Sports column: It’s about time

JUDY CARD PHOTO | The Shelter Island boys’ varsity and junior varsity basketball teams and their coaches watching the Super Bowl on Sunday night coming off their own historic victory Friday.

Last Friday at 6 p.m. I pulled into the school parking lot and was surprised to see only about 20 cars on a game night. As I was trying to get into the gym I started worrying that it was an away game and I’d missed it. The doors were locked but my schedule said we had a home game against Bridgehampton’s Killer Bees. This was supposed to be a great game. Just what was going on?

When I got home I called Coach Jay Card and found out what was going on. Jay informed me that the game was played at 4 p.m. and that I missed one of the best games all year. Jay said, “We played great and defeated the Killer Bees by a score of 39 to 35.”
Now, I have been watching games for quite some time and in all that time Bridgehampton is always tops in the league. As a matter of fact, I couldn’t ever remember beating them. I started to ask questions of people like Coach Mike Mundy and older coaches like Chris Tracey. I wanted to know when the last time was that this happened and was told it was over 40 years ago. That was amazing.

And I missed the game.

When I think of the way Bridgehampton dominated Shleter Island my mind always reverts to the mid 80’s when my son Bob was playing for the Indians and Chris Tracy was the basketball coach. My son played basketball every year and guess what? They never won a game. I felt sorry for Coach Tracey in those days. He was highly competitive and such a good athlete himself that it was difficult to watch him suffer with these teams.

However, to set the scene from those days: We were going to play one of the best teams in the state, the Bridgehampton Killer Bees, and in their own backyard. The Bees were having another great year and scored over 100 points in every game so far that year. Now they were playing the Shelter Island Indians who hadn’t won a game in four years and they had every intention of running up the score and sending the boys back to the Island with their tails between their legs.

The Indians and their coach needed a victory no matter how small. On that night, a victory for the Shelter Island boys was to break their streak and not to let them score 100 points. I was at that game and the Bridgehampton crowd was out of control as the Indians kept freezing the ball.

We lost that game but they did not score 100 points on that night and were as unhappy as if we had won. As far as we were concerned, Coach Tracey and his team had a victory. The fury from the Bridgehampton fans forced us to be escorted out of the gym that night. For the team it was a happy bus ride back to the island that night and for me, I am still telling the story over 25 years later.

I always admired Chris Tracey but after that episode of knowing that his boys needed to have some joy and then following through, I respected him even more. Chris Tracey is retired today but finished his career in athletics and as principal of the Easthampton schools.

Luckily for today’s team, they don’t have to do go to those extremes to be happy. What they did on Friday night had to rate as a highlight of the year.

Congratulations, guys. You will always be the team that broke a more than 40-year supremacy.