Chip Davenport
Chip Davenport
My first basketball beat was nearly 40 years ago during my senior year covering the Cloverleaf Colts’ 1981-82 basketball season for the now-defunct Lodi Advertiser, a weekly rag for resale each Wednesday. I was unexpectedly thrust into a closed-circuit broadcasting role during home games because the demand for tickets in a 1,700-seat gym quickly ran out due to the team’s greatly anticipated success.

Quick background. Ohio high school gyms, with one or two exceptions per county, were usually built to suit its student body enrollment, a pep band, and the likely attendance of parents who would come to watch their spawn play basketball. The flagship facility for seating big numbers (think 5,000 to 18,000 seats) on a mid-size-to-large Ohio high school campus was usually the football stadium.

The success of the ’81-’82 Colts created a classic supply-demand problem. People were willing to pay one dollar to get a ticket among tight seating in the cafeteria adjacent to our cracker-box gym to watch the game on hastily assembled closed circuit TVs in the cafeteria’s perimeter.

I vividly remember my alma mater’s athletic director and the head basketball coach calling me to the office telling me they had a solution to their attendance problem in gym rarely faced with this issue in years past.

Some of what they said to me sounded like the sounds Charlie Brown’s parents make in cartoon specials, but I vividly remember a few of those sentences.

Mr. Ron Mack and Coach Rick Hewitt said to me, in what felt like a tag-team, one-way discussion, “Chip, this is big for us. This might be big for you. All that time you used to monkey around as a junior high kid calling play-by-play while your buddies and anyone else walking through the gym were trying to tune you out in (basketball) practice paid off. You’re the first guy we thought of for the job.”

Each home game I immediately had play-by-play and print journalist plates spinning in the air. I loved it!

Ten years ago, when I began attending high school basketball games again on a regular basis, if you told me I’d be doing it again during a pandemic I would have wagered eating my hat.

Well, I’m doing it again for Warsaw boys’ basketball home games this season: spinning 2 ½ plates in the air this time with live stream video, radio play-by-play, and print journalism. The girls’ games are a bit easier. I “only” broadcast on live stream video and play-by-play.

Since I’ve already admitted two weeks ago, to the readership, I picked my nose while operating my vehicle, it’s easier to let my hair down in this context. This seemed so easier the first time I did it nearly 40 years ago.

First, I thought maybe it’s harder now because I have considerably improved my self-awareness and constructive self-evaluation techniques. Then I thought it was harder because I am older and walking into my avocation in the evening after a full day in my vocation.

Nyaaaaahhh!

I realized I was better prepared with more immediate reps under my belt decades ago than I was for what I’m doing this year. I watched these guys at Cloverleaf play almost every game from grades seven through eleven prior to that memorable season.

There were five senior starters ranging from 6’0” to 6” 2 ½” who could shoot outside, muscle inside, make crisp passes, and among all five of them always seemed to know where each other would be for the perfect feed, or for defensive help. I watched them enough to know when, how and why they were going to make their next move.

They were boyhood friends as well, some a little more casual than others. Interviewing them was a piece of cake in my print journalism role. It felt more like a conversation that turned into quotable and confidential information the guys knew I could sort out before my article wen to the presses.

I look back and realized my job was easy because of something Dr. Malcolm Gladwell refers to as 10,000 reps. I was around them through most of each calendar year including summers at various outdoor asphalt courts between 1976 and 1981, the beginning of that memorable 20-2 season.

The best recall of my insight into that squad was a Saturday in mid-February 1982.

It was the evening of their lone regular season loss on the road with some time to kill in pregame sans my ordinary home game play-by-play prep time. I recall speaking to them casually and each of them uncharacteristically (these guys were not complainers) said to me in their own words they were physically sore. They shared some bruises from under their oxford shirts. They had just won a 92-77 Senior Night ballgame the night before against an opponent boasting a future NFL punter/quarterback and two more post players with D1 basketball chops who made sure the boys “felt” the thrill of victory for at least another 24 hours after the final buzzer. I was probably, among people not on the floor, the least shocked about that game’s outcome. The stands were full of tearful Colts fans, but it totally made sense to me. That night’s opponent had hit 16 consecutive free throws in their previous night’s game, and they kept the streak going for at least 14 more freebies on this memorable evening. Those who didn’t know what I knew that night didn’t see it coming.



Your typical starting five of some of a school’s finest basketball squads usually has at least one or two tragic post-graduation stories; not these guys!



They were a special group of guys to cover. The five are now comprised of a Bank of America Chairman, a software storage company founder, an esteemed educator, a retired marketing exec who served over 30 years at a world class insurance conglomerate, and an exec for companies like Hewlett Packard and a top flite linen company with an MBA from the University of Chicago.



I’ll tear down camp from the site of Memory Lane, now. I’m looking forward to more games where I can cultivate relationships with Coach Matt Moore, some players and other Tiger basketball insiders so the games will feel much easier to cover than they currently are for me. Rest assured, folks, I still enjoy my multi-media avocation immensely!