Monday, 22 September 2014
1966 TEXAS WESTERN MINERS Feature-THE ROAD TO GLORY
By TIM DAVID HARVEY
Racism has no place in this sport! Let me rephrase, racism has NO place ANYWHERE! Neither does domestic violence, abuse and all the horrible and horrendous issues plaugeing the behind the scenes, media exposed side of America's two favourite sport leagues, the NFL and the NBA. I thought these where the United States people!? First there was the problems of Sterling in a sport that should be all about Spalding and now Rice. Tossing players and personnel out the league isn't enough however. Lessons must be learnt instead of the inspiration of ignorance in this finger swept aside, social media application age. Unity needs to be built off the power of equality and respect. From Los Angeles to Atlanta and all over the U.S.A. and the wider world. I'm sorry Danny Ferry I loved how you looked like someones dad with a jump shot but its time for you to really retire. What did Kanye West say when he was a 'College Dropout'? "Racism still alive they just be concealing it"! Now this guys telling disabled concert fans to stand up. Still between the fine line of face palmed mistakes and fist clenched discrimination we need to all take a look at everything and everyone around us and at ourselves and be the change we want to see more than just another cliche. We need to remember early next year on M.L.K. day while the National Basketball Association is showing all these games and not just potato peel chips off our couches whilst revelling in another day off, watching a hoop marathon. Maybe between all those games or right now you should pop a 'Disney' film in and no I'm not talking about 'Aladdin' or 'The Lion King'. I'm talking about 'Glory Road' and its amazing, atmospheric Alicia Keys soundtrack accompaniment. The try story of the long and winding road that these Texas Western Miners took to a glory that glittered more than any gold.
'Remember The Titans'? That Disney, Denzel Washington football film about young black and white men coming together to form more than just a sport winning team? Well a lot of people-especially in the NFL- should watch this other Disney classic in the same inspirational vein that shows Mickey Mouse's real Fantasia magic lies in storytelling with teaching and feeling. Still it's time to remember the Texans in another real-life story that has birthed the equality and stands against discrimination between anyone regardless of race, religion, culture, gender, age or class. Even if we still have an even longer way to go then we first or liked to have thought. In 1966 many soccer fans will know this year for when England finally won their first World Cup at home in Wembley. Still this English writer can admit that even if you thought it was all over there, a much bigger and more meaningful victory was being forged over an ocean in the country sized state of Texas, which sometimes has come across as a place a million miles away from the rest of America. Still in one day in the Sixties they set the standard for the rest of the United States and the rest of the globe. A standard built on civil rights and the coming together of all people. A standard built on basketball where the only conflict was in the end on court in this classic competition. Sport can be a great storytelling solution and methaphorical mirror for real life problems and points and on the madness of a March 19th in 1966, Texas Western made a 72-65 one.
You can read all about it in Coach Don Haskins amazing autobiography, 'Glory Road: My Story of the 1966 NCAA Basketball Championship and How One Team Triumphed Against the Odds and Changed America Forever' too. A real read from the late, great legendary coach and the legacy he left. A no nonsense coach who as a graduating player would train until the heels of his feet came off..you read that right people of the Nike, Air Jordan sneaker age. Not his shoes...his FEET! It must be the cleats right? Or maybe just the hardwood hard work. One of the greatest, not just basketball, but sports coaches and life motivators of all-time gave us a first hand account of a true, genuine and gracious story that needs to be heard, earned and learnt in this negative news cycle of racism and abuse on a foreign and domestic level in sports, entertainment and the all too real and raw world we try to use the last two to escape from. A story that inspired the childlike wonder and magic of Walt Disney's team to make another picture even with America's best actor onboard for one about the nations first sport. Haskins dry erase story about the greatest X and O he ever wrote in his perfect playbook is the ultimate winner. How after uniting his black and white players over the course of a season for the greatest good of more than just a game, he fielded an all black starting five line-up for the first time in the sports history for his finals game and final point. In a moment where the all white Kentucky university team led by the legendary Adolph Rupp (who where even a Wildcat legendary alumni back then) and their young star Pat Riley (who would later graduate to become a legendary Los Angeles Laker and among best of all time winning coach) where about to be on the receiving end of hoops and equality history.
