CENTAUR SEASONS Earns Its “Varsity Letters”

Posted on Dec 20, 2012

CENTAUR SEASONS RECENTLY WENT LIVE AND LOUD at the Varsity Letters Sports Reading Series in New York City. I read excerpts from a couple of CENTAUR SEASONS posts, answered a few questions, spread the Centaur gospel — and talked  about CENTAUR SEASONS’ exclusive interview with UCLA coaching legend John Wooden.

With Michael Gluckstadt doing the honors as host, I shared the stage with Bryan Curtis of the sports web site Grantland and John Saward and Graydon Gordian of the online magazine The Normanthology.

Varsity Letters is, as my wife, Noreen, noted, one of those fantastic little semisecret inside-baseball New York City things that you don’t want to tell anybody else about. You know: Because it’s the kind of deal that deserves to have way more people know about it, except that if way more people knew about it then it wouldn’t be quite so worth knowing about. You know? (Aargh! You do now!)

My entry into this world is Carl Bialik, a co-founder of Gelf magazine, “an online magazine about just about anything,” from which apparently grew the sports reading series. More directly: In 2001-2002 I was the original writer of The Daily Fix, The Wall Street Journal’s online sports column. When I stepped down, Carl replaced me. Wait. When I stepped down, Carl AND Jason Fry replaced me. Yes, it took two, as I still point out to them.

[[Carl is also “The Numbers Guy” for the Journal; read his columns here.]] … [[Jason is a “writer, Brooklynite, baseball fan, Star Wars dork, genial malcontent” – I’m just quoting his bio – and can be got to here.]]

At last week’s ’VL’ Bryan Curtis of Grantland read one of his stories about listening to overnight radio as the host talked to a guy named Bugs (Bryan: “Not. His. Real. Name.”), who told the story of the night he shot and killed Bigfoot (actually, shot and killed a Mr. AND Mrs. Bigfoot) out in East Texas. Seriously, that’s what Bryan read. Or maybe not seriously. Hard to tell. Which made it all the better. The sports connection? None. So what. Maybe you had to be there – again, in keeping with the ‘VL’experience.

Don’t worry, though, I asked the question you are right now asking yourself. “But Bryan, doesn’t Bigfoot live up in the Pacific Northwest?” To which Bryan replied, straight-of-face: “No. They are … everywhere.”

Alas, I couldn’t find Bryan’s Bigfoot biograph online. But you can find his Grantland page here. May I suggest: “THE END OF THE LOCKER ROOM OMERTA; How the Hard Knocks era vaporized the standards of clubhouse access,” if only for the old-school Howard Cosell and Jim Bouton references.

AND YOU CAN READ BRYAN’S ‘VL’ PROFILE AND Q&A HERE.

Also reading at ‘VL’ were John Saward and Graydon Gordian of “The Normanthology,” an online and now-resurrected print magazine dedicated to the dying art of long-form sports journalism. John read an introspective take on giving yourself over to a sports hero. Graydon read from a piece he wrote about bullriding. About how one of the main players in the contest – you know, the bull – even while being central to the outcome still has no skin in the game, so to speak.

YOU CAN READ THE ‘VL’ PROFILE AND Q&A OF JOHN AND GRAYDON (WITH CIAN O’DAY) HERE.

In related news, another New York reason to search out ‘VL’ is for the people you meet there, other like-minded reading-and-writing sports sorts.

David Roth, the major domo of the sports web site The Classical (and a Daily Fix writer to boot)…

… Charlie Widdoes (recently of ClipperBlog, but it appears now of KnicksNow)…

… Wisconsonite Peter Bukowski — Packer fan, Syracuse grad and Bleacher Report contributor...

… Jeremy Gordon, writer (here on Tumblr) — and also a Daily Fix writer (you can’t dribble a basketball at ‘VL’ without bumping into a Daily Fixer)…

… and Andrew Kahn, prolific freelance sportswriter at www.andrewjkahn.com.

As for me, reading from CENTAUR SEASONS was my second ‘VL’ rodeo. Four years ago I read some sports stuff from my memir, “My Father’s Heart: A Son’s Reckoning with the Legacy of Heart Disease.”  At the time, Gelf magazine dubbed me “the unwitting father of the sports blog” for my nascent Daily Fix efforts.

