As I was gathering up past biographies,
I decided to include the bio from my old high school basketball
program. Then, in a fit of nostalgia I scanned the cover too and
wrote up this page.
High School Varsity Basketball, 1989
It Could Have Been A Brilliant Career
never thought of myself as a bad player, but I didn't make Varsity
until my senior year, and sometimes I think that was out of charity
or because everyone seemed to like me. At any rate, I was good to
beat up on in practice, and if our starting center's success could
be attributed to something other than his skill and size, it might
have been shoving me around in practice every day.
I rode the bench for most of the year, usually the
last person to go into the game. In retrospect, it was a wonderful
lesson in humility, and how to be part of a team in a supporting
role. At the time, I was embarrassed and thought it stunk.
At our season-end dinner, Coach Keith said something
about me that I still mostly remember, "Joe didn't play in
games too much this year, but I've seen guys like him before and
I promise you that in 5 years he'll be dominating pickup games on
a playground somewhere."
He was sort of right. I was already beginning to
enjoy pickup games on courts at Heritage
Park and Orchard
Park near my parents home in Irvine.
There were a lot of quality players from all over the country because
we lived between the Tustin and El Toro Marine Corps Air Stations.
The games were full court, and extremely competitive. Winning meant
you stayed on the court, loser had to wait for another game. I was
there every night and becoming a player who could win games. I played
on these courts for several years until I went to live closer to
school in Pasadena.
Art Center, there was one neglected hoop at the far end of the parking
lot, it was several inches higher than it should have been, but
I remember dunking on it a few times. There weren't many pickup
games since the schedules were grueling and there was a lot of homework.
Somehow I did connect with a few people and we started a team of
Art Center students. We entered some sort of adult league near the
school and played one season. We had numbers ironed onto Art Center
tank tops off-center to the left, cause, you know, we were artistic.
I only remember a few people's faces, one guy named Eric and no
one's last name. To put this in a historical context, driving to
a game once, I remember listening to Alive which I taped
from Pearl Jam's first album (that CD was sold back a long time
ago). This was also the first time I ever remember my then-girlfriend
Michelle, now my wife, getting to watch me play in a game.
I played a little bit after moving to New York City, even venturing
onto the courts at West 4th St a few times. But work has kept me
pretty busy and I haven't had much chance to play recently. Also
I had a reasonably severe ankle injury at Tompkin's Square Park
a few years ago, and since my feet are currently my primary method
of transportation, I'm a lot more cautious now.
When I was 17 I wanted to be able to dunk a basketball when I
was 30. That was it, no other aspirations at all. I can still dunk,
it just hurts more now.
Every once in a while, basketball is the subject of my anxiety
dreams. Either I can't jump, or I try to throw the ball and I'm
too weak. Those dreams always take place in the Irvine High School
gym. For some reason this is always disconcerting enough that I
wake up in a cold sweat. Thankfully, it's been a few years since
I've had any of those nightmares.
Duct tape patch on the boat
It was a Saturday morning, earlier than anyone cared to be up,
and we had to be at school. Someone decided that we should take
our basketball program photo on the Stars & Stripes, the boat
that won the America's Cup back from Australia or something like
that. The boat was moored in San Diego, a two hour drive south.
We had to bring our uniforms and warm-up sweats and it was Saturday,
and no one wanted to be up this early. And the driver-organizer
was more than an hour late getting to the school. So we were all
a bit upset and complaining.
In the van down to San Diego, Tom, Greg and I were complaining
and scheming the whole time. We decided that we would "give
the finger" to the camera in the first few photos as our insightful
form of protest.
We did it and forgot about it. Once the programs were printed,
we were all shocked to see they used one of the first photos taken,
and the offensively arranged fingers were clearly visible. We laughed,
and thought we'd really pulled one over on someone.
The great controversy
A week later Tom and I were called into the team room before practice.
The coach let us sit in there for what seemed like a very long time.
Finally he walked in, looking unhappy... and holding a program.
Said program was thrown at us, Coach was turning dark red, biting
his lip, pacing very quickly, stammering and breathing erratically.
It seems another teacher noticed and was having a good laugh at
Coach Keith's expense in the teacher's lounge.
We were suspended from the team for a week while he decided whether
or not to let us come back at all.
I suppose that Tom and I are definately more articulated in our
gesturing, but that single finger sticking out from behind Todd's
head is quite suspicious and not a normal means of holding a basketball.
Greg was never mentioned, not by the coach or me or Tom. I'm convinced
Greg participated, I remember Tom sharing that sentiment. But I
guess only Greg knows for sure.
Word spread through the school like a wildfire, and Tom and I
became known as the "Finger Brothers".
We were back on the team in a week, but we had to do extra running
after practice for a month.
Looking back, it's kind of funny. We were dumb kids, pulling a
dumb stunt and no one was paying enough attention to catch it. I
felt bad at the time, I still do considering how upset it made my
parents and the coach.
There is some definite irony about my current involvement with
digital imaging. In 1988, retouching meant printing the photo, hiring
an airbrush artist to paint over the fingers then re-photographing
the corrected print. Now the photo would be digital and just about
anyone could correct our fingers with Photoshop in about 4 clicks.
That still assumes anyone would have noticed.
So am I sorry? Would I do it again? I'm glad to have the story,
but of course I wouldn't do it again if I knew what I know now.
I'm older and wiser and understand that my actions have consequences
beyond myself and beyond this moment. But these kinds of experiences
are exactly the things that knowledge builds upon. If I had somehow
avoided every mistake and accident in my live, would I have any
understanding of the world at all?
Where are they now?
Every once in a while I'll throw some old names into a search engine
and see what comes up. I haven't spoken to anyone from the team
besides Todd in at least ten years.
Here's what I found out:
Allred - Possibly a lecturer in Civil and Environmental
Engineering at UC Irvine. Might have attended Eastern
Arizona College. (graduation year is plausible, though having
been a director of the Alumni Association doesn't seem to match
up with how I remember him)
Greg Bains - Nothing found.
- Apparently, Tom still lives in or near Orange County, and now
races BMX, which I remember him doing back before and during High
School. He may have also participated in an IASCA
- I'm pretty sure Steve now teaches technology and coaches basketball
and tennis at Tustin High School. Steve lives in San Clemente, is
married and he and his wife had a daughter in 1992 or 1993.
Dave Littler - Nothing found.
Mike Littler - Nothing plausible found.
John Molle - The only mention I could find was that John
played for the University of Hawaii Basketball team, and was mentioned
as one of the "bad boys" for getting suspended
in 1995, there was no mention of what he was suspended for.
John Molle died of a gunshot wound April 1, 2005.
Raphael Molle - Nothing found.
Todd Trout - Todd
is the founding guitarist for the band Gameface.
I bumped into Todd one Sunday in 1998. Gameface was playing at Brownies
on 11th St. and Avenue A, a few blocks up from my apartment. We
talked a little, he said he was getting married soon, had been touring
with the band all over the US and parts of Europe. Todd still lives
in LA and works with children when he isn't playing.
Coach Steve Keith - Apparently Coach Keith resigned as head
coach of Irvine High's Basketball program in April of 1999. This
page says he will continue teaching and might have continued
with a minor role in the Basketball program.
I learned quite a lot from Coach Keith and my experiences in the
Irvine High basketball program. Coach Keith stressed sportsmanship,
dignity, confidence and self-respect; to him these were as much
a part of the game as jump shots and defense. I wish him all the
July, 2000 (revised January, 2001, April 2005)