BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING (A LEGACY STORY)
In life we tend to “outgrow” our siblings and search for friends and colleagues as we spread our wings and move on in to professions and jobs. It’s okay and it is even probably a healthy sign of maturity. Whatever our motivation to move on outside of that family circle, its part of the evolutionary process called life.
My husband has two brothers. As he entered his senior year of High School, his big brother Harry was in college and living away from home. Like most siblings they were from a family where you might not “run” with your sibling, you might even pound or pummel him occasionally if he needed it, but no one else better touch them or they answer to you.
This was never so apparent as when my husband Herman was playing basketball for his high school and went to play an away game near the college where his older brother was. No longer playing sports his older brother and his roommate, also from the same hometown, determined it might be worthwhile to go see the home team play. The hometown was smaller and the underdog and it should be a good game.
From the git go, I have it on great authority it was “dirty ball”. My very serious and straight laced brother-in-law is not given to exaggeration so, for once, I should have no challenges as to the accuracy of this particular legacy story. He definitely remembers the occasion as does my husband. (Figures he would remember a sports story but not some of the great stories of our courtship romance.)
The Big Brother and his roommate arrived at the game early picking a seat well up into the bleachers. The two college students weren’t the kind to tolerate fools blocking their views by standing up and getting in the way so, they went high enough not to be bothered by the “front row crowd”. Climbing had been an effort for Harry wasn’t yet recovered from a recent hernia surgery. The younger brother Jack arrived and joined them in the stands. The three got ready to watch some serious ball.
It was a packed house, as was the tradition for any given game in Oklahoma. Small high school or not, you supported your team. Being a fan was almost a pledge to a blood sport, and this night it would become literal.
My Husband’s team was made up mostly of farm boys and outdoor kind of guys. No sissy players on that team. And due to having few players everyone had to play and not get injured. There was no question you had to give a minimum of a hundred percent to keep the team alive. The same went for the hometown fans. They weren’t near as plentiful, but if grit and commitment meant anything, it was the stronger fan base.
From the first whistle when the players took the floor there was an evident trend of foul play developing and it wasn’t even being masked. The opposing team was playing dirty and the concern was that the referees weren’t calling them on it. The hometown team continued to play tough Oklahoma ball but they were still playing fair because they had “that kind” of coach. That eventually would come to an end for the sake of survival if nothing else.
By the time the game was in the fourth quarter The Hometown team of the Billings, Bulldogs was ahead but, not by much. They had begun to return the punishing elbows and the bruising collisions matching the opposing team blow for blow. It became a game of power and punishment, and not a player on the court had been spared.
I am told my husband was one heck of a player. One of my favorite pictures of him from high school, was of him flying through the air with the ball in his hands, headed for the basket. Of course for me, I look at the picture taking time to assess the tight satin short shorts he was wearing. And, in light of all the modern day scandals, I note the bulked up muscles that never knew steroids but certainly defined one powerful and beautiful male body.
In the fourth quarter of this punishing game, my husband got the ball again and was doggedly headed down the court. He was picking up speed when suddenly the ball went airborne having been stolen by the other team. He turned to quickly retrieve it and gave his greatest push of the night to speed down court. Suddenly, it was he that went airborne and not of his volition. He had been deliberately tripped. Landing on the hard slick surface of the court, his exposed skin seared into the floor.
I am sure it was pain, fatigue and just plain Oklahoma pissed off attitude that brought him up from that floor with a new strategy in mind. He admits his very private thought at that moment was, “Okay you ba- – – -ds, let me see if you know how to play football”. Yes, I said football.
The rage that had built up from the first whistle propelled him. He literally dropped down to his football stance. With everything inside of him he drove himself toward the player he believed had offended him and now had the ball. The offending player received the brunt of my husband’s powerful shoulder and it sent the player sprawling along the floor.
The crowd erupted. The Superintendent of Schools for the opposing team ran on to the court. There was a momentary lull as the crowd tried to hear him and what he was saying to the upstart ball player. My husband had just laid out one of their own and yet the Superintendent was ignoring the culpability of his team’s involvement in all the previous cheap shots by them. The fact the blow was in retribution for the three quarters of unprecedented battering and pounding they had laid on our home team, seemed to escape him.
As for the Big Brother, he had seen this moment coming from his perspective high above the court. He had seen that deliberate trip cause his brother injury and he knew his brother well. A Grubbs will take just so much, then he’ll take control.
Seeing fans from the opposing team moving toward the chaotic court, he quickly got to his feet. The Big Brother had anticipated his brother would “go for it now” and he wanted to be sure someone was covering his brother’s back. Not waiting for younger brother Jack, or the roommate, he forgot his personal surgical pain and made quick strides down the bleachers and on to the court. Our Home team crowd was outnumbered and Harry knew the blow wasn’t going unanswered by the fans of the opposing team.
He was on the court and almost to my husband when he saw the Superintendent on the court. His thought was “No one touches my brother” but sure enough someone did. At that moment the Superintendent grabbed my husband in a manner that was not restrained or professional. The bleachers on both sides continued to clear out and fans surrounded the scene taking place on the floor. There was shouting, pushing, and shoving, leaving my husband isolated from his team .
The Big Brother struggled to reach his brother before a blow was struck. He did manage to prevent the Superintendent from doing any real damage beyond grabbing the brother and shoving. Without hesitation, Big Brother took care of business. Family business.
My husband felt himself being wrestled from the Superintendent’s grasp as he was being pulled and yanked forcefully away. At that moment he realized his Big Brother was sending the Superintendent of Schools sprawling onto the floor. One blow had done it. As it sunk in what his brother had done, there was a momentary sense of relief and pride. Then, there ensued a melee’.
For my husband the rest was a blur. In his recounting to me of the incident, my brother-in-law Harry indicates the crowd was fully “in to it”. But, my husband’s total focus and recall was based on one action. His big brother defending him.
The game was at an end. There was enough anger to warrant a quick closing of the event and to get the team out of town as quickly as possible. But, that night would live on in infamy in the family folk stories and in the Hometown team lore. They might be a small community but they were a united sports community and no one messed with their team. No one was going to be blamed or punished beyond that night for what had transpired. My husband, in the estimation of his team, coach and community, had done the “right and honorable thing.
The younger brother Jack had seen just a hint of what he would face in the years that followed, when he would play ball for the Billings home team. He would also remember that brothers stick together and they take care of each other no matter what. It doesn’t matter who is the one in trouble, the others would be there for you in the drop of a hat. He would relearn that lesson at an Alumni dance in a few years, but that’s another legacy story.
In the years ahead my husband would became a most dedicated teacher and coach. He developed great team discipline. He grew to be an outspoken critic of the damage of referees who will not fairly and adequately call the plays and games by the rules. That recounting of poor referee proficiency would become a source of extreme distaste and demeaning commentary when it involved his beloved Sooners.
Long after retirement he would agonize as he watched his beloved Sooners get ripped off, yet again, by the almost blatant prejudice of some referees. Though the referees were later reprimanded and transferred, my husband pointed out the damage that had been done. Each player had given their hearts to their high school and college careers, and to see them tainted and diminished by referees who were either uncaring, or unscrupulous would bring a bitter gall up inside him. When the game score was not corrected, the standings were also affected. The players didn’t get their fair recognition for their outstanding plays, thus their stats were also affected.
Some would say, “It’s just a ball game”. In Oklahoma, there is no such thing as “just” a ball game.
Author’s note; while the names of the opposing team and town etc are not noted in the story, it is out of respect for those who, like most Okies, still have “fervor” about past incidents and happenings. All things sports related are that important to us. Just FYI