Homecoming was done different in the old days than it is now. It used to work like this. The basketball players would nominate their girlfriends, and then the team would vote on who the attendants and queen would be. The team alone would select the winners. There wasn’t any vote by the student body. Also, the queen could be from any grade in the high school. She didn’t have to be a senior, as is the rule today. One other thing, there definitely was not a homecoming king.
As homecoming approached in 1976, our basketball team was on a roll. That ‘76 squad ended up as district champions and regional runners-up. The starting lineup was Frank Hobson, Jack McGee, Big Ricky Radford, Garfield Curlin and Lawrence Cheatham. All five starters were seniors. The bench was full of ample backups such as juniors Bill Stallons, Fred Wilson, Steve Guess, Bill Fort and George (Ru Ru) Crump. Rounding out the varsity team were sophomores Little Ricky Radford, John Ben Travis, Mike Morris, Kenny Turner, Lenny Raley and myself. With talent like that, I was mostly a junior varsity player, but I dressed for all varsity games. I did play a big role in a couple of midseason games when we had a starter or two suspended. It was homecoming, though, where I may have played the biggest role.
Even though I recently ran a campaign for magistrate in Trigg County, it wasn’t my first campaign in life. I think my first campaign was back in ‘76. You see, I nominated my girlfriend, Crystal Gold, for homecoming queen. (What a great name!) Crystal was a sophomore like myself. She was captain of the varsity cheerleaders as well.
Let the campaign begin. I quietly made my rounds to each of my teammates explaining why Crystal would be a good choice for queen. I went after the old vote (seniors), the young vote (sophomores) and everybody in between. I left no stone unturned. The black players and the white, I saw them all. Every vote mattered. Homecoming drew nigh.
The night finally arrived, and Wildcat Gym was packed. Our opponent was a good South Hopkins team. To the best of my recollection, there was about three attendants vying for queen. Crystal was one of them. I was decked out in my black and white pin-stripe basketball warm-ups and Crystal in a long white dress with long sleeves. One by one, they called the girls’ names and they met their escorts at the bottom of the permanent bleachers. From there, we all walked to center court. It was then that the magical moment happened. I have never even to this day heard the PA system in Wildcat Gym be so clear. The voice on the PA sounded like the voice of God. His words were, “And now the moment we have all been waiting for, your 1976 basketball homecoming queen is ... CRYSTAL GOLD.” A rush went over me as my girl had been named homecoming queen – she was very deserving. As my adrenaline pumped, the previous year’s queen approached with flowers. She handed Crystal the flowers and me the crown. I put the crown on my queen’s head and then carried out a longstanding homecoming tradition. I kissed the queen. Did I ever! It may have been the longest homecoming kiss ever. It seemed like 30 seconds, even though it was probably more like five. It was enough to draw a big WOO from the crowd. After that, the two of us walked to the stage at the gym’s end and our feet never hit the floor.
What took place next was a testimony to the power of adrenaline. When I joined the team for warm-ups, I noticed something very strange. My body had been taken over by Dr. J (Julius Erving). I could jump out of the gym. Whereas I could normally just grab the rim in the manner of an average jumper, I could suddenly stick half my forearm over the rim. I literally could have dunked the ball with ease that night. I actually missed one lay-up in warm-ups because I laid the ball plum over the goal and on the other side.
Needless to say, Coach Jim Wallace was unaware that he had such a secret weapon at his disposal. I wanted so bad to tell him that I was experiencing some type of strange metaphysical transformation and he needed to play me. Sadly, I never conjured up the courage to tell Coach Wallace, and he let me rot on the bench that cold winter night. And by the way, we lost to South Hopkins by one measly point. Surely I, SUPERMAN, could have been good for two extra points.
OT: I made a call to Crystal’s mother and discovered that she is currently married, lives in Orlando, Fla., and has served as the chorographer for the Orlando Ballet Company.
Enthusiasm Makes the Difference Mike Wright is the head coach of boys basketball and cross country at Trigg County High School. Emails concerning Coach’s Corner can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.