Graybeard Roundup: Teams Stumble To Championship
By Phil DeBasket
Another season is in the books. And folks, it was not a pretty chapter. Once again, The Graybeards have effectively disproved the notion that the more you do something the better you'll get. Although they huffed and puffed for two and a half months to get back some of that old snap, crackle and pop---they settled for something closer to crap, cackle and slop.
Thankfully, there were some exceptions.
Dan Leary, displaying his usual brand of excellence was awarded the Most Valuable Player award. But league officials had to retire the annual Most Improved Player trophy. In fact, after weeks of one kicked ball after another, there's a movement among objective observers to present a "he's really lost it" award figuring the great number of candidates will make for fierce competition. In fact, the league was so pathetic this year, Dan Conlon found himself on a championship team----but more on that later. (Note about the aforementioned MVP --- rap impresario Mark Cannon, aka Notorious D.F.D., was a legitimate candidate for the top trophy but--- like Ted Williams--is just unloved by the voting members of the Awards Committee. Tough, we say----although we'd never have the nerve to say "tough" to his good wife, Maria, who remains outraged at the perceived slight).
Anyway, it's been three weeks since Championship Thursday and I don't know if I'm supposed to call on short or long term memory skills for a quasi-accurate summary of events---but fear not, there won't be any purposeful misconstruing of the facts. I think I can grasp and convey enough of what went on. Besides, if I were really interested in rewriting the past you can bet Delightful Dan Conlon would be whited out or I'd just recycle columns from every other year when he and his team made first round exits. But enough about Conlon!
The Gray Ghosts captured the championship hardware after entering the contest as slight underdogs to the Light Blue DFDs (down for the day) who coasted through the early part of the season and had long-term observers mentioning them in the same breath as the '27 Yankees. With Mark Cannon, John Cosgrove, Bobby Bruns, on the perimeter and planet eater Tommy Last on the inside---and toss in notable role players Jughead McCormack, Whopper Armstrong, and the only locals on the squad---Richie Ryan and Jack Weber--- and you've got the makings of a title team.
But that guy, Dan Leary? He's pretty good. And if you give him another all-star, someone to complement his game, someone to step up and be a legit second banana ---well, then, forget it. In this case, he found his sundance kid in Keith Bugsy Goldberg ----hungry to end his championship-less string of 17 years. With Bugsy penetrating when necessary, hitting the open J to keep the defense honest, making his vocal chords raw when coaching from the bench, Leary was free to do what he does best and that's score. On championship night, Leary scored 14 points in the opening five minutes and the game was pretty much a done deal---especially since those once great Light Blues seemed so willing to play the part of the schoolyard bully who looks tough until someone fights back. After a season of laying some heavy beatings on stunned and intimidated opponents, the Light Blues found themselves in a deficit situation that Arthur Andersen couldn't cure. And they weren't about to cure it themselves as one jumper after another clanked off the iron.
Although Leary and Bugsy deserve to ride in the first car in the ticker tape parade down 129th street, fans will surely acknowledge the contributions of Bill Swensen and Pete Brady. Swensen, chucker supreme, actually started hitting some of his shots at playoff time and was suddenly another huge weapon for the Gray Ghosts. Brady---how annoying is it that he is on his fourth championship team?---showed vast improvement that seemed to coincide with the appearance of a certain lady friend fan named Kim, who suddenly started coming to every game.
In the JayVee, er, Graybeard East Championship Game, that followed, a successful inaugural campaign was capped off by a thrilling finish as Cliff Shevy Shevlin nailed a short jumper at the buzzer to lead the Green Machine past a heavily favored Men from Maroon. For most of the night it was an ugly see-saw affair ---no one could believe what they were seeing or what they saw---but with about three minutes to go some clutch play was interspersed nicely with some big time chokes giving the game the drama it had been lacking. The lead switched hands too many times to count---leading to dreaded concern in the crowd that the contest might be headed for overtime. Anything but overtime! The crowd, though grateful for the late drama, still had had enough (and wanted to get to the Wharf for roast beef and beer). If there were a forklift handy, you can bet Shevy would have been lifted above the crowd after he drilled the winning shot. As it was, the crowd and teammates whooped, hollered, then hurried out to the post game festivities.
In addition to the heroics delivered by Cliff Chevrolet, the Green Machine got all-start play from Jerry Napo, Steve Wallace, Ricky Ferro, and Joe Moore. The Marooners, shockingly gracious in defeat, got solid performances throughout the season from John Mullaly, Bill Gallagher, Steve Laszkowski, Vin Esposito, Jim McLoughlin, Brian Fitzgerald, and Mike Erhard.
Highlights: Several celebrities were spotted in the stands this season. Debbie Kenel, Barbara Swensen, Mary Tufts, and Jim Kelleher, and Spider Raphael were among those singing autographs at half-time. Former pro player, George Bruns, was there at the finals to watch younger brother Bobby. And locals were thrilled to see long-time hoops expert, Ethel Cornish, at the game. She was there to cheer on son-in-law John Cosgrove---turns out, it would've been better if she played instead of Coz ---who had one of those games.
***Rumor has it that there will be an attempt to expand the Graybeards League next year. It looks fifteen or so players from the Graybeard East will be absorbed into the Big League, making an eight-team league. Attendance and attitude will be determining factors about who gets in. The Brennan brothers---also known as twins Arnold and Danny (Devito)---are certain inductees. Mere mortals would've been discouraged by finding themselves on a team that went Oh-for-the-season but the Brothers Brennan showed uncommon wisdom for they seemed to pick up on the only reason to suit up---and that's for the post game festivities. Honorable mention for demonstrating advanced social skills goes to Jerry Napo, Larry Viagra McGuire, Shevy, Kevin Hurley, and Gerry Scannel.
***The usual suspects---you know who you are--- were selected to the social awareness team from the senior league. You make the league what it is.
***Thanks to the folks at St. Francis de Sales, Stella Maris, and St. Camillus for being such generous hosts.