Tag Archive: High School Basketball

Living with Chronic Pain and Disability: “It’s Not Too Far Away, You Can Walk it”

girls high school basketball february 24 2918What follows is a letter I wrote  several days ago to the athletic director at Miller City High School and the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA):

February 27, 2018

Dear Deb,

Today, I attended the Fairview vs. Spencerville High School Tournament basketball game. I arrived at the venue seventy-five minutes before the doors opened. I asked the parking lot attendant to point me to the handicapped parking spaces nearest the gymnasium. He had me park in the handicapped spots in front of the main entrance. Indeed, this allowed me a short, easy path to my seat.

After the game, attendees were required to exit via the doors opposite of where I entered. When I realized that this path was going to take me away from where I was parked, I asked a man handling crowd control to tell me the best way to get to where I was parked. I told him exactly where I was parked. Instead of allowing me (or anyone else who parked in the front handicapped spaces) short, easy access to my parking space, he told me I had to exit the far side of the building. He then said, and I quote, “it’s not too far away, you can walk it.”

First, how did he know what “not to far away” was for me? There was a reason I parked where I did, and I expected to be able to return to my vehicle via the same path I entered the venue. Second, how did he know I could walk it? Did he have magic powers that enabled him to divine my handicap and physical abilities? Not wanting to press the matter further, I walked the long hallway to the far exit and exited the building. I then had to walk around the building to the front where my car was parked. Needless to say, I was exhausted by the time I reached my vehicle.

I am writing this letter to make you aware of this issue, asking that you please address my concerns with the relevant people. In the future, if people parking in handicapped spaces are expected to exit the far side of the building, then the parking spaces should be on that side. If the parking spaces remain at the front of building, then handicapped attendees parking in them should be able to exit the venue the same way they entered.

Thank you for taking the time to read my letter.

Bruce Gerencser
345 East Main Street
Ney, Ohio 43549

I received a prompt reply from Miller City’s athletic director. She assured me the matter would be looked into and changes made so handicapped people don’t face this or similar problems in the future. I appreciated Deb’s thoughtful reply. As of the writing of this post, I have not heard back from the OHSAA.

I am a professional photographer. During the winter months, I attend local high school basketball games. I take numerous photographs, sharing them with the players and their families on Facebook. On a few occasions, I have even made a few bucks off my work. I thoroughly enjoy watching high school sports (both boys’ and girls’), so attending the games and photographing them provides a brief respite for me as I struggle with chronic pain and disability.

This past season, I attended thirty or so games. It’s tournament time now, so opportunities to see local teams play are becoming fewer and fewer. I have grandchildren in the Tinora and Stryker school districts, and my oldest granddaughter plays for Stryker, so I try to attend as many Tinora and Stryker games as I can. I live in the Fairview school district, so I try to attend their games as well. During the latest holiday season, I donned my red stocking hat as I attended games, leading to countless adults calling me Santa Claus, and more than a few children wondering if I was the “real” Santa. (Seriously, if I was Santa Claus, would I be spending winters in Ohio? Not a chance!) Bit by bit, high school players I have photographed have struck up conversations with me. I have learned much about high schoolers through these conversations. Attending games gives me opportunities to get out of the house, even when I don’t want to. As people with chronic pain and illness will tell you, they have to battle the tendency to want to curl up in a corner and be left alone. In my case, I know it’s good for me to be out and about, even if it causes my pain levels to rise.

In 1997, I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. Since then, the list of my afflictions continues to grow. I daily battle unrelenting chronic pain from the top of my head to the bottom of my feet. Over the weekend, I was sitting in my recliner watching TV with lover, friend, and caretaker, AKA Polly. All of a sudden, my left foot felt like it had been repeatedly hit with a hammer. My toe, if you can imagine this, was pulled back to about the ten o’clock position. For thirty or so minutes my foot throbbed with pain. I tried to walk, but I couldn’t. Finally, the pain subsided, the tears dried, and I returned to watching TV. Just another day in the life of a chronic pain sufferer. You never know what you’ll face on any given day.

I also have osteoarthritis in my neck, hands, hips, shoulders, upper back, lower back, knees, and feet. In other words, Uncle Arthur is my constant companion. Throw in high blood pressure, diabetes, incontinence, and bowel problems . . . well, life is grand. It is what it is. I embrace every day as it comes, grateful that I am still among the living.

