MEMORIES: “Nothing but my best effort for you.”

> Marge says you need to rescan the evy articles…you tried to cram them all on one page and you can’t
> read some of them. Then we can print out here and read!

Don’t have originals. I’ll have to see what I can do with what I got. I read one under a magnifying glass and she scored 15 of the team 30 points. That sounds like Ev.

She told me once about her first game for HFA. As a freshman, she started. And for the first few minutes she just passed the ball to the seniors. Her coach pulled her out and she sat on the bench for a few minutes. Coach Mac then asked her: “You like being on the bench?” “No.” “If I put you back in, will you shoot?” “Yes.” Went back in at the half and scored 17. I believed her.

I’ll have to see if I can find her clippings. I know she had some. Shoulda grabbed them when I saw them. I bet she tossed them as “embarrassing”.

# – # – #

Our Girl told me another story. That I confirmed during one of the few times I met Coach Mac.

It seems that, at Holy Family Academy, some of the teams they played were somewhere between inept and clueless. She never understood why up by 30 against a team that couldn’t score, Coach Mac kept her and the other starters in the game.

(As the fellow, whom she taught everything he knows about basketball, I understand there are several reasons for doing this. You can’t turn your offense on and off. You have to motivate your bench to work harder, get better, and EARN playing time. It’s a game of momentum and runs. Just because you are beating the pants off someone, doesn’t mean that the basketball gods don’t teach you a lesson in humility. And, if an opponent has a glimmer of hope and thinks they can win, then they can.)

She used to say: “Never understood running up the score. Never understood not letting everyone play. I used to try extra hard thinking that if we had a big enough lead, she <Coach Mac> would put the other kids in. In my junior year, when I was feeling my oats, I asked her. She told me gruffly: “I’ll coach; you play.” But she did relent and put in the subs a few minutes later. And even though I hated to sit the bench, I cheered extra hard for the subs.”

Her gal pals were shocked that she said anything to the Coach. No one had ever done that.

That’s Our Girl, fearless. And even at that age, worried about how others felt.

# – # – #

No wonder her grammar school girls teams loved to play for her. She was in it for them and only them.

And, when she had her dream 28-1 team, she never ran up the score. A lesson she learned from HFA.

And, if the flu wasn’t rampant that one Sunday — her two #1 guards, both excellent, were out completely and her #2 guard (the one that shoots) was shaky but had to move to #1 duty, she’d have been perfect. That didn’t bother her; she was just thrilled for “her girls” that they could experience the joy of a great team.

(Her team was so good that year, the league officials wanted to throw her out of the league. Good Catholic gentlemen! All the other coaches and league officials were men; Our Girl was the only woman. Probably couldn’t stand the thought of being beaten by a girl. What could she know! Our girl was upset but too nice to call them on it. … … … However, this was a job for “Grumpy Nasty Fat Young Injineer”. Me! Don’t mess with my wife! I spoke up and threatened to take it to the bishop, the various pastors of their respective churches, and the newspapers. They backed off. They didn’t like it, but there was no more talk of ejecting her team because they were “too good”. I may have even use a few nautical terms in convincing them.)

(She had a friendly rivalry with the coach of the nearby Saint Matthias. He was a star in high school and played college. Not great, but good. He had visions of being a great coach. And I think secretly coaching college. So, Our Girl’s team usually played a 2-2-1 press and a 2-3 zone with a man2man every once in a while to mix it up. During the game, if she yelled “mix it up”, then the girls would play the “mix it up” defense. She knew that this rival coach was after her scalp. So the week before the game, she started the first practice of the with: “OK, how would you girls like to learn something new?” This group was a dream because they were hooked from the word “like”. She taught them a 2-1-2 press and a 3-2 zone with a 1-3-1 zone as the mix up. And instead of yelling “PRESS” or “MIX IT UP”, for that week the words were “BOYS” and “GIRLS”. She floored him. His kids virtually couldn’t get the ball up until the second half. At half time, he adjusted. So did she; she went back to the old tactics. Our Girl was no fool. If he could adjust at half time, so could she. After the game, he came over and gave her a big hug and kiss. “Thanks for not running up the score. You really beat me badly. I was ready for your old team and was stunned that you had a new team.” She grinned and said “Nothing but my best effort for you. It was fun. And, I’d never run up the score. Doesn’t teach kids anything.” And, she laughed about it for months.)

Boy, I miss her, her drive, and that laugh. An Irish Vixen. Although when crossed, she could morph into another word for a female. But, she NEVER had a harsh word for any child. Even girls, who played for her, and played badly or didn’t try, would get encouragement. More than once during a game, I’ve seen her call time out, leave the team with her assistants (Tom and I), and go speak to a father about, as she put it, “encouragement; not criticism”. Fearless protecting “her girls”. Fathers never crossed her lines twice. Would have been interesting to see. While she never usually ever said a bad word, I know she knew them. (Addressed them to me from time to time, when I had some fool idea or did something dumb.) She always was a lady. A fierce competitor. And a real true feminist. Her girls were “winners” to her, even if they lost every game.

Yup, I miss her.

# – # – #

After HFA, she played semi-pro with Coach Mac, in the Bayonne Beer Leagues. I can’t imagine two more fierce competitors. It was during this that she picked up the nickname “elbows”. (Which my Uncle Big John some how found out. I never knew that until he told me. She was in awe of him for being a Golden Glove Champ. So maybe she shared stuff with him. Champ to Champ.) I understand that not only was there some “renumeration for playing”, but there were also “bonuses for winning” depending upon how much the sponsoring bar won. “I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!” Captain Renault in Casablanca. Me too. Shocking. A fine upstanding young Catholic woman being sponsored and “kept” by a establishment focused on drinking and gambling.

I married her to get her away from all of that sin and bad influences.

(She would have had to quit anyway. Quad leg separations two weeks before our wedding. Doc told her “to wheelchair down the aisle”; she said “wanna bet”. Come to think of it, she had an early start make fools out of docs who predicted things about her.)

I wonder what could have been. If she’d been born two decades later? Or, if she had had the money for college? We’ll never know. But if wither of those had happened, I’d have missed the best 43 years possible in my life.

I know I miss her now. Even sick as she was, she could still make me laugh.

# # # # #

Update: I’ve been corrected it was FIVE weeks before her wedding.

# – # – # – # – # 2011-May-26 @ 11:43

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