Improbable Moments:Hickory Runs The Picket Fence-


One of my favorite movies stars Gene Hackman, Dennis Hopper, and Barbara Hershey and tells the true story about on a very small town in Indiana and the high school basketball team that accomplished the improbable back in 1952. I watched the movie with my son and later told him a story about his grandfather who died while my son was an infant.  He immediately understood the connection and reason I shared this story.  It’s not often that our own life experiences so closely match some of our favorite movies or books.

My father played basketball and ran track at the University of Delaware–within the past month my uncle told me that a record my father set running the 440 had stood for some 40 years. During 6th grade I played on the worst basketball team in the league with no wins 3/4 of the way through the season.

Our coach didn’t have much experience and too much else to focus on besides coaching a basketball team. Our next game was against the best team in the league. We’d played them before and lost by 20 plus points. Anyway, the night of the game the coach didn’t show.

My father was present and offered to pinch hit. My anxiety went up because his drinking was taking a toll. His was sober that night. We were getting the usual taunting from the undefeated team. My father informed us we were going to win this game. He laid out a strategy and orchestrated things. We were all very skeptical but intrigued by the notion we could beat this undefeated group of arrogant kids from a better part of town.

People were perplexed that we traded the lead with the other team throughout the game. We were ahead by two points with less than a minute. They started a full court press and fouled me rightly assuming I’d miss the shots. I made both. We stole an inbound pass. My father called time-out. We huddled together not quite believing our circumstances.

As a matter of fact way, he gave instructions for a picket fence more or less like Dennis Hopper does in this clip. Dave Pedrick took the shoot….and we won by four points.

That game became something of a legend. My father was too busy working to do more coaching.

He was pretty quiet about the whole thing though we all knew he intended to teach us a lesson……….among others……that it feels good to thump arrogance and that we could surprise ourselves with a bit of strategy and decent leadership.

Ultimately, alcoholism thumped my father. However, on that one cold January night he taught me quite a few things. I’m proud of my father. I wish he’d been around to see his grandson. We both miss him.

PS   Three points to the first person to name the movie we watched….

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