When I attend public events such as the aforementioned basketball game, I plan my day carefully. I always arrive at least an hour early. This allows me to get parking close to the entrance, and it helps me avoid dealing with rude and inconsiderate people as they push and shove their way towards their seats. Arriving early also allows me to find seating that accommodates my handicap. At basketball games, I prefer to sit on the first row at floor level. I haltingly walk with a cane, so it is best for all involved that I don’t attempt to walk up or down bleachers. I have fallen on more than a few occasions. I suspect if three-hundred-and-fifty-pound Bruce Gerencser landed on someone it would cause serious harm. I do all I can to avoid contact with others.

Seating, of course, is not my only concern. I also have to contend with access to concession stands and bathrooms. I try to go to the concession stand when there are not a lot of people in line. Bathrooms provide a unique and, at times, harrowing experience. Public school bathrooms are supposed to be ADA compliant, but older schools are not required to follow the code. On several occasions I have had to back into stalls, shut the door, and then turn around just be pee. Zeus help me if my bladder is screaming, Gotta go NOW! Accidents happen, and all I can do is hope that no one notices the dark wet stain on my blue jeans. And going #2, as my grandchildren say? I avoid that like the plague. Everything from small stalls, cheap single-ply toilet paper, and my suspenders coming loose, conspire to make taking a dump — another euphemism for defecation which my grandchildren use — a nightmare.

I write all this to give some context as to why someone saying to me, “It’s Not Too Far Away, You Can Walk it” is a big deal. The last thing I need is for someone to dismiss my disability — even if the person does so innocently — because he was in a hurry, or just following the “rules.” I have learned that the only way for disabled people to be heard is for them to shout loudly above the noise of the crowd. In my case, shouting loudly means writing letters, emails, or blog posts. By doing so, I hope that people will be educated about the difficulties the disabled face when attending public events.

What Fans and Coaches Teach Children and Teen Players When They Scream at Officials

fairview vs defiance basketball game january 20 2018 (10)

I attend forty or so High School basketballs games a year – both boys’ and girls’ games. In the process of doing so, I shoot thousands of photographs. I have attended games at every school in the Buckeye Border Conference and the Green Meadows Conference, along with games at schools affiliated with the Northwest Ohio Athletic LeagueWestern Buckeye League, and the Three Rivers Athletic Conference. (I also attend numerous tournament games.) I could spend the next hour or two critiquing the various facilities, including how suited they are for photography.  I have watched dozens of officials work these games. Some of them are consummate pros skilled at their craft. Others, not so much. Some officials have rabbit ears, reacting negatively to coach or fan criticism. Other officials are stone cold killers, indifferent to critics in the stands. I guess what I am saying is this: I know a fair bit about Northwest Ohio basketball.

 Coaches

High school basketball coaches come in all shapes, sizes, and forms. Some of them are teachers of the game, patients with their players, and rarely raise their voices. Others, are Bobby Knight-like screaming psychopaths. These screamers constantly berate their players and officials. On more than a few occasions, I’ve watched verbally assaulted players stop listening to their coaches. I am surprised that school boards think it is still okay to employ coaches who treat players in this manner. I can’t think of a thing such behavior accomplishes that couldn’t be accomplished with a lower voice raised from time to time as needed. The best coaches in the area are men and women who know how to motivate their players to play better and harder, all without psychologically brutalizing them. These screamers are throwbacks to the days when I played basketball. I have been screamed and hollered at more times than I can count, often deservedly so. That said, I had far greater respect for coaches who were passionately firm, men who kept their emotions in control, even when the play on the court was dismal.

Officials

I was always taught that you never allow a game to get to the place where the officials determine the outcome. Officials are going to miss calls. They are human, and will, at times, have a bad night. Smart players discern how the officiating crew is calling the game. Sometimes, officials let players play, rarely calling fouls. Others, call everything, even nit-picky fouls. My coaches frequently reminded me that “if it looks like a foul, it is a foul.” Players have to play smart. In doing so, they keep the officials from being the deciding factor.

