Red Right 88

Cleveland sports fan and sports writer

Location: Cleveland, Ohio, United States

quit my job decided to drive west

Monday, March 19, 2007

Sweet Sixteen

In 1986, my parents in their wisdom decided that as a family we would give up television for Lent. Now we didn't have cable and there were only five channels but this was a difficult thing to ask a seventh grader to do.

This was the only time ever they did that. And their timing could not have been worse. See 1986 is the only year ever the Cleveland State Vikings were invited to the NCAA mens basketball tournament.

Sportstime Ohio showed all three games on the eve of this year's tournament. So it was the first time in 21 years I got to see the games as I was forced to listen to all three the first time around.

My true love as kid were the Browns with the Indians a close second. Up until then I don't think I had ever been to a Cavs game. I watched some on TV and I loved World B Free but being so short I wasn't much of a basketball player.

Until that year, my small religious grade school did not offer basketball until the seventh grade. I was on the team that year but my coach did not play me every much. Often when I did go in, he warned me not to shoot. But I played hard. I sat next to him on the bench and started to fall in love with the game. I got my first backboard. I am pretty sure it was one that someone else had thrown out and my Dad rescused from the scrap heap at work. I cut holes in the tips of my gloves and shoot baskets all winter long.

I loved that Cleveland State team and the team that followed the year after. I painted my backboard green. Mouse McFadden was my hero.

Watching the games was like being in a time machine. No three point line. No graphics filling the screen. Shorts being just that... short.

As I watched the Navy game, I wondered if my recollections of them being screwed were correct. I mean I had never seen with my own eyes the two "bad" calls.

Now 21 years later, when they had the lead with eight seconds left. A part of me still believed they would win the game. It looked like Paul Stewart was fouled on that jump ball even the Navy kid acted like he was guilty. As for the charge/no call again it looked like Stewart had position but refs always like the superstars like David Robinson get away with that play at the end of games. It was hard to remember that Stewart would never play another game as he would die in a pickup game over the summer. The other weird thing is I have never in my mind took that lead with eight seconds left and placed it with my other Cleveland sports failures. I never called it the No Call or added it to the list of The Drive, The Fumble, Joe Table or The Shot. My love of sports was still innocent then.

The sweet memory of that year is in stark contrast to how Cleveland State would fad away. First the probation for recruiting Manute Bol and then Kevin Mackey self destructing with a crack pipe. But that would all come later as I will always remember 1986 as the year I fell in love with basketball