Well, the March Madness has ended for the Miracle League basketball team. Bryan’s been playing basketball with many of the team members for over twenty years. They’ve always been called the “Shooting Stars”. Initially started under the auspices of Special Olympics, the team has since converted to a Miracle League team.
The “Stars” began around the year 2001. The elementary school in which I taught music was newly built in 2000 and has a spacious gym partly owned by Northampton Township as well as the Council Rock School District. The founding principal of the school (see in the clip below) was a basketball fan and encouraged the establishment of the team at his brand new building. (He was also instrumental in hiring Bryan as a paid employee in the cafeteria of the school where he proudly was in charge of the dishwasher.)
A highlight and culminating activity of the basketball season, which spans the months of November through March, is always the game between the teachers and special athletes near the end of the season. This year was no different. The whole school got involved in selling snacks and drinks during the game. The students create posters for each individual athlete and plaster the gym with them. There are between 80-100 players on two teams – an A and a B team. One team is more experienced and a bit older than the other. Bryan always makes sure to find his special poster on the wall and takes it home to his apartment where it lives on his bulletin board for a year until replaced by the following year’s creation.
Whether or not the teachers “allow” the athletes to win is a mystery. When I played against Bryan in those early games, we, the teachers, did try our darndest in the beginning of the game, sometimes accruing quite a number of points over the kids. But sometimes they outplayed us from the beginning and there was no need to “gift” them points and purposely lose so that they could feel good about trouncing the teachers once again. There are many fine athletes on that team!
Bryan proudly told me the score of the teacher/athlete game this year was 101-24 (guess who won…again!?). Disclaimer: the teachers do allow the athletes at least two tries to shoot a basket to score without interfering. This is probably the only way Bryan and others can score points! A highlight of the game for Bryan is seeing and playing against one of my dearest teacher friends, also a huge champion and Bryan Johnson fan. He was there again this year. – twenty+ years older and now bringing his lovely, maturing daughters to watch and cheer. I wonder if they cheer for their dad or Bryan?
When Bryan first started learning the game of basketball, he wasn’t sure which direction to go on the court. He couldn’t begin to dribble a basketball. But now, he knows a thing or two and has graduated to the A team, earning him the right to a delicious pizza feast, poster and treasured trophy. His hair has grayed since he first started playing, but the desire to be with his fellow athletes and garner yet another trophy has only grown over the years.
And to my former teaching colleagues still at that dear school, thank you from the bottom of my heart for caring and giving back to those athletes each and every year. How they live for that game with you and how it must gladden your heart to make such a difference that one special night out of every year!
2 thoughts on “Basketball”
What a beautiful thing – and how special the tradition has continued for so many years! ❤️