Back in the Day

"You Gotta Be Kidding!"
by Mickey Charles, CEO Sports Network

What happens when a bunch of guys that grew up in The Bronx in the Fifties and Sixties get together over dinner and some wine (beer was for the younger days) to recount and relive their wayward youth in the 'hood and real, as well as imagined, exploits on the diamond, hardwoods and gridiron? The trip down memory lane has a way of turning into a Pixar or Disney choreographed fantasy with each one determining and separating truth from fiction. You undoubtedly know the routine and those of you have not undergone the journey down the fantasy footpath, the follies of yesteryear, had best take some notes.

Garry Marshall, who was in my class at DeWitt Clinton, home to 7,000 plus boys at the time, could certainly explore and discover the foundation for a movie, a sequel to "The Amboy Dukes." (look it up -- author Irving Shulman) No, you were not born at the time and I was still in the single digit age bracket.

The year was 1956, the championship of The Bronx was on the line and sent to claim it were (front row L-R) Jim DeBerry and Al Simmons and (back row L-R) Dave Raspler, coach Nat April, Fuzzy Lieberman and Mickey Charles.
There we were, four of us from the starting five...yours truly, Jim DeBerry, one of our starting guards, "Fuzzy" Lieberman, one of our forwards and Bebe Martin, the first substitute for Al Simmons, the original starting guard for whom Martin was the heir apparent when we all graduated. The other forward, Dave Raspler, was happily settled out on the west coast and unable to make it. Right, at 6' 5" I was the center at the time and considered tall, a guard by today's standards. Deberry was a magician with the ball, Simmons and Martin could get it to anyone at any time and I made sure that "anyone" was me as often as possible. Lieberman went to the boards with the near same ferocity as myself and Raspler, who wound up at Michigan State, was as pure a shooter as you would ever see.

Those are the facts. Hy Geller joined our group to verify whatever tales were told, tall or short, abbreviated or embellished, that is what happens when guys get together to recall and relive. The fantasies flow like the waters of Niagara or Victoria. You have been there, at the high school reunions or the monthly get-togethers, the ones where Pinocchio would develop into an oak tree and not an extended branch if he had been in our class and opted to join the conversation.

This is not Michael Jordan recalling encounters with Larry Bird or Magic Johnson, there are no tales of successive three point shots (which did not exist back then) or being able to dunk when it was a monumental achievement to be able to touch the rim or just be above it to let that layup roll off your fingertips and into the hoop.

Nothing said, understated or embellished, will stop the aging process that is nature's way of telling us that the glory days have long since come and gone. But did Samson really use the jawbone of an ass to slay 1,000 Philistines? Far be it for me to contest the Holy Bible but what started out as a minor physical engagement turned out, thanks to some rabbinical editing and elaborating upon into something of Don King proportions. And a wondrous moment in time worthy of a movie with Victor Mature as Samson. Quick, name Delilah without looking it up (Okay, Hedy Lamarr -- 1949 -- the Stone Age to many of you). And, according to King, he probably will state that he orchestrated the entire thing to a sold out audience.

Memories, even those with which liberties have been taken to please the author of same, work admirably well and contesting them in any fashion, by those that were there, disputes and negates their respective contributions. What a quandary! To solve it, the stories told simply enlarge themselves like an air balloon getting ready to go aloft and those of us who are passengers delight and revel in the ride with more hot air to take us higher and higher. You gotta love it!

Back in the day brought together (L to R), Hy Geller, Bebe Martin, Mickey Charles, Fuzzy Lieberman, Jerry Vogel and Jim DeBerry, sharing stories of the past and present while the future awaits.
I will hear from my high school cronies but the simple fact of the matter, as you will find one day soon, if not now, is that there are the stories of fact, the modest among us and the achievements that no one can seem to recall other than the one rhetorician who has made certain that none among us was there at the time to dispute the "facts." How convenient. But we go with the flow and smile inwardly for the most part, knowingly and approvingly with grace on the outside.

It is a world of "he said, she said and the truth."

It is akin to someone rewriting their resume so many times that, sooner or later...probably sooner, they believe that they worked at all those companies mentioned (although they did not), almost became CEO or chairman save for some political machinations and now will accept a position as copy machine clerk to work their way back up to the top. You gotta love it!

I know how good Fuzzy, Jim, Bebe, Al and Dave were. They played on my team, the one that went to the game for the scholastic championship of The Bronx. Jerry told us how good he was when following in our footsteps and playing to a level equivalent to hang gliding off the moon to get back to planet Earth. But, he was, in truth, the one that organized the gathering, as every group needs a Jerry, and he played when all others had already gone on to college.

Not shown in the photo was "Buster" Wolosky, the Rocky Marciano of DeWitt Clinton in the backfield and then at college...Division Three -- Kalamazoo College. Modest, unassuming and with a lunch pail in hand at every practice and game. There has to be a "Buster" among your friends of today or yesteryear. Without him, there is no balance.

Back in the day comes to all of us at one time or the other. Overstatement is acceptable, like the fish that was sooooooo large but managed to get away, the date that was a combination of Halle Berry and Katherine Zeta Jones but you were not turned on by her so you left early, the fortune you might have made under the coulda/woulda/mighta/shoulda heading...and so on. The "if only" brigade coupled with the hyperbole and a bit overstated.

It is acceptable with broad smiles and the inclination to join in, modestly at first, and then almost egregious, is compelling and irresistible. There are no disputes, no questioning, just knowing smiles and a wink in the other direction.

The good news is that all were there, some armed with scrapbooks and proof positive of their exploits, while others simply brought facts with them of their current lives...realizations and family. The next one is sometime this summer and it will only be the second for me. Time to gather the history out of the archives and insist that all bring wives, which was not the case this last time around, although mine did accompany me. You have to grow and pass the level of the "all boys from the old days" reunion.

Back in the day for that one evening was a joy. Happily, this gang got older, they did not grow old. Can any of them still do a cross over, dribble between their legs, and pass behind the back or rest a hand on the rim?

You gotta be kidding!

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