Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Hayden Tournament

The Hayden Tournament –

In addition to the regional recognition that playing varsity for Lexington shined, there was one other defining basketball trait the town held that any superstar that ever came out of the city of Boston would forever, fondly remember. The Hayden Tournament. The Hayden Tournament had brought together the best talent in Boston for decades.
My hoop dreams extended from the top of Hayden Hill on Lincoln Street, where I looked down and across old Worthen road and at night could see the faint light of what would one day be our home hoops gym. And inside of that conquest was Hayden. My sister practiced figure skating six hours a day at lower Hayden all the while cramming in school.

And every night I played basketball from 6-9PM. On weekends, 12:5PM, everyday, Magic and I our whole childhood @ Hayden. It was before AAU exploded + we rarely left our neighborhood

And one of the fixtures we’d marvel at time and again like others might pine over a prized piece of art inside a notable institution was this 1 MVP plague. And that was the Hayden Tournaments plague across from Grace Burn’s desk on the boy’s side commemorating past MVP’s of its annual basketball showcase.

And Hayden was our home, this tournament was like a big brother, the one that was 20 years older you loved and barely knew. He lived far away, you heard the stories, he was the brother that served in the war, he had a family of his own. You saw him once a year at best, but you loved him, you shared one thing in common, blood. And as dramatic as it might sound Hayden had become our blood. There were two old jokes Mike and I would forever hear, 1) Where’s your room?” Older kids loved to drop this 1 on us nightly, we generally kept the rank and file of our own age group in line. Bottom line was we didn’t like the joke. It A) gave people a chance to laugh at us, and B) the lack of material compounded daily on an annual basis drags on you. Forgot the 2nd.

But we did go to Hayden every-single day. Once we hit 11, and the 6th grade, we could go weeknights, a game changer. And part of this nightly ritual inevitably would contain on water breaks, (at the greatest water bubbler in even Alsakan history) we’d take note of this plaque. It was dark oak and its scratched indentures were green with gold lettering. And it was one of many treasures neatly organized over many years time, care and concentration to honor thiks facilty. And that plaque was a right of passage to the big time. If you wanted to be major, the road to the NBA out of Boston went through Hayden. And you had to be an MVP. Patrick Ewing, Rumeal Robinson, Dana Barros, Chris Herren, Mike Herren and dozens of big time college players. I remember when Cincinati Bound Curtis Bostic ripped the rim down. I was fucking shocked like I’d never been before in my life. It was the only time that ever happened at Hayden. And the man was built in high school for the WWF, shredded like Rike Rude.

The Hayden tournament brought us right up front to the stage of the entire city way before high school. Magic and I had worked it for years as little kids then teenagers. On my key chain today is a basketball charm from Hayden of a basketball court and on the back it says, “Thanks Carl.” Hayden 1989. (That’s Carl w / a C bee-atch!)

I remember the Tailismen the south shore boys. They included the Curley brothers, Tailsmen recruited in Duxbury and played annually at the Hayden T. Billy, the oldest of the 3, went to Boston College and made the Final 4! He also played like Ronnie Lee of Lexington pro for the Detriot Pistons. I hung out with Billy Curley up in Chestnut hill with my dear friend brian Ferris who starred on the Curry College team I played on, he was out of taunton and had pal'd around with Billy for years. I remember it was the night the Boston Pop's had comer to the Boston College Campus, John William,s in the house. And I loved those BC teams.

Bill Curley also was a Hayden tournament MVP. The road to the NBA in eastern Mass went through Hayden. The Tailsmen were typically regionally recruited, they had their own uniforms, and traveled all over to play in tournaments during the off season.
It was like a series of minor league pro teams, I was obsessed. Traveling teams back then were much, much more select. Anyway the Talismen’s coach, I think his name really was Jack, Jack something or other maybe O'Brian after all it's Boston. He wore horn rimmed glasses and with a child fondlers gut. I remember and he always seemed, quite frankly a little “weird.” I should know, I was often the ball or water boy and or time / scorekeeper. I even worked the horn one game after Des pushed it early in a prank on a hometown kid that released the ball fifty feet away, way ahead of the clock running out. It was a classic Hayden tournament story we’d often re call.

Anyway this coach was weird, and years later, you guessed it, Sanduskied (now a legit term). The man was charged with child molestation. And I only bring this up because my gang chomping at the bits to play for a showcase team by the time we hit 11, 12 played for a newer AAU (AAU as a term is like hedge fund so generic means nothing) team called the Lincoln Hawks. And all my boys in my class, the chosen ones, all of them played for this god forsaken franchise. And why not? They were bankrolled. Chuck Cheese all day. This like everything ever listed on GDD outside of my opinion is concrete.

