Some teams start their pregame ritual with a prayer or pep talk.
I began by retching.
High school basketball in Southeast Missouri was not for the faint of heart — or stomach. It was win or else.
My teammates and I were once spanked with a wooden paddle for having the audacity to be trailing at halftime.
We were eighth-graders.
As we grew, so did the expectations. It was the town’s identity.
In the 1970s, Advance High went to four consecutive Final Fours, reaching three state title games, winning two. These guys were mythic in my eyes.
I wanted to be like them, walk like them. Most of all, I wanted to play like them.
It never happened.
By the time it was our turn, continuity established by our Hall of Fame coach, who left for two years and came back, had eroded.
Consequently, we rode home on a lot of quiet buses.
Those prized trophies have gathered considerable dust. AHS hasn’t won a state championship in more than 36 years. It takes fanatical support by parents and coaches and a community to get there.
That I never could made me sick.