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A Family Tradition...


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I recently lost my dad and I have had a tough time reconciling my thoughts and feelings. I thought it might help to write a few things down and even share some them. This is my attempt at doing so…

 

My dad and I have attended the Kentucky High School Boys Basketball State Tournament (aka The Sweet Sixteen – The Greatest Show in Hoops) together, since 1985. Please keep in mind that I am only 36 years old, so this has been a family tradition for us for 27 years. As a little boy I would only get to come up on Friday nights, but by the time I was in fourth or fifth grade I was allowed to miss Friday to come, and by the time I was in middle school I was playing hooky all three days to see the entire tournament.

 

As best I can tell, this tournament ranked about fourth on my dad’s list of life priorities. It fell behind his family,his religion, and fishing; so you can see how important this event was to him.

 

I can still remember a few details from the year Reggie Hanson carried Pulaski to the title in 1986. Dad and I were there to see Clay County win one for the ‘little guy’ in 1987. We also got to see Farmer drop 50-pts on future NBA’er Allan Houston. Even recently, Dad and I have discussed how good those back to back State Champ teams from Fairdale were. I can remember listening to my dad complain about two ‘private’ schools competing for the title in 92. We watched the legend of JR grow and saw him lead his mountain team to the top in 96. Dad and I were amazed by the ease and depth Rick Jones could fill it up from during the 1998 tourney. Seeing Lofton, then Miller lead Mason to two titles was special. Seeing an unknown Walt Allen takes an unknown South Laurel to the Championship in 2005, was a pleasant surprise for us. Watching the Holmes Bulldogs find a way to bring the big trophy home to the 9th region was one our most exciting tournaments together. Another good memory for my dad was seeing small school from Eastern Kentucky win it all 2010. These are just a tiny, speck of game time memories I have from 27 years. My dad has told me so many stories from times he had come before me. One my favorites is his detailed account of the ‘Dumas shoot’ from 1961. If you don’t know about the ‘Dumas shoot,’ I encourage you all to look it up and read about it. It is just one of a million things that happen during the month March in state of Kentucky that makes basketball so special here.

 

All these great memories of the games are important, but not my reason for writing this. The real memories and the time spent with my dad is what I will never forget. Watching him sneak past security with a bottle water and an apple in his pocket. Hearing him tell stories about the old friends he would see while at the tournament. Listening to him make fun of complete strangers as he people watched during dead ball time outs. Thinking of all good food we shared at and away from the games. He loved to complain about officiating, especially the charge/block call. And his complaining always led to plenty of laughter as I would jokingly always take the other side of the call against him. This was a great time for a dad and son to be together. It often included my mom, who would shop while we watched the games. My dad’s brothers with my cousins were usually close by for the games too. Lastly, my brother is a big part of this event also. He has streak of attending Sweet Sixteen with us, for at least the last 20 years.

 

As I enter Rupp Arena for the 2012 Sweet Sixteen, it will be with a heavy heart. My thoughts will be of my dad and all the good times we had together attending this event. I miss him a great deal, more than I thought I could miss anyone. It will be hard, but my brother and I will continue the tradition. We will involve our kids as they grow older, so that this tradition will never die for our family.

 

I would encourage you all to enjoy the games this year and every year, but more importantly enjoy the friends and family you attend the event with. Hundreds, even thousands of you out there, have stories just like this one. I know I am no one special and no one wants to hear me preach, but take my word…cherish this event and those around you during it. If you are lucky, like I was, it will be some of the best memories of your life.

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I love this thread. I have attended every year since 1996. I attended a few as a kid, but started attending regularly in 1996. I started taking my son in 2003 when he was 6 years old. He hasn't missed one since and now we take my daughter also. We make it a family affair!

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FN, you and your brother must go to the Sweet Sixteen, your Dad would expect it. And I wouldn't doubt he might give you a reminder as you see bad call, a great shot, a kid give 130% effort for a loose ball, or the cinderella ride of a team no one expected to be there. He'll be there, in your voicing of your opinion to the referees, your laughter, and your look of amazement of the unbelievable shot or dunk. He'll be there.

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I have made it to atleast one game a year since my 2000. As usually happens, my dad is the reason my brothers and I started going. I usually go down friday morning. My first ever state game was Barbour and co. coming back to be Lexcath in the 2000 finals. E-Town was down in the first half and came back and won. The introductions that night still gives me goosebumps thinking about them. As an 18 year old, seeing a grown man crying (drunk as well) at the front desk of the hotel lobby, I found it odd. 11 years later I fully understand the emotion that is involved with the tourney. One day the day will come when my father will no longer be able to attend and I hope my brothers and I can carry on the tradition as well.

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Almost sounds exactly like my past. I went to every Sweet 16 from '80 until '91 when my father passed away. Wednesday thru Sunday morning was always my favorite time of the year. I used to get really upset once we'd hit 75 South and I'd see the LaQuinta sign disappear as I looked southward. I've been back sparingly since his passing and one day I hope to restart this tradition with my child. Paul Andrews' shot heard around the Bluegrass, Carlisle County playing David to Henry Clay's Goliath. Fred Tisdale and Logan County, Royce Arena, Jimbo Binkley, the Quarles with Hoptown. Hanson and the Maroons. Richie and Alan, Alan and Richie, Penick and PRP. Who could forget Fairdale winning back to back, the first and last time since 1971? The All "A" final between Lex Cath and UHA (I never saw the UK/Duke semi but many did while in the stands in Freedom Hall). 1993 was the first year I didn't sit in the lower arena and we were treated by the Marion County Knights. In '94 back to Freedom Hall for Fairdale and PLD (Burton and Mills) and the '95 Breck machine. I've been to only a few games since, Lofton and MC defeating Ballard and Dewalt throwing it down in the '04 finals.

 

I will always remember the year we checked out on Saturday afternoon and we had to burn seven hours prior to the finals. My dad drove us to Millersburg where he played his Jr season. The gym just happened to be open and a ball was present. We proceeded to play some HORSE and the old man never lost because of his left handed hook shot. These memories are emblazoned forever.

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