WAYNE CREED: Thoughts on Two Years Without a Net

Town Manager Bob Panek ordered basketball backboards and nets removed December 26, 2012, for “safekeeping.” The Wave has been running this poignant picture ever since.


January 5, 2015

As the holidays end, the realization that winter is really here finally begins to sink in. The colder air and diminishing light began to incubate my seasonal affective funk. This growing malaise is compounded by the fact that my son’s fall sports — JJV football and Shore Soccer — are also over. Sitting on my front porch steps, I’m watching him, in a cold, light rain, dribble up and down the wet sidewalk. One way to avoid the inevitable winter depression is to stay as busy as possible; self-tasking, I try to help Joey begin the transition to winter sports: basketball. Going over the fundamentals, defense by Kevin Garnet and Gary Payton, workout routines by Steve Nash — this kind of work is good, but not fun; he still really wants to go out and play for real. Being an old Knicks fan, I try and remind him of what Bill Bradley used to say, “When you’re not out practicing, someone else is. And when you meet that person, he’s going to beat you.”

True, yet even Bill would have to admit it’s tough here for ballers, since there isn’t anywhere in Cape Charles to truly practice or play (Cape Charles Baptist Church has one goal in a small area for every player in and around town. The backboard has already been crashed once). The outside courts at the old school, perfect for the urban ¾ game, have been taken down, and the beautiful old court inside is being chopped up and turned into apartments.

A few weeks ago, the Wave published a story about the developer of the old school. As usual, there were several interesting comments, but one really struck me. This person said in his comment that he really didn’t have a dog in the fight, but was against the town keeping the courts public. Yet in the same breath he said he hoped the folks that wanted a “community center” would eventually get one. I had to wonder just what it would have taken for him to have a dog in the fight. From my perspective, it was easy because my dog was mainly sports — indoor and outdoor. Without the gym and outside courts, I just don’t see how you can even pursue the concept of a “community center.”


I never understood how people in this town could have been against saving an iconic, yet still useful athletic facility, right in the geographic center of the Historic District. Being the son of a nurse and engineer, who were of the Apollo 13 “Failure is not an option” generation, and being an engineer myself, I never understood the stupid, inane, and lame excuses (half-truths and outright lies) put forth as to why keeping the school and courts public was not an option. (I do feel some bittersweet vindication as I watch the Haas engineers make quick, efficient, and elegant work of what our town’s Chicken Littles were wringing their hands over these last few years). Then a friend loaned me a copy of the Gene Hackman film Hoosiers, about small-town, midwestern basketball in the 1950s, and I began to understand.

Watching the film, I realized the schism between those that wanted to save the gym and those that didn’t have a dog in the fight was not so much a gap between political or fiscal philosophies (even though the bogus narrative always seems to come down to that), but a gap between casual sports fans (even folks that oppose sports) and those that feel that athletics is a critical aspect of life — an integral part of physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. Notes on perspective: I grew up in a family that was ESPN before there was an ESPN. Sundays in West Haven, my Uncle Sonny would have the Jets on the big TV, the Yankees on a little portable TV, the Giants on the big radio, and the Mets on the small transistor radio, all going at the same time in the same room. The Italian ladies, my mother, grandmother, and aunts, were in the kitchen slowly making the sauce for that night’s dinner (my grandmother was a purist: only the Yankees or New York Rangers were allowed on her kitchen radio). Overlapping all this was me, my sister, and cousins in the back yard, hitting, throwing, catching or kicking something.

More importantly, Hoosiers also pointed out that there was not just a schism between hard-core and casual sports fans, but that there was also a fundamental lack of understanding of just how important basketball is to rural communities — especially on the Shore. Hall of Fame coach Phil Jackson, who was born in Deer Lodge, Montana, understands: he hasn’t forgotten his earliest days as a player, learning the game from the former captain of the Wolf Point basketball team — his mother. He sums it up: “Basketball is more than metaphor. It is so much more than metaphor.” We are all well aware of the urban mythology around inner city ballers such as Earl Monroe or Allen Iverson, but basketball means just as much in rural places.

