The Call: A New Chapter...
This blog is the start of a new chapter in my Philadelphia 76ers career… Next season will be my 20th as the radio voice of the team, and now I will be adding writer to my resume. It's all coming together. In college, I was a Broadcast Journalism major. I've always fashioned myself a writer, but I think to be a writer you actually have to put down words about something on a regular basis.
Although I've kept journals over the years, particularly from the road, often times an entry ended when my food arrived. Writing as an exercise is most difficult. The great sportswriter Red Smith put it best, "It's not that hard, you just open a vein and let it pour out." Sounds painful.
Basketball is one of my passions, so writing about the team will be fun. The Draft Lottery, the NBA Draft, Summer League… All are pivotal events for the Sixers and some of the many topics that will be covered here.
I thought I'd tip things off with a nod to the "love of the game" clause that Michael Jordan had put into one of his early contracts. He insisted in an early deal that he could play basketball whenever and wherever he wanted to. He loved the game that much.
It came to mind thanks to a unique find at our recent town-wide yard sale. You never know what you will discover, right? Across the street, a neighbor was selling old baseball cards and other sports memorabilia. For a mere $5, I purchased a milk crate full of 45-year-old Sports Illustrated magazines, years 1970 through 1972. It's sports history in a box for me. This would be just a year or two earlier than I started subscribing to the magazine. My wife said, "Tom finally had a good Treasure Day, he bought some old sports magazines." There are so many basketball articles that stoked a fire in me that's never wavered about how much I love following and playing the game. I must admit though, I can't play like I used to but I still give it a shot, thanks to our son and daughter.
All the joy and fun basketball has given me is something I'm now sharing with them. Earlier this year, Coach Brown brought his father, a legendary Hall of Fame coach in New England, and his son to one of our home games. We made sure they got a photo taken at center court atop the Sixers logo. Three generations of a basketball family.
Former Sixers' greats Doug Collins and Steve Mix used to tell me they were the head of a basketball family. Our son, an all-around sports fan, is bitten by the basketball bug, hook, line, and sinker. I enjoy sharing my love of the game with him, we are building memories too.
We play a lot of backyard basketball. On a recent Sunday afternoon, after we had already finished a number of games, I was watching the NBA playoffs and our son was hustling me off the couch, "Come on Dad, let's go!" Soon, he was running out the door, saying, "I'm Oklahoma City!' (Of course, the Thunder had the lead in that game at the time)
I wrestle with the whole concept of whether our son should win or not when we play. My big thing is, "Play fair and have fun." The second poor sportsmanship shows up, it's game over. We laugh and enjoy our time together. The backyard shooting games make for a good place to marry the hoops and the announcing. Like we've all done a million times, "Tie score, two seconds to go, he puts it up..."
On a few occasions over recent years, our son or daughter have come to games with me and sat alongside me at my broadcast spot. Pretty neat to be able to high five them during the great moments of the big games. Our son got his picture taken postgame outside the Bulls locker room with Joakim Noah. His smile was so big, you'd have thought he won the lottery. Meanwhile, I tried to patch up Noah's perception of the Philadelphia fanbase.
One game this past season, our son came with a bunch of older boys for a birthday party. I was walking across the floor and saw him leaning over the railing that leads to the Sixers' dressing room. I gave him a "What's up?" look and he yells back, "We're getting MCW's autograph!" I had to laugh.
Being a fan of basketball is great in and of itself. But, I would say to young players who still have their careers ahead of them that the best thing about the game is being part of a team. A team plays together, shares the ball, helps out on defense, sets screens for one another, and goes through battles together. That's the best feeling, winning together after a shared sacrifice. It's rare, especially today, with all the distractions. But, if you can find that with a group, you'll have memories that will last a lifetime.
The slogan from years ago in the NBA, "I love this game," still applies. I would add that I've always felt so lucky to be a part of this league and this franchise. To be able to do something I've loved all my life is what puts the enthusiasm in my voice on the radio.
Great days are ahead for the Sixers, the fans, and the city of Philadelphia, and I'll be chronicling some of that journey right here in my little corner of the basketball world. As I say on the radio, "Thanks for listening..."