I’ve been thinking a lot about the relatively long memories sports fans have. If your team has been somehow slighted by another team or a member of the media, there’s a pretty good bet that “Fill-in-the-blank” Nation will never forgive said slight. Here are a few examples that I’ve seen over the past few years…
“Drive home safely!” – Harrison v. Central; Sectionals, 1991
While I don’t remember the round of the Sectionals, I think it might have been the Sectional Finals. In spite of a winning tradition our high school had never won a basketball sectional title in its history. The Warriors had a good shot at winning it this year. I’m pretty sure it was the finals when they faced the reigning SIAC champs, the Central Bears because 1.) I was there (and I probably wouldn’t have been there unless it was the finals), and 2.) Roberts Stadium was packed. Some of my aunts and uncles, proud Harrison alums, were also there in attendance (would they really attend if it wasn’t the Finals? Doubtful).
I remember a few sketchy details. One was a spectacular fast-break. It was a 2-on-0 breakaway where one of the Warriors was dribbling towards the basket and he tossed the ball behind him over his head. Walter McCarty (more on him later) caught the no-look pass in the air and slammed the ball home in an earth-shattering dunk. The Warriors’ section went absolutely nuts.
Unfortunately, Central eventually pulled away from the Warriors. As the final seconds clicked away, the students in the Bears’ section began to chant, “Drive home safely!” Clap, clap, clap-clap-clap “Drive home safely!” And no, they weren’t really concerned about our physical well-being. They were taunting us for bowing out of the Sectionals…again. It left a bad taste in my mouth for the Bears. And for my generation, I think a rivalry was born – at least in the basketball world. Even though I’ve had several cousins attend Central, I still have a difficult time rooting for the Bears.
The next year, when Central played at Harrison, the much-improved Warriors beat the Bears. Many who were at the previous Sectionals fiasco began to chant the same thing to the Bears fans in the crows. “Drive home safely!” Clap, clap, clap-clap-clap “Drive home safely!” Payback (I guess).
The aforementioned Walter McCarty was huge! I remember walking close to him in the hallway and only coming up to his chest. In middle school, I thought he was going to scrape his head on the hallway ceilings – especially with his early-90’s flat-top/fade hairstyle. He was the center of the Warriors’ offense and no one could stop him (a la Shaquille O’Neil in his heyday). He led the Warriors to their first Sectional championship with his crowd-pleasing dunks and fear-imposing shot blocking. The boy couldn’t hit a shot outside of the paint to save his life, though.
Upon graduation, McCarty played for Kentucky. For those of us who are Hoosiers fans, this presented a huge dilemma. I somehow managed to justify my allegiance to the guy by saying things like, “I hope he has some great stats and Kentucky still loses every game.” All of that changed when Kentucky played Indiana in a close game. What did Walter do? He hit the game-winning three-pointer! I don’t think I ever forgave him for that. Although, joining the Louisville coaching staff has helped put him more in my good graces.
There’s more behind the cut