Some coaches allow their players to question or talk back to officials. In my playing days, such behavior would have gotten you a technical foul and a quick trip to the bench. Several weeks ago, I attended a boys’ game where one of the players screamed at one of the officials, when are you going to call a fucking foul? The young man rightly received a technical foul and his coach took him out of the game for a couple of minutes. He should have been tossed out of the game and suspended for the next game. Should the official have called a foul? Maybe. It doesn’t matter. Respect for officials and your opponents is a crucial part of the learning experience; a fact often forgotten is that high school sports are meant to teach teenagers life lessons. When coaches, fans, and parents are screaming at the officials, is it surprising that players think it is okay to do the same?

swanton vs bryan basketball game january 19 2018 (23)

Fans and Parents

I attended girls’ basketball games tonight (both the JV and Varsity games) where a man and his wife spent the entire night berating and badgering the officials. These fans were able to see from 90 feet away that the official standing two feet away was making the wrong call. Traveling was their favorite complaint — all directed at the opposing team, of course. (The opposing team won both games, with the varsity team winning by 40.) During the JV game, the clock hadn’t ticked off 30 seconds before the home team coach was screaming at the officials for “missing” a foul. She was so abusive that one official went to her and said, I’ve heard enough. Sit.

One thing I have noticed over the years is that screaming coaches beget screaming fans. Fans smell blood in the water and go after the officials. Do the officials miss some calls tonight? Sure, but they were hardly the reason the home team received a forty-point beat-down. Lazy defense and poor shooting, and not the officials, cost the home town girls the game. As the game got into the fourth quarter, local fans started grousing about the visiting team’s players. They seemed to think that the opposing team should have stopped playing hard. One girl shot a successful three-pointer and one fan said the girl lacked class. Don’t want the girl to make the shot? Try playing defense. Play harder, play better, realizing that on some nights you are just going to get your ass whipped. (This is the same school where fans several years ago ridiculed an opposing player for being fat. Talk about class.)

Fans think their $6 ticket gives them a right to be an asshole, and to some degree they are right. I wish they would, however, consider what they are teaching children and players alike with their behavior. Some fans act as if the most important thing in the universe is their team winning the game — an event that will long be forgotten weeks or years later. Over the weekend, Polly and I attended a boys’ basketball game where a man in his sixties sitting two people away from us spent the entire night — with a blood pressure-raised red face — hollering at the officials. He was quite entertaining. He was also a buffoon.

The worst fans are the parents who spend their time constantly coaching their children from the stands or verbally disciplining them for not playing harder, making the shot, defending the opposing player, or countless other offenses. These parents, intentionally or not, embarrass their children. I have seen more than a few players cringe when Mom, Dad, or Grandpa hollers at them from the stands. These players have coaches, so there is no need for parents to be coaching them from the stands. Let the coaches do their jobs.

What is it we want high school players to learn from the game?  Sports are meant to teach life lessons; lessons such as life is hard and sometimes the best team doesn’t win the game. Sports teach players that life isn’t fair and that sometimes no matter how hard your work you are going to fail. These life lessons and more prepare these teenagers for the real world, a place that will eat them alive if they aren’t prepared. Facing adversity is essential to future success as an adult. I mentioned in a post titled Dear Bruce Turner one such experience I faced as tenth grade basketball player:

You were my basketball coach. Trinity sponsored a team in the ultra-competitive high school age Church Basketball League. One game I had a terrible night shooting the ball. I was frustrated and I told you I wanted out of the game. You refused and made me play the whole game. My shooting didn’t get any better but I learned a life lesson that I passed on to all my children years later.

I learned on that night to never quit. Play hard, even when it seems everything you do is failing. Teenagers need to learn these kinds of lessons if we expect them to grow up into mature, responsible adults. What they don’t need to learn is that it is okay to yell, holler, scream, berate, and ridicule people who do something you disagree with. Coaches and fans alike do a great disservice to players when they go after officials and the opposing team’s coaches and players. The game’s importance will quickly fade away, but the lessons taught to players and children in the stands last a lifetime.

Christian Nationalism and American Militarism on Display at Local High School Basketball Game

american militarism

It was ten after four as I pulled into the Bryan High School parking lot. I arrived thirty minutes before game time so I could make sure that I had a first-row seat for the night’s slate of basketball games between the Swanton Bulldogs and the Bryan Golden Bears.  Bethany, my daughter with Down Syndrome, was with me. Armed with pens and spiral notebooks, she spent the night drawing pictures and entertaining those who sat nearby.

