Time Out: January 29, 2014
Dennis Hooper won an Oscar nomination playing the role of Shooter Flatch, one of my favorite movie characters in the classic sports film “Hoosiers.” Flatch, a local sports hero at Hickory High School missed a potential game-winning shot in the basketball crazed state of Indiana’s high school championship game years ago, and is locked in a time warp tormented by his failure and living life in the past.
When Hickory Coach Norman Dale, played brilliantly by Gene Hackman, returns the tiny school to basketball glory and has Hickory positioned once again for a make-or-break chance to bring home the state title, he calls on Flatch’s son, Everett, to take the final shot. Understanding the enormity of what Coach Dale is asking the young Flatch to do, Everett’s teammates intervene and it is Jimmy Chitwood who launches the game-winning shot.
“Hoosiers” and Shooter Flatch are products of Hollywood, but nonetheless symbolize the pressure that comes with taking a last-second shot with the game on the line on the hardwoods. That pressure many times might come once or twice in a high school basketball career, but in a rare local hoops oddity, Margaretville’s point guard Cooper Reither has found himself with the ball his hands, the clock winding down, and the game on the line in three consecutive games.
Making it work
The pressure that comes with a game-winning basketball shot is something that comes within yourself. With the ball in your hands and a game’s outcome hanging in the balance, it takes strong emotional balance to accept the consequences that come with launching that final shot. It takes courage and a willingness to accept the risk of failure.
World-class buzzer basketball buzzer beaters like Reggie Evans, Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan view that game deciding moment more as basketball’s biggest challenge than as pressure. They want the ball in their hands with the game on the line, much more willing to accept the possibility of failing than to pass up the opportunity that comes with having the ball in their hands.
I was struck with a comment Mariah Ruff made to a reporter from the Daily Star after her Oneonta soccer team had won the New York State Class B championship this fall. The Yellow Jackets secured the title with less than a minute to play when a routine shot, dribbled at the goal took an errant bounce and somehow got past the goalie and into the nets. Ruff had missed a game ending layup that could have tied the score in the State basketball semifinal last winter and understood the feelings flooding the opposing goalie at that moment. She wished she could talk with the opposing tender to help her mitigate the emotions she was feeling.
Against the odds
The almost schizophrenic Margaretville boys’ basketball season this winter has provided the stage where Reither has found the ball in his hands for a game-deciding attempt three games in a row. The gutsy Reither knocked down a game-winning three-point goal against Stamford, was denied in a last-gasp attempt in Hunter, then converted a buzzer beating runner in Roxbury, all in the span of one week of basketball, a series of hardwood game enders not likely to repeat itself for a long, long time.
Reither’s exploits teach us you never make the shots you don’t take, especially when the game is on the line. It’s not the consequences of missing a big shot, but the confidence of making the game-winner that provides the courage the launch the ball in the air. Make or miss, the sun will come up tomorrow, or in the case to the Catskills, the snow will fly tomorrow, all one and the same.
— John Bernhardt