Basically Lexington outside of the Hayden tournament was known as a hotbed for a handful of top players year in and year out. Back in 88 where the Minutemen had won 8 league and even a state title over a ten year period. The then varsity was nationally ranked and we had kids in our crew that were attracting a lot of attention already for their basketball prowess. Anyway one day there was a notice that an upstart AAU team was holding regional tryouts at the center courts in the heart of Lexington..

I remember because I got my picture in the paper. And this dating back to Wareham Mass was a common occurrence for both me and my sister. The paper was there making note of a hoops try out for a start up traveling team. I was shirtless leading the pack coming down the court, lefty, head up on the power dribble. And I wore that smirk on my face. The kind of smirk that said I’m anxious to kill and enjoy getting dirty. A cocky smirk that said I hate you, respect my game, you don’t want me covering you. A smirk that said this is 1 sharp looking kid you don’t want to piss off. This is a kid that even if you get him, he’ll come back on you, time and again. And then your family, even if he’s locked up, he’ll get out. And he’ll fuck with my friends, siblings, aunts, uncles and parents. In short the kind of smirk that says, I hate playing this guy. That was my smirk on a sunny day with my six pack, in the paper, basket of blonde hair on full display. And I got it, the swagger from Lexington High basketball , I mimicked it from my hero, the great Sean Matthews. There was allot I mimicked about Sean Matthews. Sean, in 1988 was the starting 2 guard in Lexington being recruited D1 all over the country. The point guard, Magic’s idol, Lloyd Mumford, a Sophomore in 88, went on to play for former Lexington High coach Rollie Massimino at Villanova, you can’t make this shit up. The back court was coined the M & M boys, fans held up wrappers in homage and USA today recognized them as one of the top five best back courts in the country. And the team was nasty. And we were blessed.
They fueled our hoop dreams, I was a Sean guy Magic was a Lloyd guy. Sean was gritty, blue collar, tough. Lloyd dunked for the cameras, was a showman and flashed that all American million dollar smile. If Sean fell he got up, if Lloyd got knocked down even his getting off the floor was a highlight. Lloyd never took a hand rfom a teammate to regain his fiooting. Rather he's pull from many of his Footloose like aerial moves to spring back to his feet. The crowrd loved everything he did, and Sean, they complimented each other perfectly.


If Sean wore the terry cloth Kangol Lloyd def rocked the furry joint. And that’s what it was. We knew 1 thing at 11, they both got tons of ass. And their games had set them up in a way we adorned to be.

And that was my smirk, and during the course of the two day try out’s for the Lincoln Hawks, my imaginary kongol was on sideways and terry cloth. Game gave you that option to were your lid any direction you liked. Anyway, John Gondolfo was the coach / owner’s name of this Lincoln Hawks circus. And he wanted in on unsupervised, unregulated “AAU” boys basketball. They announced the winners, Mike and I declined, but every other player in our grade of note walked. 70% of the team was Lexington. And the only reason I didn’t do it, and convinced Mike who Lloyd nicknamed Magic, (because the 80’s were and Mike was nice with the rock as a short on hoop court), was the Hayden tournament. We’d always said in the 5th grade in Mr. Popp’s class (see 5th grade camping trip vid below) when we were older that no matter what offers were out there we’d stay and play for the home team which had never won it’s own Tournament. We intended to correct what was a tall order.

We'd come close, the last Lexiongton team to lose in the finals lost in large part because the famous lloyd Mumford didn't show. That night the blow job, a theme that would come back to haunt him at Villanova got in the way. I remember Tony Davis smashing the pay phone outside of the gym in anger after catching lloyd on the phone and knowing he was out for real, real. Just minutes before tap, I was crushed, but not as bad as the phone. Tony Davis you see had his own commercial in high school, was a bruisging half back that eventually went D1 , and played football at Eastern Carolina.

We had to make Hayden. It was on the list. And being a legend to us was making a list early. And us, staying home our best 12 all from the class of 94, winning Hayden would be legendary. It’s what everyone and every player at that tournament, every April, wanted to be, a legend or nothing. And since I had my own “room” at Hayden this treachery of truth was best left abandoned. We talked about this often. We wore strength shoes to junior high for Christ Sakes. I slept in ankle weights. We were going to win the Hayden tournament finally, for Hayden. And we’d been to camps, we knew oyr games were tight. We grew up in this culture, and I believed, Magic believed.

But when the Lincoln Hawks started doling out offers to pre pubescent boys everybody else jetted. And soon they were fitted with brand new sneakers, warm up’s, home and away uniforms to grace their 60 game season, fuck! It sucked a dry heave because back then all’s I wanted to do was travel and play against the best from all over. And that wasn’t happening in Lexington although due to the Hoosier like atmosphere and success legend ratio of the basketball program, the town managed to manufacture fans that were all pretty good players too. Just not good enough for varsity, hey even the back up’s were starters at almost any other high school around right down to the 12th man, a coveted honor. And it’s the way it had always been. It was like the coaches ala mater Durfee of Fall River Dreams, it was better to play for Lexington and never see the floor than to start on any other team. And that was respect, but in this case this was free-sneakers and expensive uniforms.

