Monday, February 4, 2002

Six Feet Tall or Under

My most memorable television appearance naturally had to do with dancing and came during the 1975 Minnesota State High School Tournament Boy's Basketball Championship Game halftime show. It was the year that two of the state's all time best high school players, Steve Lingenfelter from Bloomington Jefferson and Kevin McHale from Hibbing High squared off against each other in a memorable final. I was in the fifth grade and thought it quite the privilege that I was chosen to be amongst a group of students from my elementary school honored to demonstrate our square dancing prowess in front of a receptive Minnesota audience.

Led by our knee slappin' professional caller (and my teacher for the year) Mr. Hauble, and decked in our best western outfits we had rehearsed weeks in advance for the big show. My partner Sue Loomis was in the sixth grade and quite an attractive young lass (though not my type not being anything near resembling the truly memorable Tracy Siegfried) and being a grade in front of me I was quite frightened to say anything to her. Thus despite the intimacy of swinging her around and dosey doeing around her afternoon after afternoon I barely said a word other than "I'm sorry" whenever I would mess a step up.

I don't remember a whole lot about our arrival at the Civic Center and sitting and watching the first half of the game. I do remember lining up with Sue, fourth in line to come swinging out front to back, back to front to midcourt. The adrenaline was pumping that night and I remembered swinging Sue with more force than usual only noticing that fact by her skirt flying higher than ever and her uttering, "You're really swinging hard..."

It was a whirlwind of a night. I arrived home and found out my parents had taken pictures of the TV screen (this kids, was before everyone and their mother even knew what a VCR was). For some reason the TV station had chosen to show me more than any of the other kids (perhaps it had something to do with me not looking anything like any of the others?). The next day at school Sue Loomis even made mention of the fact of how well I danced and how she had heard we were the couple most prominently featured on TV.

But none of that mattered. I was more thrilled I had gotten to see the game. McHale was a treat to watch and following him throughout his college career as a Gopher and his pro career as a Celtic I was such a fan that I patterned my own game after his. I had all the low post moves down pat, from the turnaround fadeaway jumper to the baby hook, I was among the best players of the 1977 Parkview Junior High b-squad team. Then everyone else grew a foot and a half and my game took a precipitous fall. I swear if only I was another two feet taller I'd be a star in the NBA right now. Instead I've had to resign myself to being an excellent dribbler of another stripe.

All this came clearly into mind this past week as I attended my first Gopher's basketball game this season. I was truly impressed by the star freshman, Rick Rickert's game. I've never seen a Minnesota freshman so polished since McHale. Everything Rickert does on the court is smooth and fluid and I marveled at his many moves as he poured in 28 points against a terribly outmatched Penn State team.

Having once been a season ticket holder it was a nice reminder at how fun going to a game at Williams Arena can be. Though all traces of the Clem Haskins era have been disturbingly erased from sight as if any of us can truly forget that magical final four run of 1997, watching a game in the Barn remains something to behold. The atmosphere is intimate and larger than life all at the same time. The enthusiasm is contagious. The history rings from the rafters as clearly as the singing of the rouser. From McHale to Rickert the dancing never quite ever can be quelled no matter what has gone down over the years.

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