I brought my camera equipment with me. I ALWAYS bring my cameras, feeling naked on those rare occasions when I leave them at home. I love watching high school basketball games. I am reminded of a time long ago — forty years ago now — when a young redhead boy sprinted up and down the court, hoping his meager effort would lead to a team victory. Never a great player, I still love the machinations of the game. Tonight’s varsity match was a blowout until late in the fourth quarter when Swanton mounted a comeback.  A flurry of shots fell through the net, trimming Bryan’s lead to eight. I wondered, would Swanton find a way to snatch victory out of jaws of defeat? Alas, it was not to be. Swanton lost all three games — ninth grade, junior varsity, and varsity.  My cousin’s son plays on Swanton’s ninth grade team. He, statistically, had a great game, but his fellow teammates did not.

I knew that tonight was going to be difficult me. It was Veteran’s Night — an opportunity for locals to recognize and applaud veterans for their service.  Surrounding me were fans wearing Trump tee shirts and hats, along with hundreds of people wearing flag apparel. These are the same people who would be outraged if I burnt a flag, demanding my arrest for violating the “flag code.” Lost on them are their own violations of the code with their Trumpesque accoutrements.

The public address announcer let the crowd know that the pregame events would begin with the Bryan band playing God Bless America. Everyone stood to their feet as the band began to play America’s second national anthem. Those near me put hands over their hearts, and several of them lustfully sang the words made infamous by the terrorist attacks on 9-11.

I did not stand, silently voicing my disapproval of the insertion of Christianity into a secular public high school event. It is not easy for me to do so. I can feel the stares, and in the past I have had people rebuke me for not giving Jesus his due. I remind those who dare to challenge me that I am an atheist and a secularist. Why should I give reverence to a mythical deity or show my support for those who care little for the separation of church and state.

Once the Christian Tabernacle Choir® finished with their hymn of praise and worship to America’s God, it was time to move on to the patriotic portion of the pregame events. The announcer asked all the veterans in attendance to stand while the rest of us stayed seated.  Dozens of veterans stood as people cheered and young millennials ran to them, giving them high fives and thanking them for their service. I did not clap, hoping that since we were seated no one would notice my lack of applause. Alas, I was quickly outed as the crowd rose to its feet, applauding and cheering those who were lucky enough not to return home in a body bag. Their raucous applause went on for several minutes.

I was the only person not standing. Across the way stood my uncle, a veteran of the Vietnam War. I am sure my refusal to participate in the night’s glorification of American militarism offended him. However, he knows that my refusal to do so is a matter of principle for me. I resolutely stand in opposition American imperialism and militarism. My refusal to stand is me saying that I oppose America’s continued involvement in violent, unwinnable wars in the Middle East.  Without soldiers, politicians would not be able to stuff American exceptionalism down the throats of the world.  Most of all I refuse to stand because I don’t want one more drop of blood shed in my name. I don’t want American men and women dying just so I can have the “freedom” to watch basketball games. I will gladly not watch another sporting event if it means no more violence, carnage, and bloodshed. How dare we cheapen military deaths with empty words about freedom and the American way of life. Enough! I say, to the endless violence and destruction.

After the veterans were seated, it was time for the playing of the National Anthem. As is my custom, I stood, removed my hat, and held it over my heart with my right hand. As the band played, I turned my gaze to the flag and quietly sang the Anthem.  A tear trickled down my cheek as I pondered what has become of the United States of America, the land of the free and home of the brave.

Defiance vs Bowling Green Basketball Game January 31, 2015

Last Saturday, my oldest son, grandson, and I attended the Defiance High School vs. Bowling Green High School basketball game. The contest was held at Defiance. I expected the game to be blow out, but Bowling Green keep the score close until part way through the third quarter. Defiance finally pulled away, convincingly beating Bowling Green, 65-43, State-ranked Defiance” record  improves to 15-1.

