“In with the old” during Flashback Weekend

By David WilliamsBy David Williams

 Have you ever just sat around shooting the breeze with a bunch of your friends and in the process managed to solve the world’s problem?
    I believe that we all have done this, but it is rare thing that actions would come from such talks. Hence the cliché, “Talk is cheap.” That saying probably would have been truth in this case as well, had it not been for serendipity.
    My friend Anthony “Bubba” Treadwell was shooting the breeze with some buddies and discussing the plight of the youth. One of the fellows, (no one is certain who) said, “Someone should do something.” The group sort of left it there lingering in the air as the final card played in a game of bluff.
    As the group broke up, the conversation lingered with Bubba. The more he thought about it, the more it haunted him.
    “Why not you?”
    He tried to shake it off. He was having some success until, while listening to a call-in talk show, he heard a teenager tell the talk show host, “no one cares about us.”
    That proved to be the statement that transformed Bubba’s potential energy into kinetic. From those conversations and that phone call, the organization known as “Team Leaders” was formed. Founded in 2007, the organization has worked hard to ensure the youth in our area know that they aren’t alone and that someone cares. Along with other Team Leaders members in Bobby Bradford, Earl Dudley, John Reed, Eddy Simms, Devon and Sharon Maness, La Gray and Denise Collins, Anthony and his colleagues try to keep their fingers on the pulse of the youth community. They try to take their resources of diversity, knowledge and experience and help the youth navigate through difficult times in their lives. As a result of that vision and mission, Flashback weekend has become the most successful fundraiser event for the organization.
    I wasn’t much of a science guy in school and don’t know much about quantum physics. About as close as I get to time-travel is when I put instant oatmeal in the microwave. Anthony, on the other hand, does know about quantum physics, and once a year, for one weekend, Team Leaders manage to transport us all back in time.
    Graduates from Litchfield, Gadsden, Emma Sansom and Etowah high schools come together for a basketball tournament. Although we aren’t as good as we once were, we are as good once. That’s part of the allure that brings everyone back year after year, as well as a chance to see Tim Brown, Jeff Smith, Van Smith, Reginald Huff, the Dudleys, Xavier Douthard, Charlie Parker, Donald Woley and other greats do it one more time.
    Three of our schools are gone, but our team pride and spirit lives on and is still strong. It is like “Field of Dreams,” only the sport is basketball – if you hold it, they will come.
    Come we did, including legendary Emma Sansom basketball players Gorge Baker and David Croft. The gym is filled to standing room only. The tailgating covers the entire parking lot. It is the only thing that belongs to us that cannot be taken, because it is our youth and our memories of our schools – East Side Pride, Tiger Pride and, of course, those Running Rebels.
    Through Flashback Weekend, you can travel to a time when athletes worked and fine-tuned their craft on the playground and at the boy’s clubs. This was during the days when basketball shorts indeed were short and tattoos weren’t part of our uniforms. Trash talking was part of the game, and lessons were taught one possession at a time. You can see legends of the past in their element.
    Imagine guys who haven’t played together since graduation, all on the court together again. It can be surreal at times. There are athletes who still have it all who display God-given talents that have not diminished after all these years. There are cheerleaders who can still fit into their uniforms.
    Then there are others such as myself who provide much-needed comic relief. To us, the court has gotten longer, the basketball goals are higher, and someone somewhere is holding oxygen hostage.
    I recall looking down the bench for a shooting guard one year, and I noticed Sam Hope in street clothes. I walked down to where he was sitting and asked, “Sam, what’s going on? We need you.”
    He replied, “It took me 30 minutes to put my socks on today.”
    I noticed his bare ankles. He followed my eyes and spoke up before I could reply.
    “It was easier to wear sandals,” he explained. Apparently, the game from the previous day was all he had left in the tank.
    Sam was not alone. There is probably more Icy Hot and Advil sold during Flashback Weekend then during the rest of the year. In Game 1 we are warriors. In Game 2, many of said warriors are walking around like a butterfly with sore feet.
    It is an awesome atmosphere. Although we are all former rivals, we are also friends. We come together in the spirit of competition but have fun as well. It is a treat to see athletes who are still winners after all these years. It is easy to see why we looked up to them.
    “Youth is wasted on the young,” it has been said. Flashback Weekend affords us the opportunity to reflect on and appreciate that saying. To many of us, high school varsity basketball was the greatest time of our lives as we watched that ball go through those nets and heard the roar from the crowd. Things may not have worked out like we all planned, but thank God we are blessed to still be here.
    So if you’d like to support our area youth and have some fun in the process, Flashback Weekend starts April 19 at 5 p.m. at the Gadsden City High gym. Gadsden High plays Emma Sansom for the first game, followed by Litchfield/Etowah.
    Tailgating starts bright and early the following morning, with the championship game being played later that day. This year during halftime, Gadsden High School basketball players will receive their championship rings 30 years after winning the 1983 state championship. We hope to see you there.

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