When I was a junior in high school, our varsity basketball team went to the Regional Final game, further than any other basketball team from our school had ever gone in tournament. We were one game away from the “Final Four” of our state, and we did lose to the eventual state champions, Chaminade High School.
It truly was the Cinderella story of a small-town team—with a regular season ending record of 11-7—bulldozing its way through the District Tournament, and upsetting the first game of the Regional Tournament against Cincinnati Moeller. Newspapers titled their articles “Fairborn Who?” The entire town had decorated storefronts. I don’t have a picture of it and I don’t know if anyone had the mind to capture it, but as we went under one of the crossings in Cincinnati, there was a big banner, “Go Fairborn.” It was a great feeling to see that sign!
Many people have said that that tournament experience was the highlight of their high school years. It was a bandwagon! Basketball went from what you just did on Friday nights to a major event! Other students and their parents, people whose kids had graduated, merchants; we packed out Hobart Arena in Troy, Ohio. We had five games to play at Hobart and I remember I was sick on the night of game #3 and listened to it on the radio. I knew a little something about basketball, and I could just visualize the plays that I had seen many times before.
I’m not going into the scores of each game or our opponents, although someone did save every article and they are truly exciting to read for those of us who were there, or those of us who have lived their lives involved with sports.
So 46 years later, this team is selected to be honored in the Fairborn City Schools Athletic Hall of Fame! Of the 11 young men carried on that team, 7 returned. One is MIA, two couldn’t come and one is deceased. There is a great article about him here. In addition, there were a bunch of us, some cheerleaders, some in other capacities in athletics, or not, who came to witness this.
There was a catered dinner before the evening’s basketball game, and I chose not to attend that as I am not a relative or “close” enough friend and I knew space was of a concern. I caught up with the gang as we met up in the auxiliary gym and it really was like old home week. Even though we’ve—uh—changed in many ways, I certainly didn’t have a bit of a problem recognizing anyone. It was a festive atmosphere.
Those of us “others,” went into the gym and sat where we would have as students. We really didn’t push anyone out of the way. The student population has declined to the point where there just aren’t as many students at a basketball game. (To be fair, this was not a league game.) I think kids have other things to do on Friday and Saturday nights these days. That may or may not be good.
The inductees were introduced one by one to rousing applause! This was the same floor (it’s been resurfaced) they played on all those many years ago, and it was surreal. Two managers also joined them, and I must say, they all turned out well! Of the nine gentlemen who were there, six still live in the area, one the next state over and two had to travel a bit. It was worth it. The coach passed away several years ago, but two of his children joined the group.
We were born at the height of the Baby Boom and even during the years leading up to this Championship year, the Fieldhouse was packed to the rafters at every game! This night, while certainly not empty, there was plenty of room to choose to sit. It was very different. There was definitely an “Izzone” or whatever you wanted to call the student section, but it was so much smaller.
It was a competitive game. We left at halftime to go to a restaurant, but I wouldn’t have minded staying. The visiting team has been a nemesis to the Derge family for 15 years of playing and coaching, but it’s a fine school system. As it turns out, Fairborn won on a buzzer-beater.
You can’t talk much at a basketball game and you’re not supposed to, so we went to a sports restaurant to continue our conversations.
What connects you after all these years?
· Kids and grandkids
· Retirement plans
· Health issues (ugh, we are NOT those people?)
· Old funny and ornery stories.
· Old cars we owned. (This was not me!)
· Remembering those no longer with us.
The hair, if it’s there at all, is grayer, there’s a little bit more of most of us to love, but we are still US. We have all lived 45-46 years since, but we are still US.
We are there to love each other in a different way. We have embraced our mortality. We still enjoy each other the best way we can.
Many people from afar wished they could have come. It was different from a class reunion in that we were really all on our own and made our own entertainment. We’ll probably never have an occasion like this again, but it was so nice to remember a major highlight of high school!
We still felt like teenagers again! Inside.
An ad in the local newspaper. District Champs. Photo Credit: My mom.