Here are a few of the photos I took:

game official

Game Official

game official 2

Game Official

Scorer's Table

Scorer’s Table

katwan singleton

#22, Katwan Singleton, #4, 5 foot 7 inch Michael Menendez looks on and thinks, I wish I could do that.

defiance bowling green basketball game january 31 2015

#20, Kameron Singleton, #30 Shay Smiddy, #11 Adian Markey, #25, Mitchell Gardner

defiance bowling green basketball game january 31 2015 2

#25, Mitchell Gardner, #30, Shay Smiddy, #3 Jake Meyer

defiance bowling green basketball game january 31 2015 3

#22, Katwan Singleton, #11, Braden Fredrick, #4, Michael Menendez, #41, Ryan Ludwig

defiance bowling green basketball game january 31 2015 4

#51, ???, #22, Katwan Singleton, #23, Noah Strausbaugh

defiance bowling green basketball game january 31 2015 5

#11, Aidan Markey, #41, Ryan Ludwig, #20 Kameron Singleton, #43, Jordan Arrington

salton sea yacht club

If you have ever been to the Salton Sea, you will appreciate the humor of “Salton Sea Yacht Club”

 

Defiance vs Wauseon Basketball Game January 17, 2015

Last Saturday, my oldest son, grandson, and I attended the Defiance High School vs. Wauseon High School basketball game. The contest was held at Defiance. I expected the game to be blow out, and it was. Defiance easily beat Wauseon 60-32, improving their record to 10-1. The previous night, Defiance lost their first game, losing to Celina 48-44.

Here are a few pictures I took during the game.

katwan singleton

#22, Katwan Singleton, defended by #32, Jacob Newlove

noah castle

#22, Noah Castle

carter bzovi

#30, Carter Bzovi

michael menendez

#4, Michael Menendez

katwan singleton 2

#22, Katwan Singleton, #30 Carter Bzovi

noah castle 2

#22, Katwan Singleton, #22, Noah Castle

jacob newlove 2

#32, Jacob Newlove, defended by #22, Katwan Singleton

katwan singleton 3

#22, Katwan Singleton, #22,Noah Castle, #14, Zach Johnson

katwan singleton 4

#22, Katwan Singleton, #14, Zach Johnson

wes detter

#10, Wes Detter

basketball

Cue All by Myself and One is the Loneliest Number

 

Defiance vs Findlay Basketball Game January 10, 2015

Last Saturday, my son, grandson, and I attended the basketball game between Defiance High School and Findlay High School. Defiance is ranked fourth in Ohio High School Basketball Division II and Findlay is a Division I school, so I thought this would be a great game to attend. As always, I took my camera with me. Here are a few of the pictures I took:

kirk's krazies defiance high school

The Defiance High School Student Section is called Kirk’s Krazies.

kirk's krazies defiance high school 2

Kirk’s Krazies, Defiance High School

The coach of the Findlay High School Trojans complained about the officiating right from the start of the game. His complaining infected his team and Findlay fans, and the game was one nonstop bitchfest about the officiating.

jim rucki findlay high school basketball coach

Jim Rucki, Findlay High School Basketball Coach

What made things worse was one of the officials developed rabbit ears. Rabbit ears is a sports term for someone who listens to criticism and lets it affect their game, or in the case of this official, their ability to officiate the game.

mr rabbit ears

Mr Rabbit Ears

Instead of ignoring the Findlay coach, this official began responding, often with thrown up hands and the words, I didn’t see it.  This is the worst thing an official can do. Like a shark smelling blood in the water, a seasoned coach like Rucki will continue to badger an official, knowing the official is paying attention.

The game was a tightly contested:

defiance vs findlay basketball game january 10, 2015

#20 Kameron Singleton and #32 Chaze Proehl

defiance vs findlay basketball game january 10, 2015 2

#10, Grant Niswander

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#4, Michael Menendez, #10, Wes Detter, #Unknown

The deciding factor came down to trust, which coach trusted his point guards to run the offense and win the game. At the end of regulation, the game was tied and it took two overtimes before Defiance prevailed 63-58.

During the overtimes, the points guards for Defiance ran the floor like seasoned veterans:

defiance vs findlay basketball game january 10, 2015 4

#4, Michael Menendez

When the game really mattered, it was the Findlay coach’s lack of trust in his point guard that cost his team the game. When he brought the ball up the court he would look to the bench for the play. Perhaps he was a young, inexperienced player and Coach Rucki didn’t trust him to run the offense.  One thing was quite evident, Kirk Lehman, the Defiance coach, trusted his points guards, when the game was on the line, to execute the offense. This is the one thing that made the difference and Defiance came away with the victory.

Note

Lest anyone accuse me of being a homer, I attended Findlay schools from 8th through 11th grade. I have a great fondness for Findlay High School sports. This post reflects my take on the game as a sports fan. That said, I like the way Defiance plays the game, so I plan to watch more of their games in the coming weeks.