2000-08-19 / Sports

SFDS Summer Classics

By John Ronayne

Our society has long engaged in hero worship. Since the dawn of
time, mere mortals have been celebrated for a variety of accomplishments.

Before the 1950s and the advent of "pop culture", celebrity status was
reserved solely for politicians, captains of industry, and pioneers of
science. However, when television sets became living room fixtures during the Eisenhower Era, the cult of celebrity grew far more encompassing. Suddenly, television actors, musicians, and sports figures became ingrained in the national consciousness and enjoyed the adoration of millions. In the last half-century, our obsession with celebrity has reached absurd proportions.

Intense media saturation continues to feed our seemingly insatiable appetite for insights into the worlds of the rich and famous. Sports figures have reaped considerable benefits from our wide-eyed fascination with their exploits. Twenty-four hour sports networks, sports-talk radio stations, and a glut of magazines all combine to overanalyze the games, lionize their participants, and fuel the nation's preoccupation with sports. No longer are athletes regarded merely as physically superior individuals who play games for a living. They are (perhaps unfairly) anointed mythic figures, infallible heroes, and unwitting role models. Over the years, the Rockaway peninsula has produced a healthy sampling of acrobatic surfers, amphibious swimmers, and champion drinkers. However, local basketball players have generally created the loftiest expectations, generated the most heated debates, and basked in the glow of seaside popularity.

In the 1950s, the fabled Maguire Brothers were synonymous with beachfront basketball. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Brian Winters starred at Archbishop Molloy and ultimately enjoyed a productive career as a NBA sharpshooter. As disco balls glistened over the late 1970s, Nancy Lieberman drew national attention as the most prolific female player in the country and Billy Ryan parlayed his high school heroics into an Ivy League education at Princeton. During the Reagan years, Frank Walker emerged as the peninsula's preeminent hoopster. After a storied career at Christ the King, Walker went on to star at Hofstra University and achieved a cult status not seen before or since. In fact, a decade removed from his last game as a Flying Dutchman, Walker still boasts a fiercely loyal entourage that would
make Puff Daddy green with envy.

The hoop enthusiasts of Rockaway have practically tripped over themselves to fabricate the next "sensation." Nowadays, Ryan McCormick of Adelphi University seems to be the current flavor. Named Conference Player of the Year as a junior, McCormick has thrilled summer league crowds with his remarkable talent.

Unfortunately, the landscape is littered with a slew of "near-misses" who exhibited early promise and ultimately flamed out--either victims of injury or the undeniable lure of our peninsula's hedonistic lifestyle. For some reason or other, local female hoopsters have had more success in fulfilling the promise of their formative years. After Lieberman, St. Rose of Lima product Jill Cook ruled the female hoops scene throughout the 1980s. She ultimately wore the Hoya Blue at Georgetown and has returned to Christ the King as an assistant coach. In the early 1990s, the comely face of girls basketball belonged to Grace Kelly, a starter and major contributor for St. John's University. The late 1990s has witnessed the
emergence of the Tubridy Dynasty, Claire Droesch, and flamboyant Boston College-bound Bishop Kearny product Janelle McManus.

With the exception of Walker and Kelly, I have not formally met any of the aforementioned individuals. However, an entire peninsula has reveled in their accomplishments, and they have been woven into
the fabric of the local consciousness. That fact alone should speak volumes
about our excitement over young basketball talent and the fabrication of celebrity…


Jameson's Pub 108; Irish Circle 87.
Thanks to the vagaries of the unbalanced schedule, the winless Irish
Circle was victimized by the Jameson's juggernaut for the third time in five weeks. Despite dressing only five players, Jameson's unleashed a relentless up-tempo attack that saw all five notch double figures. Truly a man amongst boys, Paul Peterson mosied his way to perhaps 33 of the most effortless points in league history. Greg Hearn's 27 kept him in the hunt for the league scoring title, and Brian McDonagh was kind enough to venture from the far reaches of Bay Ridge long enough to hang a 20 spot on the drooping heads of the Circle. For the Irish Circle, John Ronayne led the way with 26 but fired more bullets than a drug-addled Al Pacino during the final shootout of "Scarface". Brian McNellis also thrived on the game's frenetic pace and connected for a season-high 20. To avert a forfeit, the Circle "leased" Martell's point guard Ryan Whelan (17 points/14 assists) and rejoiced in his knack for selfless ball distribution.

In the wake of these all-too frequent get-togethers with the eventual champions, life for the Circle only figures to improve. The results of a crucial upcoming home-and-home series with Black Star will go a long way toward determining their playoff seeding. Quite obviously, they are scheming to avoid a first-round rendezvous with their vastly superior tormentors.

Martell's Grill-73; Black Star-54.
For about five minutes during the second half, this match-up produced the season's most exciting basketball. Overcoming the absence of scoring leaders Mike Balfe and Rich McDonagh, Black Star rode the momentum of 19-5 run after intermission to test the mettle of their young foils. Rich "Beard" Coyne (19 points) capitalized on his increased role and evoked comparisons to his boyhood idol, Adrian Dantley. Charismatic forward and proud new parent Kevin McEachern recreated his 80s magic and swaggered to 15 points. Ultimately, the springier legs of Martell's prevailed. All six players in uniform connected for double figures, a testament to Ryan Whelan's maturation as an astute floor general. Largely underrated sharpshooter Matt Stack paced "Team Backstreet" with 16 points, and super-intense defensive-whiz Tom Murphy chipped in with 14, matching his season high.
One can't deny the youthful enthusiasm of Martell's. In a season
full of yawners, Martell's has brought a sense of urgency to each contest.
Their bench is consistently lively and energetic, and they seem a
particularly tightly knit group. So often youth is associated with punkdom, but this group carries itself with
a dignity that belies their years.

League Standings:

Jameson’s Pub 5 0

Martell’s Grill 4 1

Black Star 1 4

Irish Circle 0 5

Scoring Leaders----Through Week 5:

Peterson 27ppg
RMcCormick 27ppg
GHearn 22ppg
MBalfe 21ppg
JRonayne 20ppg
EBrennan 15ppg
RMcDonagh 14ppg
KFitzgerald 14ppg
RWhelan 13ppg
MStack 13ppg


  1. The 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates celebrated their World Series title to the
    strains of Sister Sledge's "We Are Family." The 1999 NLCS runner-up New York Mets often sang along to The Doors' "L.A. Woman. This summer the Irish Circle Sun Devils copped an amazing ninth hockey championship, and queried "Who Let the Dogs Out?" at their victory party. Congratulations to Coach Jimmy
    Costin, the ageless Ray Guiterrez, Wayne Wagner and friends on a job well done....
  2. 2) Exasperated over the prohibitive cost of automobile ownership, tight-fisted community activist Lew Simon has been seen darting around town on a Razor Scooter...
  3. Several league members claimed to be suffering from "rubber legs" at last Thursday's games. Seems a large contingent attended Bikini Night at Connolly's the previous evening and spent the entire afternoon accessing their minds for lusty visuals...
  4. Just last year Ricky Martin was arguably the world's most celebrated musician. This weekend he's opening for the Roving Firemen at Roger's Steak
  5. I'd like to thank nattily attired Coach Joe Courtney for allowing me to participate in Brown Hardware's Finals push in the SFDS High School League. Each member of that team showed immense heart and depth of character...

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