Hoosiers also highlighted the notion that basketball, like soccer, is popular in poorer areas because it has low overhead, especially relative to football or even baseball. It is because of this communal entry point that it is the integral glue that holds so many rural, struggling communities together. What is striking about the film are the basketball sequences which were shot in many of the original, historic midwestern gyms — they all have a remarkable resemblance to the gym in the old Cape Charles High School. In our case, the gymnasium at Cape Charles High was always known as the Matchbox, and opposing teams did not relish coming here to play. Like the Celtics, who knew where all the dead spots were on the parquet floor of the Boston Garden, Cape Charles ballers knew all the nuances of the Matchbox, and used that home court advantage to vanquish many opposing teams. But that, of course, was in the past. Those memories, as real and affectionate as they are, are now relegated to nostalgia.

Let’s be real: a lot of basketball still gets played around here, from Northampton to Broadwater to Nandua to Arcadia. Still, at a community level, I feel like we’ve lost something by removing all traces of the sport from our town. It’s nice having soccer goals in the park, but socially and culturally, they can never replace the hard courts (or overcome cotton growing on our Little League fields for that matter). Over the last couple of years, the loss of our basketball courts has splintered this small town. There may be a tiny, marginal opportunity to piece it back together by making the construction of new courts a priority for 2015. Even if we do decide to try it, it won’t be easy. There are many moving parts, and many points of view. Like the sport itself, it will probably end up being a bit messy. But if we can keep our minds and hearts open and pure — who knows. Sometimes the game — and life — will take care of itself. Sometimes it won’t.

Sitting on the front porch steps, my butt getting cold and wet, I’m watching Joey practice his behind the back and through the leg dribbling on the sidewalk in front of our house. A dull, dripping fog is starting to roll in, carrying the sound of squeaking rail cars further, as if they were right in the back yard. I know I should get up and go inside to dry off, but I decide to just sit there and get colder and wetter. After all, isn’t that what Cape Charles fools do? I have to admit, the bitterness of losing the old school is still there, but I try to let it seep away, little by little, as I watch Joey take a shot at the imaginary rim and I taunt, “That was a brick, Joey.”

“No way, Dad,” he responds. “That was nothing but net, a three pointer from the corner!”

The developer of the old school, toasting victory with his friends in Richmond and here, has to be thinking the same thing when he reflects on how he manipulated Cape Charles fools like me. “Yeah, brother. Nothing but net.”



11 Responses to “WAYNE CREED: Thoughts on Two Years Without a Net”

  1. Stephen K. Fox on January 5th, 2015 3:57 am

    As the “person” whom the writer uses to make his point, “this person” suggests that nothing in his writing suggests that “this person” was opposed to public basketball courts at any location in the Town of Cape Charles. The writer should get his facts correct — if it matters.

  2. Wayne Creed on January 5th, 2015 8:30 am

    Mr. Fox, a fact for you: Mr. Panek and the Town shut down the basketball courts December 26, 2012. Were you for or against, or did you just not have a dog in the fight? A simple Yes or No answer will suffice.

  3. Stephen K. Fox on January 5th, 2015 8:57 am

    It appears that Mr. Creed’s form of journalism is designed to bully a commentator until he decides what side of the imaginary fence they are on. His comments misrepresented my writing, and when called to his attention, his tact is to demand an answer to determine which side of the fence I should be placed. How about acknowledging the misrepresented fact…as though it matters, before attempting to pick sides. Your agenda is obviously an “agenda”; I have none.

    I’m finished with this topic. I attempted to offer a realistic perspective, and for those who need “teams” on issues, let them have the games they play.

  4. Danielle Campbell on January 5th, 2015 9:19 am

    Nicely written Mr. Creed — I for one, after much contemplation on the topic, feel that it was a mistake to close the courts. However, we all have our own opinion on the topic, just as the town had theirs. Perhaps finding another place to open new courts would be a better answer. What a wonderful project for the younger population of the town … just sayin’. :-)

  5. Wayne Creed on January 5th, 2015 11:06 am

    Danielle (you can call me Wayne. Mr. Creed was my dad.), you are absolutely correct, and actually this is the main point here: “Over the last couple of years, the loss of our basketball courts has splintered this small town. There may be a tiny, marginal opportunity to piece it back together by making the construction of new courts a priority for 2015.”

