By: Concessions Assistant, Luke Addison
Gather ‘round the fire, boys and girls. Grab yourself a drink and settle in. I’ve got a story to tell you. This tale is one that has been well told within the Addison family circle. People that were there may remember it, but few others have heard what I’m about to tell you. Give me just a second to slip into my letterman’s jacket and load up the Springsteen. This, my friends, is the story of the greatest moment of my life.
All I wanted as a kid was to grow up to play basketball for the Claymont Mustangs. Most kids dream of playing in the pros; I dreamt of putting on that brown and orange jersey with my schools name displayed proudly across my chest. I am from rural East-Central Ohio that is far out of reach of any major city. It is an hour and a half to any pro or major college teams, so high school sports reign supreme. I was raised on the stories from my dad about the legends and great victories in Claymont High School sports history. Someday I wanted to be a part of those stories.
Fast-forward to my junior year of high school. It’s basketball season and the Mustangs are off to an undefeated start to the season. On this fateful night, the ‘Stangs are hosting our hated rivals, the New Philadelphia Quakers. There is no bigger thrill for the people of the 922 than a victory in this matchup. New Phila has a long history of looking down its nose at us. They are the county seat, and we are a poverty stricken community less than 10 miles down the road. For this reason they assume superiority over us. We are subject to taunts and disrespect such as calling us “Dirtmont” and other creative sayings to try and put down us down. (My personal favorite: “If you’re looking for help dial 911, if you’re looking for trouble dial 922.”) Children are told in their crib that we may go 1-9 in football, but if that one win is over Phila, then it is considered a successful season.
As if the matchup wasn’t already big enough, New Phila was off to a great start as well, making this THE premier event in Tuscarawas County. The game was going to be broadcast on two local radio stations as well as replayed on the local television station. Doing the play-by-play call that night for WJER was none other than Joe Tait, the legendary radio voice for the Cleveland Cavaliers. When a man whose name now rests in the rafters next to the all-time greats in Cavs history calls one of your games, it’s a kind of a big deal.
The gym was packed to capacity as the game got underway. I took my usual spot at the end of the bench, content with the fact that I probably wouldn’t get in. I was decent, but we had some very good players taking the minutes in front of me. I had only seen mop up duty with the varsity so far, and the game started no different. It was a tight back and forth affair for the first quarter and a half. Our offense was struggling to get going because of a unique defensive strategy employed by the Quakers. We had a tough point guard that year, but he was really struggling shooting the ball. Knowing this, Phila decided not to guard him on the perimeter and to instead pack the paint with his man, clogging the lane for our team. It was a pretty smooth tactic by their coach, but our coach also had one up his sleeve.
“Get in there” he says as he turns to me. I rip off my warm-up shirt and hurry to the scorer’s table to check in. (My dad was the scorekeeper for the team, which made the moment twice as cool.) The whistle finally blows and there I am, on the floor during our biggest game of the season. It’s a one possession game as we head up the floor on offense. Of course, the ball wastes little time finding me. Phila has decided to continue using its pack the paint defense, leaving me alone on the wing. It’s just me, the ball, and hundreds of eyeballs waiting to see what happens. My first instinct is to get rid of the ball as quickly as possible. The only thing is, none of my teammates are open. So after a couple of seconds of looking around, I think “Ah, what the heck” and pull the trigger.
Money. What a wonderful feeling it was to see that ball go through the net. The crowd cheers as I jog back to play defense. The Quakers match my three with three of their own, and were back on the offensive. Amazingly, the exact same scenario presents itself. Just me and the ball, alone on the left hand wing. Only now I’m armed with the confidence of seeing that first shot go in. “Might as well” I think to myself. Swish. Three more. The crowd is getting into it as I do a mental fist pump while running back down the floor. “This must be a dream. Back-to-back threes. Against Phila!” My blood is really flowing as we force a Quakers miss. This time up the floor there is no doubt what we’re doing. I race to my spot on the wing as my teammates swing the ball to me. There’s no hesitation this time. Bang. Nothing but nylon.
A lot of times in a situation like this you see the person exude complete control over their emotions and celebrate with style. This was not one of those times. I completely lost my mind. I let out a “YYYYYYEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!” as soon as the ball went through and ran back down the court waving my arms up and down, imploring the crowd get on their feet and scream. They absolutely ate it up. I’m quite sure that this is just because it was my moment, but that was as loud as I’ve ever heard it in that gym. The fans were absolutely going nuts as I continued to wave my arms. I distinctly remember my coach giving me the “calm it down a bit” motion with his hands as New Phila brought the ball down the floor. A loose ball and a timeout later and the crowd is back roaring on its feet as we huddle in front of our bench. It still gives me goose bumps to this day to remember that moment.
The rest of the game was a blur. Phila never threatened again after that. I added some free throws during garbage time to end with 13 points, by far a season high. The moment in itself was amazing, but what happened afterwards was what was really special. When I came out of the locker room following the game, there was an endless line of people waiting to congratulate me. Old men shook my hand and thanked me. Girls that I thought didn’t even knew I existed came up and hugged me. It was wild. There were a couple messages on the answering machine for me when I got home. One lady said that that was the most excited she had been in a long time. The front page of the sports section had a write-up showcasing my moment the next day. I got a couple cards in the mail from people telling me how proud they were to see me step up like that. My picture went up at Pangrazio’s Pizza as “Mustang Basketball Player of the Week” despite the fact that I didn’t even play half of a game. I am certain that that is as close to becoming a celebrity as I will ever get.
Someday this moment will get replaced by another milestone in my life. If I find a woman dumb enough to marry me or if I am lucky enough to have a kid than this moment will fade down the list. However, this is one memory that will always make me happy until the day I die. What’s great is that I have a copy of the game on DVD. I only watched it when I first got it, but it’s there if I ever want to show my son how his old man got it done back in the day.
For those of you who didn’t already fall asleep, I bid you a good night. And just remember kids, they’ll pass you by, glory days.
Luke is beginning his first year with the Hickory Crawdads as a concessions assistant. Previously, Luke has worked in baseball with the Akron Aeros, the Cleveland Indians Double A – Affiliate. He was born and raised in Uhrichsville, OH and attended Kent State University where he earned a degree in Sports Administration and a minor in Business. Luke has simple tastes, enjoying warm weather, funny jokes, and dancing.