Thursday, February 16, 2012

Reconnecting with a High School Buddy: A Lesson in Good Sportsmanship

Several years ago, over the Christmas holidays, I was talking with my brother, Paul (Gordon Tech High School class of 1983, whereas I was in the class of 1981), about something that happened during frosh year. While sitting one day in an Internet cafe, I had heard a song on the radio from that year and had been startled. I remember, saying to myself, “Holy shit, no way was that song from 30 years ago!” But it had been. Amazing. It’s weird–I can remember lots of details about high school but if you ask me what I had for lunch today, I’ll have to think about it.

Over the last few years, I’ve been reconnecting with a lot of my friends and classmates from the old GT Ram days. About two years ago, while surfing through the list of names of guys who had graduated in 1981 like I had, I remembered one of their names. The fellow’s name is Dean. Feeling kind of social and outgoing, I reached out and “friended” him. At first, he didn’t seem to remember me, which was no surprise. After all, we had a huge class–about 550 of us, I think–so I wouldn’t have been surprised if he hadn’t remembered me much, if at all. Further, Dean and I had not really been good friends at the time. He had seemed likable enough, and he and I had some classes together, but we didn’t know each other very well; we were more just classmates rather than friends.

There was one particular and important time that I do remember about Dean, when we were outside of classes. After I recounted the story to Dean, he started to remember me more than just as a “name that was kind of familiar.” It was in intramural boxing. At our then-all-boys high school, boxing was regularly our most popular intramural sport. Dean and I both had bouts on one day, against different opponents. It has been more than 30 years since that day, so I don’t remember now if Dean’s match was before or after mine, but he and I talked before my match and Dean was friendly and very encouraging. When the other kid and I were called up, Dean enthusiastically said something like “Go get him, Steve!”

After the bout–I won, but just barely!–Dean and I talked a little. He slapped me on the back and was going on and on about how well I had done. (For the record, I was exhausted at that point, so I’m glad he’d had enough enthusiasm for both of us! I was so tired that as Coach Clarence “Bronco” Telkes, who had refereed the match, raised my hand for the decision, I felt like I was going to collapse from fatigue; my opponent had done really well and I was kind of surprised that I had won.)

I’m smiling as I write this, but it was awesome that Dean seemed even more excited about my win than I was. Maybe that was because I had a headache! I thought, “Dean is a good guy. He seems really psyched and happy for me about my win and he doesn’t really even know me much.” (It’s also more than a little embarrassing that I don’t remember how Dean’s bout went, although I was cheering for him.)

This is a small memory, but a happy one. It’s great to reconnect with my high school friends. Communication seems a bit easier now. It’s great to find out what everyone’s been up to and to share my own stories with them. Dean now has a family, and he’s a CPA and successful businessman. I’m thrilled for him, just as he had been for me that afternoon in our gym, about 3 decades earlier.