    Mr. Fox may feel misrepresented and bullied, but that was never my intention, or concern. My concern (agenda) is, as you say, “the younger population of the town.” The optimal location for the basketball court project (my opinion, and agenda) is right across the street from the Old School, next to the skateboard park. Or, just take down the skateboard park and put the new courts there. Of course, we must first remove the “no skate” ordinance (which is stupid anyway) and let them skate where they want.

    Time to move forward and do something positive: build the new courts. The town needs to allocate the property (buy it, do whatever you have to), and the rest of us, mainly the business community, needs to fund the construction (John Dempster, does your offer still stand?). No such thing as the concept of “instant karma,” (the causality of one’s actions is immediate rather than borne out over a lifetime), but for all those who helped take away the courts, life may be offering you a second chance at redemption. This may be an opportunity for the wealthy to step up, do the right thing, and finally have a dog in the fight. Hey, we’ll take a check.

  6. Susan Bauer on January 5th, 2015 3:23 pm

    I abhor the characterization of whether one has “a dog in this fight.” It trivializes a repugnant and tragic abuse of animals. How about we settle on whether we have “skin in this game?” It seems more appropriate for this discussion, anyway. In that regard, I think we all have skin in this game. The town needs basketball courts. Hopefully, we can all resolve in 2015 to make that a priority.

  7. Chris Glennon on January 6th, 2015 10:47 am

    Can someone give me an answer for why the little league field was turned into another cotton field?
    Did we really need to take a couple of acres away from the kids for that!!

  8. Wayne Creed on January 6th, 2015 11:00 am

    Susan, I tend to agree, but we should probably do away with using idioms altogether, however:

    -the centuries old English idiom about having a dog in the fight, has nothing to do with the American Staffordshire Terrier or Pit Bull Terriers or dog fighting, but has always been used to indicate those that have a stake in the outcome of the problem or issue, or conversely opt out of being expected to be involved at all. In our case, this is pretty accurate.

    -having skin in the game means that you are making a personal investment, referring to money invested (the skin is money), meaning ‘I put money in, so I have a say. If you don’t put money in, you need to shut up and go away’. It also implies that the person that puts in the most money has most of the say (welcome to Cape Charles).

    If we have to fall back on idiom, how about ‘Let’s roll up our sleeves’.

    This will be a minority effort—but what we lack in numbers is more than made up for with focus. And you know, Ms. Bauer, old foes can work together to accomplish things for the public good.

  9. Ron Wrucke on January 10th, 2015 9:08 am

    Chris Glennon asked, “Can someone give me an answer for why the Little League field was turned into another cotton field?”


    There is a preview of the [2009] article, but I can’t dig up the actual article itself. Maybe the Library has an archive?

  10. Wayne Creed on January 12th, 2015 10:47 am

    Mr. Wrucke’s reference to the 2009 ESN article does not answer Mr. Glennon’s question. He’s a coach, so he knows what he’s asking. Although the Cape Charles league technically folded, the players and many of the coaches were merely absorbed by Shore Little League. At the time, the consolidation of leagues from the north and south made sense; however, it doesn’t mean coaches and players on the lower shore didn’t still need the field to practice. Coach Glennon and I coach the Shore Soccer Black Ice club (this year’s undefeated Shore Soccer Champions by the way. That’s right.), and we realize the hardship of having to drive to Nassawaddox to practice, so we always choose players based in the south so that we can practice in Cape Charles school park. Not having a baseball club based in the south means that a percentage of ball players can’t participate because they can’t afford the gas. Also, the loss of the ball field was based on a petty feud between the town and the railroad; there is no reason why the town can’t do the right thing and renegotiate to get the ballfields back.

  11. Deborah Elliott on January 24th, 2015 11:05 pm

    Every playground you destroy, every building you knock down in Cape Charles means one less poor working person. Any time a town would give away the children’s place of recreation for $10, it’s shameful. Oh, but maybe that is a good look as opposed to having a town full of working-class people. Accomack County is building up towns and schools. This once very hospitable little town of Cape Charles is steadily entertaining nonsense. Why else would you let a company come in paying citizens 5 times less than what it costs to live? News flash: your plan is not working. . . . God bless the citizens of Cape Charles. I ask God to bring this situation to justice. Protect those who can’t protect themselves.