[[AT THAT 'VL' I SHARED THE STAGE WITH CHARLIE LEERHSEN, FELLOW BROOKLYNITE AND AUTHOR OF 'CRAZY GOOD: THE TRUE STORY OF DAN PATCH, THE MOST FAMOUS HORSE IN AMERICA.' YOU CAN READ HIS 'VL' PROFILE AND Q&A HERE.]]

This time at ‘VL’ it was me and the Centaur. Our job – or at least part of our job, it seemed – was to skew the median age UP by a couple of decades. Geesh! I just turned 60, can you tell? And does it show that CENTAUR SEASONS took place forty years ago?

Anyway.

One of my goals for this CENTAUR SEASONS blog is to try to find the book in the story of this too-new college with it’s not-too-good basketball team and why in the world we signed on in the first place. And also, to find the story, too, in the 6-foot-8-inch pipe cleaner me trying to prove to myself that I should have played basketball in high school.

So in culling blog posts for ‘VL,’ I looked for a couple that spoke to these themes. I wound up reading edited version of these four:

COLLEGE OF CORNFIELDS: Why Centaurs Believe

CENTAUR REASONS: Why Playing for Allentown College Was My Chance of a Lifetime

WHERE’S THE CENTAUR (PART 2): Finding Little Allentown college in the big Basketball Picture

THE YEAR THE CENTAURS WERE HALF-GOOD AND THE TWO WHO MADE IT SO

Truth? I realized that while I might want to read all about (for instance) the game when we Centaurs beat Philly Pharmacy (last second shot! huge win! my, oh my!) what people likely want to hear about is why the win mattered and what it meant to us. Instructive. And then, while reading these selected words out loud, I liked the way they sounded. Encouraging.

Thank you, Varsity Letters, for maybe helping reveal the CENTAUR SEASONS beyond this blog — mmmm-m-a-y-b-e.

On December 21st, 2012 at 9:38 am, John O’Connell said:

Steve,

Merry Christmas and a healthy and prosperous 2013 to you and your family and friends.

I can’t thank you enought for continuing to forward me the updates. I relish hearing the names of the people ivolved, Jerry Wilkinson, Jerry Fleming, Bob Stormes. By the way I live close to Tom Stormes but haven’t seen him at all.

Thanks again.



 
     

Welcome to CENTAUR SEASONS: A ‘memory blog’ of the basketball beginnings of a half-good, half-bad, all-new college team.

Once, I was a Centaur.

I played basketball for Allentown College of St. Francis de Sales in Center Valley, Pa. I was on four of the school’s first seven teams, was MVP senior year and in 1974 graduated in the fifth class.

My junior year I kept a diary: A History of the Events of the 1972-1973 Allentown College B-Ball Season, as Chronicled by, and With the Personal Memoirs + Occassional [sic] Philosophizing of the Author, One Stephen J. McKee.  One-hundred-forty-five hand-writ pages. (Yes, I was an English major.)

But it occurs to me now: Were I today a “Bulldog” playing for “DeSales University” (both mascot and name changed in 2000), my private “History” would be not a diary but a blog.

So starting November 30  “…Personal Memoirs…” will be re-imagined as CENTAUR SEASONS

A blog before its time, posted 40 years after in real time.

Meanwhile, beginning on September 24, here at CENTAUR SEASONS the preseason has already tipped off, with stories, interviews and reminiscences of the people, the place and the purpose of those early years of Allentown College of St. Francis de Sales.

Check back often. Sign up for CentaurSeasonAlerts. Email CENTAUR SEASONS to friends.

We were not a bad team, we Centaurs. We just weren’t very good. Winning was always the goal, if never exactly the point. How could it be, with victories so few?

Back then Allentown College of St. Francis de Sales was a couple of buildings in some cornfields.  Our commitment to the school’s basketball program was far greater than was the school’s commitment us. So what? We got to play college ball – and paid for the privilege! In return, we got to be part of a team, wear the red and blue, be Centaurs. And we got to create a place that was, right then, as much concept as it was college, making itself up as we went along.

What we got was a once-in-a-life-time chance.

All we had to do was keep showing up -- next practice, next game, next season. And so we did.

Welcome to CENTAUR SEASONS.

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