Personally Speaking

by H. Joe Weyand
“It’s another tequila sunrise, this old world still looks the same, another frame.”
-- The Eagles*

Even the newspapers reported it: the sun did rise in Wahoo on Saturday, March 14, 1992. News reporters from Omaha and Lincoln visited Wahoo that Saturday to gauge the reaction of the community to the Friday night loss to Ogallala with Wahoo Newspaper editor, Zean Carney commenting, “It seems that the folks in Lincoln were worried about us.” I must admit, I don’t remember the sun coming up, but all reports are that it did. Patrons of the Wigwam cafe had become rather philosophical about the loss. Fred Pearson expressed, “Oh, it’s a big letdown ... But it’s kind of a relief. The pressure is off for the kids and the coach.” As a parent of one of those kids I’d have to report that although I don’t remember anything about that weekend, I know there was no feeling of relief that the streak was over.

I doubt the loss of memory is due to tequila or any other form of drink. When we came home from Lincoln that night, we had two younger girls to take care of and there was a kind of void. After all, the whole weekend had been planned anticipating another trip to Lincoln on Saturday; and a championship game followed by a big celebration. With none of that on the horizon, our attention turned to the mundane day to day of our household. And somewhere in there was a father trying to help his teenage son deal with a very public and very heartfelt failure. As much as Joel put a good face on for the newspaper (“You have to remember just the joy of being here.”), the loss was tough to accept -- just like his teammates, he had never dealt with any loss at the varsity level, let alone a season ending loss that took away the dream of a state title. And although he had been on two championship teams already, Joel had admitted that he “felt more a part of” the 1992 team -- it was his team. Rather than playing basketball on Saturday night, he was packing for CloseUp-- a school sponsored trip for students to visit Washington, D.C. They were leaving early the next morning. That trip might have been a joyous getaway to relish the successful conclusion of another championship season, but instead it was just a getaway -- an escape from the reality of the loss.

I don’t remember what I said to Joel after that game, or even in the ensuing days, but I’m sure the advice was along the lines of “pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again.” Just like me to revert to some song lyric as words to live by (“Pick Yourself Up” by Jerome Kern & Dorothy Fields,, 1936). Whatever I actually said, I do know that the ensuing weeks marked a return to the basketball court with a renewed commitment. The first focus of that commitment was the tryouts for the Nebraska Valentino’s team. Joel knew a lot about the opportunities for some high level competition that the Valentino’s All-Star team provided as Coach Anderson had coached the team and was then its Executive Director. And Jason Glock had played on the team. Joel’s hopes for making the team were bolstered by his selection to the Class B All-State team -- we figured that at least the coaches selecting the team would know who he was. Joel played on an AAU team in some tournaments that spring and worked on his game in the gym in preparation for the tryouts. I remember the day before reporting for the tryout, I accompanied him to the gym to rebound for him as he worked on his three point shot. After he had made an extended series of shots I stopped him, looked him in the eye and told him he was ready. We went home. Joel made the team.

So sometimes a father does the right thing. I don’t think I was all that great at comforting him after the team’s loss, but I do think my pre tournament advice was pretty good. It is preserved in a note Judy & I left for him the Thursday morning of the tournament, a note preserved by his grandfather in the scrapbook he kept for Joel that season. In part, the note read, “Don’t worry about winning or losing -- that will take care of itself. Don’t pray for victory -- give thanks for this opportunity and pray to be enabled to make the most of your God-given talents.” That’s advice I would share with anyone entering a high level competition.

I know there was one thing I did do right -- that was having a son like Joel (most would point out that I have Judy to thank for that). The whole ‘91-’92 season had been a joy ride for the entire Weyand family. Julie managed to get away from college in Lincoln to be at the games. Jaclyn and Jill were in the stands with Mom and fellow middle school students to cheer on the Warriors. There was a lot of cheering and a lot of celebrating. Even with that said, I have to admit that I remember most the loss to Ogallala, and specifically the helpless feeling a parent has when he knows his child is on his own, there’s nothing you can do to deflect the hurt that is coming. As I had done the year before, I had spent the season hiding behind my camera for protection. I’m glad I did as it now enables me to recreate that basketball experience. But I was somewhat insulated -- the other players’ parents who had that same joyride that season were in the stands, surrounded by Wahoo fans. I know they were feeling the same way I was, and would have a hard time taking the loss “philosophically.”

And then there was Coach Anderson. All accounts mentioned the “class” the players and coach displayed when the loss came. I can only echo those sentiments, and add that it must have been doubly difficult for Coach Anderson in his dual role as coach and parent. But in typical Coach Anderson fashion, when reporters contacted him that Saturday morning, he commented, “I thought it was a good sign when I came home last night and my house was still standing.” But I guess in one way, the coach did get run out of town; Coach Anderson was on that CloseUp trip the next day as well.

Inevitably the question rises as to how good the 1992 team was, and it is quickly pushed to a back bench because, in the decades of the 1980’s and 1990’s, it didn’t win a championship like four other Wahoo teams had done and four more would do. My answer would be that had it not been for the one loss, it might have been considered by some to be the best ever. With one of the highest offensive averages, one of the lowest defensive averages, and three players in the starting lineup that would eventually play significant roles on college teams, what isn’t great? Of course, the answer is the one loss. A discussion of which team is the greatest Wahoo team ever can wait for another time and place. I just remember that the team of 1992 played a lot of great basketball that was fun to watch.

So, I remember the 1992 team as a great team. I remember watching some great basketball -- it still looks great when I look at it on tape today. I remember a great family experience that would move on into a summer and succeeding years of watching Joel play basketball. I don’t remember the sun coming up; I don’t remember my words to Joel on the night of the loss to Ogallala. But I do remember these words of The Eagles, “Take another shot of courage. Wonder why the right words never come. You just get numb.”*

*Tequila Sunrise” by The Eagles

Joel & Judy celebrate the District Championship
All but one game in 1992 ended in celebration -- the biggest being the District Championship.

Joel's sister, Jaclyn (or is it Jill?)
The players' families really got into the act at the state tournament..

Note To Joel Before State Tournament
All parents share things with their kids -- I am so grateful to Joel's grandfather, Reverend Melvin Tassler, for preserving this in the scrapbook he kept for Joel.

Joel's Sisters, Jill, Julie, Jaclyn
A sad moment -- Joel's sistert wait for him outside the locker room after the Ogallala game.