On September 24, 2016, eight days before the Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon, I woke up at my husband’s cabin to rain… lots of rain. Perfect for my FINAL long run (10 miles).
My phone said “Reminder: Dad’s Hall of Fame Banquet.” As if I needed a reminder. I’ve been thinking about this day for nearly a year.
I tied a long-sleeved shirt over my head like a babushka (forgot my raincoat) and set out for the run, one of the strangest ever.
Not because of the rain—once you’re soaked through, you don’t really notice it anymore—but because of my mental state.
As I ran, I replayed telling my Dad that he’d been nominated for the WBCA HOF nearly a year ago and his humble, addled reaction of disbelief. Did he really know what I was saying at that point? I’m not sure. But he spent the remainder of his life talking about championship teams and awards, so I think it sunk in on some level.
Suddenly I found myself, startled, at mile 9.
It was nearly 10 a.m. I had started running at 8:30 a.m. Ten miles had passed in the blink of an eye. My skin crawled a little. Although I’m an avid runner, I don’t think I can ever say that any runs “pass in the blink of an eye.” More like, they take all damn day.
Maybe I can attribute that to the miracles of the taper, or maybe it was something else. I don’t know.
Just then one of the cabin’s elderly caretakers rolled by in a covered golf cart, and hollered, “what possesses someone to run in the pouring rain!!?”
I laughed and shrugged. GOD ONLY KNOWS. You only know the half of it, mister.
As soon as I was done running, my husband and I got ready for the Open House at the JustAGame Facility (where the HOF is located) in the Dells, a 45-min drive from his cabin.
To be honest, I was worried this may be lame; what if the HOF was just some plaques in a broom closet? Like some shitty painting over a coffee shop table that’s been advertised as an “art gallery.”
I was wrong; it’s really cool.
We arrived at the gym in the downtown Dells, where I assume they hold tournaments. The HOF is in the hallways. What a great idea! Between games the players (and their bored parents) can reflect on the basketball greats that have come before them. This is truly the perfect way to impart history vs. some museum facility most people wouldn’t visit.
I was giddy as I walked past the oversized posters of the past Mr. and Miss Basketball… Sam Dekker! Devin Harris! Sam Okey! Keaton Nankivil! The Polar Bear!!! (Brian Butch). Katie Voigt! Sonja Henning! Heidi Bunek! Luke Fischer. Tony Bennett??!!! And so many more. I knew my Dad had worked with many of the females at basketball camp.
This was the company he was now in?
DAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAD!!! You have to be kidding me! It’s so awesome!
The displays are well designed and colorful; it’s clearly done by a professional and with care. Nothing is peeling or sagging or decrepit. I picked out my Dad’s state championship on one poster, and spent some time reading about the basketball dynasty in Germantown (whose games I used to love to attend). I could have spent all day there, just basking in the names and faces that were so important to my Dad. It was like remembering a life I had forgotten I lived. Basketball world. I couldn’t play for a crap, but I was immersed in the sport half my life. I sort of forgot about that.
Among the other inductees in this year’s HOF class was a coach my Dad had known for many years, my Dad’s business partner and former best friend (RIP), and two lady Badgers from my era (1997ish). I knew them from my brief stint as the team manager, and from basketball camp, although they certainly wouldn’t remember me.
We spent a long time there, and then went over to the Wilderness Hotel for the awards banquet, where we connected with dear family friends, coaches from my Dad’s era, and coaches he had mentored.
As they recounted coaching feuds, I nearly clapped with glee. Just like Dad. There’s nothing like a good coaching feud! How I miss him hating people for no good reason. Truly. I will carry that torch for him.
All in all, I haven’t yet come down from the joy of this experience. I think of my Dad’s name, now stamped on the Press Box at Concordia, the Athletics Wall of Fame at WBHS, and finally, in the WBCA Hall of Fame, and I want to jump up and down and clap like a maniac.
Dad! Hooray!!! You freaking nailed it.
It was a fitting way to spend the final weekend before the marathon I will run in his honor in just a few days—immersed in his past, and preserving his legacy for the future.