round of the NCAA tourney. Noonan — in his first game flush with BrothersMcC mojo — promptly went off for a career-high 28 points.
We do what we can.

Now for DAY TWO's literary offering:

Most everyone knows about The Commitments — the wildly popular movie about the fictional ragtag Irish band that finds success. The Commitments was originally a novel written by the great Irish author Roddy Doyle. It later was included in The Barrytown Trilogy — along with his next two novels, The Snapper and The Van — both of which also became films.

Doyle won the Booker Prize for his 1993 novel Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha. But the spotlight we throw today is on my favorite from the pen of Mr. Doyle:

A Star Called Henry

Profane, profound, and laugh-out-loud funny, it is Doyle's best. He gives us one of the most memorable characters in recent fiction in Henry Smart — born in 1902 into grinding Dublin poverty to a one-legged father who works as a whorehouse bouncer and uses his wooden leg to keep the peace.

If that doesn't hook you — you can kiss my ass.

We follow Henry — memoir-style — as he makes his way through a tumultuous childhood to joining the cause of Irish independence and ... I'll say no more. Except Henry meets many an historical figure along the way.

Writing this good is rare.

So go get the thing and read it. Hell, it was published in 1999. It's gotta be in paperback by now, you cheapskates!

A Star Called Henry is Volume One of The Last Roundup.
Volume Two is Oh! Play That Thing — it's good but not nearly the masterpiece A Star Called Henry is.

That's right, I said masterpiece. Problem, friend?

Off The Beaten Path: Day 2

Here ya' go - after Kev picked what could be my all time fave Sinead song ... I'll give you this; a little song by a NJ kid who's not really known for his 'Irish" music - but he knocks this one out of the park!

And ... since it was recorded in Ireland ... ;-)

Thursday, March 6, 2008


Over the next 12 days, we here at BrothersMcC will endeavor to bring you some of the less-well-trod options for cultural Irish enhancement.

As beloved as they may be — you'll not find The Quiet Man, The Clancy Brothers or James Joyce in these pages. It's about new experiences, forgotten gems, hidden treasures.

And, please — for the love of all that is good and holy, Michael Collins and John F. Kennedy — NO GREEN BEER.

Today's offering:

Just because she's a split-personality nutcase who is a danger not only to herself but record executives and authority figures everywhere — we cannot forget that Sinead O'Connor is possibly the greatest female vocalist in Ireland's illustrious history.

She is brilliant, petulant, unhinged, beautiful, infuriating, inspiring, heartbreaking and, in the end, mysterious. Just like the country she hails from, tortures and reveres.

Here she reminds us of our common humanity:

Monday, March 3, 2008

Ursinus - 2008 Centennial Conference Champions

Well... they won. The Ursinus Bears are the 2008 Centennial Conference champs - going an incredible 20-0 in conference play and squeezing past a gutty Gettysburg squad, 85-78, in Sunday's championship game.

For those in the greater Philadelphia metro area (and Columbus,OH - Sky Bus!!), Ursinus opens NCAA play this Friday, March 7, at 8:00 at their on campus gym, Helfferich Hall. For those on the fence about attending, there is a strong rumor Joey P will be there.

Just to add to my brothers' earlier hosannas - John Noonan is a terrific basketball player who showed a serious pair in drilling a three pointer with 3:44 left in Sunday's game that gave Ursinus a 71-69 lead they never relinquished. But forget that for a minute, and just celebrate a great kid - the kind of kid that you hope your own son or daughter will be like. The kind of kid who takes the time to congratulate his adoring 11 year old cousin on his 5th grade basketball championship just minutes after his team completed a perfect regular season in conference play. And talking to him you're honestly not sure which event he's more excited about.

Yeah... that kind of kid.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Now ... On To The Finals

I was inspired (and as it turns out – a few others were as well) by Kevin’s thesis on the love of basketball to venture to the halls of Ursinus College to see the UC Bears take on the Red Devils of Dickinson in the 2008 Centennial Conference Men’s Basketball Championship.

(Note to Trip & Kevin: I ran in to Karl & Joanne ((sub note to Beth: Karl & Joanne say ‘hi’)) – Karl & Joanne told me that they too were so inspired by Kev’s rant that they made it out to the game! So – it’s official, our readership has stretched out beyond the borders and numbers of our immediate family.)

But before I head off on my rant, I feel the need to reprint the quote from the plaque at The Palestra that Kev used yesterday: “To win the game is great. To play the game is greater. But to love the game is the greatest of all." 

Yesterday, the “love” of the game (and its players) was overly abundant at the Helfferich Gymnasium in College, PA.

Players, parents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, grand-parents, family members young & old, friends of the team, friends of the crowd, folks who just wanted to see a basketball game, and a joyfully boisterous student body brought back the memories of those Saturday afternoons of Big 5 play at The Palestra (and the bargain prices on the soda & pretzels helped, too.)

Now, on to the game … Wow!!! A fast paced, end-to-end adventure, where the lead switched hands throughout the entire game – with leads reaching no more than four points. It was great watching the 6-10 Michael Shema shuffle through the lane, with a soft hook that found its mark more often than not; I was amazed as Nick Shattuck score from (literally) every spot on the court; and I was thrilled watching both teams diving on the ground for loose balls, hustling across the out of bounds lines – trying to ‘save’ the ball for their team. It was everything I look for in a basketball game. And it was the exact reason I stopped watching the ‘pros’ - which was around the same time that the refs stopped calling “Traveling” in the NBA.

But, and here I can only speak for myself, the highlight of the game was watching the kid that Kevin wrote about yesterday; our nephew, John Noonan. John played a great game. He played some great defense; he made steals, foul shots, 2 pointers and (Yes!!!) 3 pointers!!!

As the game clock began to wind down, and the score was close, I felt as nervous as I have felt in a long time. Why??? I wasn’t playing. I didn’t attend Ursinus. And, no matter who won the game, my life would not change one bit. But, there I was, living & dying with each possession of the ball. Watching my nephew and his buddies take on a team of kids (I’m 47 now – I’m allowed to call college kids - “kids”) that I’m guessing are all pretty good kids as well. The reason I feel that I’m safe in saying that they were all ‘good kids’ was – well, it was the way all the players acted on the court. They all hustled … they all gave their best … and, not once did I see or hear any trash talking going on. No chest pounding. No finger pointing. No punches thrown all game.

And, as the clock hit 00:00, the Ursinus Bears were on top – and on thier way to the finals.

After the game, the crowd hung out in the lobby – waiting for the teams to emerge from their locker rooms. I walked throughout the lobby, listening to the conversations by the friends and families of both teams. And, almost to a person, they were all basically the same conversation: Great game, great atmosphere, this is “the way” to watch basketball.

The players came out and worked the room. Shaking hands & hugging a lot of the crowd. And the phase I heard most often; “Thank you for coming to our game.”

To the kids from Dickinson, McDaniel, Gettysburg, Johns Hopkins & Ursinus:
Thank You.