And as the Lincoln Hawks became regional celebrities Lloyd’s younger brother and 8th grade, soon to be high school legend Rashad even jumped into the gig. It was for the clothes and probably fun to drop 60 on some idiots in a farmland community with a crowd and paid officials. Soon they were taking limo’s to games! True story, ice cream Sunday’s every Tuesday and Thursday and look, more new sneakers. Hey look, we have even newer uniforms again. This fueled my hate for all of them but especially the team itself and most poignantly the coach and mastermind, John Gondolfo. He’d remember me to this day, I never played for him and I think he’s in jail. He hated me and my own friends would tell me how invigorated he’d get when he’d instruct them to hurt me when in game conditions. Sweep the leg, and that was great because I hated him.

He looked at me as prohibiting his task to obatin the right's to my best friend Magic. The only non criminal to stay with me at Hayden, rrepresent. And finally one Feb day in Junior High Magic and I scraped together a team of outcasts and through our coach and gym director Jeff Barry issued a formal challenge to the coach and his mighty bank rolled Lincoln Hawks. It was a matinee, Saturday contest and it was to be home at Hayden. They accepted. The paper was there again and it truly was the rebellion vs. the empire.

The bleachers were pulled out, the electronic score board turned on. Real ref’s and packed local audience came to see exactly why we held out. Jeff was the coach, Bart our childhood hero who was a football rather than a hoops guy was our assistant. Bart played D1 Boston College, went for free, the other ten guys we pulled together that day were straight out of Buckman tavern, Minutemen. It was rag tag but everything, the against all odd’s, (they had all stars from neighboring towns and cities including the now GM for Oklahoma City NBA) the recruiting, financaing and sell outs as I called them and above all else, that fucking asshole coach I saw and hated me because of it had finally arrived.

And the game was played. There was a fight, we stayed close, it went to OT. I fouled out, everyone did, an OT we were down to 3 against 5, our roster had run out with fouls and ejections. And we lost at the buzzer. Magic got his picture in the paper guarding our good friend Goldy who was six inches taller than him even though they’d eventually be the same height.) And they celebrated like the civil war had been won. If they lost that 1 they’d never heard the end of it. I relished the underdog, but more than that, I wanted that win. It still kills me and their in lies the craziness, the competitiveness and to some the sickness of sports.
But years later John Gondolfi who in reality lived on the Burlington / Woburn line on the highway across from the movie theatre in a small condo right on route 128 was weird. And he was on the NBC nightly news one evening years later charged with, you guessed it, this child molestation shit.

The first thing I thought of was jack what’s his name from the Talismen, and then I thought about my boys.

I remember magic and I one summer, after he refused the invitation to play for the Lincoln Hawks spotted him at an away night game of ours while playing traveling summer baseball. The sole face in an empty bleacher set, top row, far left, at Burlington under the lights, clear as day, we both instantly recognized this as insane. A week later walking home from the center courts and Hayden his car was parked outside of his house. And he’d do it often until his mother demanded he drive away. Wow, and these guys claim nothing of that nature ever occurred with them but Jesus Christ. Youth Groups, churches and charitites beware, feeding ground for predators. And next to Neverland, Jerry Sandusky had the 2nd most powerful platform to exercise this twisted doctrine of where you spend your mental time. And sports, and kids, it’s so bad, young boys, don’t know enough, prob not dating yet just have hero’s that play sports. They play sports. it breaks my heart.

The Hayden tournament breaks me so many ways, it wasn’t supposed to go that route, tonight’s blog. I was going to write more about the Hayden tournament! I guess a chapter II, tomorrow. But that Hayden tournament, dam when we finally got there, memories of it’s past, and the origins of how it came to life. Magic and I painted the 3 point stripe in 88 when it was first introduced into college and the high school game. We were so excited to shoot three's. And Hayden allowed us to paint the striped ager they'd been etched in the poly arthine. That was a big deal, the three point line was closer than the pro and before that time had never ever been part of the college and or high school game. We were so fucking pumped.

I love you Hayden Tournament, thanks for the memories, and that Hayden team, the rebels, Mike, Stevey Lee, B-Dawg, Mr. Driscoll, and all the rest, Hayden rec. center, that’s me. Fuck you John Gondolfi, I saw you across the street, day 1 sicko. It ain't me.

PS: I signed the boycott Kardashian petition today, sig # 101,979 reporting for duty, sir!

PPS: Here's a picture of my boys, and to me at the time sell out's playing in their hundred dollar uniforms, in 1988! For the child mmolester - The Lincoln Hawk's, I had strong virtues way back then which ironic because I always seemed to be in so much trouble.

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