“We all search for a grand theory to unify things. Scientists tell us nowadays that perhaps the answer lies with string theory, which says that there is quantum symmetry – a string – connecting all things.” Carson Cunningham, “Underbelly Hoops”
Carson Cunningham coaching Andrean at 2013 Regional; Times photo by John J. Watkins
Carson Cunningham went on to write:
“When you’re playing ball in Ogden Dunes, Indiana, with your dad and your brother and your buddies, or you’re in Rockford, Illinois, playing with your teammates and the flow gets good and you all get to moving in unison and it feels like you’ve actually got the ball on a string, you can sense interconnectedness.”
The holidays were terrific, with plenty of good cheer, cards, board games, and splindid food. Phil and Dave were interested in learning bridge, so we dealt out many practice hands. Game weekend at Halberstadts followed, and I was glad IU sophomore Brady Wade came with several friends. I won the card game Wizard, going all ten hands without being set. I was out early in Werewolf; assigned the Spellbinder card, I supposedly had the power to render someone mute, but both Sue Halberstadt and Tom Wade insisted on acting out what they could’t say. On the final day Leah Balay won two of the three games she’d never played before, including Priests of Ra and a new railroad game Evan Davis invented. On New Year’s Eve with Hagelbergs at Sage Restaurant we learned to our chagrin that our favorite eatery will be moving to Valparaiso.
Lacking much interest in the NFL playoffs, I turned my attention to Big Ten basketball. Not only did IU get off to a 2-0 start, so did alma mater Maryland in the team’s first year since leaving the ACC. I also spent many hours proofreading, often while listening to three CDs I got for Christmas by Benjamin Booker, 1975, and Weezer. The latter, entitled “Everything Will be All Right in the End,” sounds a lot like the band’s early “Blue” album. The chorus to “Back to the Shack” goes:
"Take me back, back to the shack
Back to the strat with the lightning strap
Kick in the door, more hardcore
Rockin out like it's '94
Let's turn up the radio
Let's turn off those stupid singing shows
I know where we need to go:
Back to the shack.”
On January 2, the IUN Lady Redhawks defeated Clarke University (located in Dubuque, Iowa) on the strength of Portage grad Nicki Monahan’s 27 points. She showed off a sweet 3-point shot and frequently got to the free throw line by driving the lane when the shot clock was winding down. Nicki also started several fast breaks that resulted layups by Hobart grad Jayne Roach scoring that broke the game open in he second half. A couple busloads of Hobart players ands fans were there to cheer Roach on. Sitting near the IUN bench, I noticed Coach Ryan Shelton shouting instructions from the sidelines. Chancellor Lowe was wearing what looked to be a workout outfit. It was probably the first time in nearly two weeks that the Savannah facility was open.
The Chicago Tribune ran a full-page piece on “Jordan-esque” former Farragut H.S. basketball star Ronnie Fields, whose statistics eclipsed teammate and future NBA star Kevin Garnett. Poor grades and an auto accident derailed his college career, and Fields spent 15 years playing overseas and with teams in the Continental basketball Association (CBA), including Rockford for five years, where he was Carson Cunningham’s teammate. Nicknamed “Ronnie Rockford,” Fields, Cunningham concluded in “Underbelly Hoops,” “ranks among the best-known basketball players never to play in college or the NBA.” Now Fields is a motivational speaker and coaches eighth graders at brother Rice in his native Chicago. In 2013 he was the subject of a documentary entitled “Bounce Back: A Journey of Resilience and Transformation.” A few years ago, Fields told a Sports Illustrated reporter:
“People can’t say, ‘This kid dropped out and hung on the street corner and gave up on life.’ I pushed through the situation. I owned up to the things I did and became a better person, player, and father – those things are more important to me than playing professional basketball.”
In the Post-Trib Jeff Manes profiled Merrillville School Superintendent Tony Lux, whose son T.J. starred on a Merrillville basketball team that reached the state finals in 1995, only to lose to Indianapolis Ben Davis by a single point, 58-57. That year Cunningham was a junior at Andrea and named Post-Tribune “Player of the Year,” but the 59ers lost to Merrillville 91-85 in the Gary Regional. T.J. Lux presently coaches at Merrillville while Cunningham is at Carroll College.
Tony Lux told Manes that Governor Pence’s plans to expand charter schools, whose parent companies are profiting off the backs of students and taxpayers is misguided, to say the least. Lux argued: “At a time when there is less money for public education, to continue to expand charter schools, which have no record of success equal to the public schools, and then to use public tax dollars to further fund students already attending private schools — who are already high achievers — is just an inefficient and ineffective use of tax dollars.”
Times columnist Rich James made the same point, claiming that Pence was undermining public education by reducing financial resources in a draconian manner. The way the Governor is starving public education reminded James of this story: “A farmer got his horse down to one ear of corn a day and then expressed shock when it died.”
I found time to wish a happy new year to my four oldest friends, Terry Jenkins, Paul Turk, Ray Smock, and Clark Metz, as well as Upper Dublin classmates Barbara Ricketts and Gaard Murphy Logan. Gaard is reading “Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End” by surgeon Atul Gawande (below), described in a New York Times review as “a personal meditation on how we can better live with age-related frailty, serious illness and approaching death.”
Shopping at Strack and Van Til, I discovered that Miller quarts now come in plastic, “break proof” bottles. Snow and plunging temperatures were a bad omen for the first day of registration at IUN, but nowadays most students sign up for classes online. I made it to campus dressed in long underwear, a winter coat, and a cap that covered my ears and found the place mostly deserted save for secretaries such as Vickie Milenkovski, who informed me that Dorothy Mokry’s hundred year-old former Chetnik father passed away.
At $1.79 a gallon, gas is less than half its cost just months ago. The Saudis obviously have selfish reasons for keeping supply high, but American consumers deserve a break such as this. If the environmentally unsound fracking industry in North American is a casualty, so much the better.
Don and Anne Ritchie in Changsha (Hunan)
Wishing me a Happy New Year, fellow Marylander Don Ritchie wrote:
“The highlight of our year was a trip to China in October. Anne and I both spoke at the National Library in Beijing and at an oral history conference in Changsha (Hunan). There’s quite a growing oral history movement underway in China, and so far there’s only one oral history manual available in Chinese, which is mine (it’s Chinese title is Everybody Ought to Do Oral History). Consequently, we were given the full Nixon-in-China treatment and everyone wanted to take a selfie with us.”