SFDS Summer Classics
By John Ronayne
As our readers can attest, this space has exhibited an admittedly self-indulgent tendency toward invoking historical references.
In that vein, Jameson's undefeated season and second consecutive championship has already sparked debates concerning their placement amongst the most celebrated basketball franchises in recent peninsula history.
Fueled by the messianic return of MVP Michael Jordan and the shrewd acquisition of cross-dressing rebounding machine Dennis Rodman, the 1995-1996 Bulls stampeded to 72-10 record and defeated the Seattle supersonics in six games to capture their fourth title in six years. Even before the last bottle of celebratory champagne was drained, the Bulls had already drawn comparisons to the Bill Russell/Bob Cousy Celtics of the 1960’s and the glitz Magic/Kareem/Worthy Laker teams of the 1980’s.
The 2000 Jameson's Pub team was undoubtedly an impressive outfit. In addition to running the table, they were never truly tested in any one game. However, they feasted on a watered down league largely populated by aging, apathetic veterans and game yet inexperienced newcomers. Briefly assessing two juggernauts from the last decade should help put their accomplishments in perspective. During the late 1980’s/early 1990’s, one would be hard-pressed to find a more fertile pool of basketball talent than the SFDS open league.
Monstrous publicity, a NCAA sanction, and Keith Goldberg's boundless enthusiasm stoked a widespread migration of grade-A citywide talent to the sandy shores of Rockaway Beach. Despite facing a perennial stream of bona-fide contenders, the Connolly's teams of that reigned supreme.
Hofstra University star Frank Walker played the leading man to a magnificent cast of supporting players. Playing in Walker's considerable shadow, fitness buff Ray Paprocky emerged as perhaps the best all-around player on the beach.
Siblings Billy and Kenny Collins are still regarded as two of the most disciplined, fundamentally sound players in recent memory. And James "Chief" Ferron and Matt Tucker formed a most imposing front line, reminiscent of the
Twin Towers (Sampson/Olajouwan) of the mid 1980’s Houston Rockets.
Connolly's was cocky, tough, and nearly invincible. They played hard, partied harder, and ultimately became synonymous with winning.
In the mid 1990’s, St. Camillus emerged as the epicenter of the twentysomething hoops scene. An indoor facility with a hardwood floor indulged aching backs, massaged creaky knees, and negated rainouts.
While the competition hardly approached the level of the Summer Classic, the league flourished under the tutelage of Commissioner Bob McGinn and benefited from hyperbolic newspaper coverage. In the Summer of 1995, snake oil salesman Lenny Levine constructed a swaggering band of former college players that consistently rewrote the record books, demoralized the opposition, and coasted to an inevitable championship.
The Raintower boasted the formidable talents of mild-mannered sharpshooter John Reagan; rugged carrot-topped southpaw Keith Handley; nimble, whiny pivotman Mike Wing; intense off-guard Matt McGregor; and lightning-quick point guard Danny Kelly. With each member determined to maintain their 20 point scoring averages, the Raintower accumulated huge numbers and regularly broke triple digits. As Levine sheepishly defended his shameless barnstorming, opponents often marveled at how handily they were being beaten. The fact that these guys notched only one title serves as testament to the grueling commute from their hometown Brooklyn that resulted in chronically poor attendance.
So how does Jameson's compare? Interestingly, their big four (Paul Peterson, Greg Hearn, Ryan McCormick, and Brian McDonagh) only suited-up as a unit for the championship game. Therefore, assessing their actual chemistry becomes a challenge.
How would they have matched up against either Connolly's or the Raintower?
Tough call...clearly McCormick can hang with any player from any era. Peterson stands a towering six feet eight inches and boasts a nice assortment of offensive skills. Greg Hearn seems to improve each year, and Brian McDonagh remains one of the grittiest defenders in league history.
However, through no fault of their own, Jameson's soft schedule prevented them from accessing the depth of character so plainly evident in their storied predecessors. In any event, one can't diminish their accomplishment and must recognize their excellence.
Congratulations to Jamie McManus and friends on a job well done.
- Look to this space next week for a playoff recap and the announcement of individual awards. Black Star forward Kevin McEachern is reportedly lobbying hard for the Best Hair Award. Five years ago, he'd have been a lock, but times do change....even in Rockaway.
- Congratulations & birthday wishes to local lovebirds Joe Courtney & Loretta Connolly on their August 23rd engagement. In a town full of self-professed Lotharios, Courtney stands out as an old-school romantic.....
- Shocking as it seems, many local nightcrawlers often gripe about the often backward, predictable Rockaway party scene. Last Friday, the
ever-progressive Irish Circle played host to "Amnesia Night"---a bawdy celebration of all things, Manhattan. Fancy clothes, trendy music, and pricey drinks provided a nice diversion from the tattered rags, archaic tunes, and two for one specials that usually characterize a night out in the Rock. Promoters reported a huge success, and similar events are already being planned. In two weeks, the Beautiful Palm Gardens will host a fashion show to benefit those suffering from acute dementia...
- Big ups to injured Martell's Grill forward Matt Stack for manning the scorer's table during my Pearl Jam-induced absence from the championship game. His remarkable facility with the often-confusing nuances of basic arithmetic was a source of peninsula-wide admiration...
- Once associated with caustic commentary and vicious satire, the "kinder, gentler" Rockaway Rugby Club seems to have grown a conscience. Their tireless fund-raising efforts for worthwhile community causes are both noble and praiseworthy. Quite clearly, legendary reporter Bob Johnson has reaped considerable benefits from life as a family man....