Thornridge: The Perfect Season in Black and White by Scott Lynn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
During the NCAA tournament these past few weeks, I needed something to do in between the games. As I was looking for a book to read, I found my autographed copy of Thornridge in my “to read” pile, and figured that this was a perfect time to read a book about basketball.
*Confession time: the author of this book is a friend of my father and a great guy whom I know personally. So it was extra fun to read his book, which is obviously a labor of love*
Thornridge High School, located near Chicago in the state of Illinois, was one of the schools that integrated in the late 1960s. African-American students were bused in to the predominantly white community for high school at Thornridge. There were a lot of racial tensions during the period, and Thornridge was no exception. But a remarkable group of basketball players, both black and white, came together in the 1971-72 basketball season to go undefeated and win the Illinois state title. More importantly perhaps, they brought together a community in a troubled time.
This book is an excellent example of how to do local history right. Lynn was exhaustive in his quotations, allowing the Thoridge High players and coaches to speak for themselves, along with gathering the remarks of many others connected to the perfect season: rival players and coaches, family members of the Thornridge players, and Illinois media members who covered the team during their 1971-72 season. The players and other witnesses to the perfect season shine through in Lynn’s book, almost as though you are sitting in the room with them, hearing them recall their historic performance.
The chapters in the book alternate between recaps of the games and context chapters, which talk about the integration and each of the main players in the drama: coach Ron Ferguson and starters Mike Bonczyk, Quinn Buckner, Boyd Batts, Greg Rose and Ernie Dunn. The bench players on the team even get a chapter, despite the little time they had in actual games. It is an excellent technique to keep the reader involved, and I felt like I got to know each of the players very well.
Lynn is not a professional historian (he is a sportscaster) but he understands how to tell a story and how to give historical context. Many chapters begin with a setting of the scene, where Lynn reviews what kinds of stories were in the news and what songs were hits on the radio. For anybody that experienced the 1970s (and I am not one of those people) this is a great way to easily recall the period. Even though I do not remember the ’70s, I appreciated these little windows into what was going on at the time of the events in the Thornridge season.
Because Lynn is a sportscaster, and clearly a basketball fan, the recaps of the games are detailed. For more casual fans of basketball, this might be a bit of a turnoff, but I found that I was so interested in the players from reading their memories of the season, that I stayed with it. For anybody who loves basketball, they will enjoy these game recaps immensely.
Overall, Thornridge: The Perfect Season in Black and White is an excellent work of local history. If you are a basketball fan, or just someone who enjoys a good story of people performing at their highest level, you will enjoy this book.
Things are looking better in Seattle as far as sports goes. The Husky basketball team has clinched a share of the Pac-10 championship, and will likely go to the NCAA tournament. The Sounders season is starting soon, and the team has sold more season tickets than any other MLS team (and we have partial season tickets, yay! Just waiting for them to show up in the mail now…) The Mariners signed Junior in the offseason, and made some other good moves, although none quite as headline-worthy, and should be better than 100+ losses. And the Seahawks just got TJ Houshmandzadeh, a great receiver with an awesome name. So while 2008 was not so great, 2009 looks my-t-fine, at least, for now.
What did we do to anger the sports gods?
It must have been something major, because the city of Seattle is on pace for the worst ever calendar year for sports. Consider:
- Husky men’s basketball went 8-10 in the 2007-2008 season
- the Supersonics went 20-62, the second worst record in the NBA
- the Mariners ended the season with a 61-101 record while ranking 9th in Major League Baseball in payroll
- the Supersonics were brutally ripped from the city, and moved to oklahoma
- the Mariners didn’t finish last in the league, but instead finished second-to-last, ensuring that they wouldn’t get the first pick in the 2009 draft
- the Seahawks lost all of their first string WRs to injury in the first two weeks of the season, then QB Matt Hasselbeck suffered an injury that put him out for at least three weeks
- Husky football QB Jake Locker injured his hand and has missed/will miss 6-8 weeks of the season
- the Seahawks are currently 1-5, in last place in the NFC West (yes, even behind the Rams) and unlikely to catch either the 49ers or the Cardinals
- the Huskies are currently 0-6 and will maybe get 1 win, against the hapless Cougars in the Apple Cup
Has there ever been another city that has had bad horrific seasons by every single one of its major sports teams* all at the same time? If you know of one, I’d love to hear about it. It might ease my pain somewhat.
The city of Seattle has settled their lawsuit with the Oklahoma owners of the Sonics; the owners will pay the city some money, then be released from their contract with the city, and the team will move to Oklahoma.
This is an outrage and a betrayal and a travesty of the worst kind. This is 41 years of history and a city’s only championship sold away for a pittance. This is allowing highway robbery. This is a complete disgrace.
Those who champion Clay Bennett’s reasoning that the city is not a good basketball market are incredibly foolish. Sports teams go through cycles. They win for a few years, then they lose for a few years. During winning times, more people will spend their money on the team; but the increase is from bandwagon fans. The loyal fans will remain, through good times and bad. The Sonics were successful once. They can be again. Or they could have been, if they hadn’t been brutally ripped from the city. Had they stayed for a few more years, with the talent they had, we would have seen large, loud crowds at Key Arena, and no complaints about the venue.
And now, I’m going to be extremely vindictive:
Mr. Bennett, I hope your team becomes the new Clippers of the NBA. I hope you never get even remotely close to the playoffs. I hope that you start hemorrhaging money when the novelty of your new toy wears off, your team is stuck in last place, your shiny new arena stands empty and the citizens of Oklahoma go back to their true love: U of O Sooner football. Because clearly, money is the only thing that means anything to you.
Mr. Stern, you are a liar. The NBA obviously does not care; if it did, you would see that Seattle’s tradition and strong fan base is more valuable than a few million dollars. I hope that history remembers you for the crook you are. Congratulations, you have now joined Bud Selig and Alex Rodriguez in the pantheon of People I Despise Because They Have Screwed Seattle.
Mr Schultz, you are an idiot. I will never be giving anyone a Starbucks giftcard again, nor will I use one given to me ever again. And even though I never drink coffee, I will never be buying a hot cocoa from your store again. It’s Tully’s all the way for me from now on.
Gov. Gregoire, don’t plan on being re-elected. I’m sure not voting for you.
Citizens of Oklahoma, I don’t fault you for being excited about your new team. But I do hope that you remember, as you buy your overpriced jerseys, pay huge amounts for tickets and get swept up in the NBA fever, that your joy has a price, and that tonight, all over the state of Washington, small children are being told by their parents that the Sonics will not be playing basketball again in Seattle, maybe not forever. I hope you feel very very very guilty.
And to the entire NBA: before, it was indifference. I didn’t really care about what you did. But now, it’s pure hatred. Now I actively want to see you fail. Because the NBA is clearly where sh*t happens.
If you’re like me, you get really excited about sports statistics. So, that would really be just… me.
Anyway… I came across this site which someone referenced on the Wisconsin Badgers CBS Sports message board:
Specifically, someone mentioned the Badgers as one of 5 teams likely to win it all. Read more…