They weren't the real losers that night. They joined in being part of a world victory. The real losers in this where the ignorant racists of the world. It's head shaking today that over only a half century of sport and world history was the first time a basketball team in the national spotlight consisted of enough black players to be considered able to start in an age today where the hand shaking of an extended earth has brought real change some don't truly realise or appreciate still. Today we league pass an association where around 10 years ago before the European influx white players where Toni Kukoc rare. Still in a digitally discrimination revealing age this is a educational story of the past that should be the example we all learn from. Coach Haskins greatest play may be considered a small move in relation to the leading likes of Muhammed Ali's sport transcendence or Martin Luther King Jnr, Malcolm X and Nelson Mandela but its still a grand gesture that leads to the good of today where you can find yourself sitting next to your friends and family of different races in perfect, beautiful harmony. It's the little things in life and these small moments led to bigger things. Who knows without moments like this you may not even be sitting where you are right now with the people you are, as tragic as that sounds. Besides even one of the worlds greatest leaders Madiba in his Invictus knew the power of coming together over sport in the the South African victoriously held Rugby World Cup. Haskins to basketball and the politics sadly that is behind it was what J.F.K. was to real politics of the world, as he asked himself what he could do for his sport and country and changed the state of Texas, and the minds of everyone with one open enough to listen and take heed.
Still as great as Don Haskins was, it was his men that coach was most proud of. All of them, 1 through 12. The young, black men who showed pride and power in standing up to all the discrimination and alongside the men who where a part of that ignorance until their minds where embraced to change. The young white men too, who refused to grow up and behave and believe in the same injust ignorant ways of their peers, parents and even teachers in the very school they where being educated in, learning to change the world for the better. The young, white men who served as the example to their fellow men, women and children to no longer act in a racist way and unclench the fist of hate to an extended hand of loving respect and what's more....friendship. Coach Haskins meant no disrespect when he benched his white players for the NCAA final, but in making a statement bigger than the sport the white players understood and took one for the team. Just think about all the petty problems puncuated today when a so called All-Star gets benched for poor play. Time to learn again. As the Miners showed they where major in the net cutting (even if no one brought them a ladder in the last moment of racism, as again hoisting each other up they did it all themselves), college crown, the championship Texas Western starting five where the real heroes. After having to put up with a whole season of the most abhorrent abuse at the hands of even so called fans they rose above it all in the ultimate Memorial Gym.
All the grown men dunking their heads down unflushed toilets on the road as they slammed over all of that with their perfect power plays. All the blood soaked hotel rooms with the cruellest, callous insults written on their broken into bedrooms as they where just trying to get a good nights sleep. Credit to the children's franchise of Disney, not shying away and showing that in their 'Glory Road' movie too, to really educate our kids on how to treat each other better. All the horrible words that still exist today that this writer refuses to say in an example of what was routinely shouted from the stands, even at home games. I'll give you a clue though, it begins with a 'n' and ends in hate. The real fab five turned a cheek and a dribbling away play from it all and let their game do the talking and reply in the ultimate exclamation. Soon mouths where just left wide open as the hate had nothing left to say. Love won in a game that really did change it all, from teammates to friendships and world changing and healing relationships. Just like 'Coach Carter' this was a real life story of real people coming together in their maturing youth for the greatest life lessons learnt. 28-1 wasn't the highest statement made by this ultimate basketball team who really refused to lose (that lone loss coming off the hotel room incident...try playing with passion after that). Jerry Armstrong, Orsten Artis, Louis Baudoin, Willie Cager, Harry Flournoy, Bobby Joe Hill, David Lattin, Dick Myers, Dave Palacio, Togo Ralley, Nevil Shed and Willie Worsley and of course Mr. Haskins. These are our heroes. Something the Sterlings and Ferrys should learn from for better or worse. I'll say it again racism has no place in this sport. Otherwise there will be no glory on this road where going down...