thletics was a huge part of my father's life, as he was growing up. Each year his family would travel all the way from Jersey City to Lincoln, PA, on Thanksgiving to watch black college footballthe Lincoln University homecoming game. His father took him and his brother, Albert, to track meets all over the Greater New York Metropolitan Area.
His father was his track and basketball coach, so sports strengthened their father-son bond, immeasurably.
The greatest value of sports for my father, perhaps, was that it allowed him to use his intelligence to compete with bigger and stronger opponents. He didn't have great size at five-feet-four inches in height, but he could out think other players.
He played basketball in an era when play was stopped after each basket. The ball was then removed from the basket by someone on a ladder (the baskets had not evolved into "hoops" at that time), and a jump ball at center court restarted play. As a point guard in basketball, he was able to use his intelligence and leadership abilities to blend the talents of his teammates. He did more than pass the ball, however. He scored between 8 and 12 points a game, at a time when teams rarely scored more than 40 points a game.
Playing in the old gyms, or "cages" as they were known as, was no picnic. Some of them had no out of bounds area, so players threatened to crash into walls pursuing loose balls. Others had hot radiators next to the out of bounds areas. In fact, my father was pushed into one during a game, while in college. He had to withdraw for a semester, while recuperating from his injuries.
Track provided my father with a different kind of athletic experience. He was a long distance runner, specializing in the two mile. Certainly the lessons he learned in trackabout conditioning, discipline, pacing himself, tactics, strategy, and finishing stronglywere put to good use in other areas of his life.
As an adult, he attended the Millrose Meet each year in New York City's Madison Garden, getting together with his life-long friends from Jersey City, Deckle McLean and George Cannon, who were teammates on his Lafayette Presbyterian Church Brotherhood Fellowship Basketball Teams in the late teens.
Once he began practicing medicine, his involvement in organized athletics stopped, but he was able to find other outlets for physical expression.
The principal means of exuberant exercise for him was social dancing. He never met a dance floor he didn't like, and he came to dance, so he spent most of his time out on the floor.
When he went to a dance, he always took along two t-shirts, because he would be sure to drench the one he was wearing with sweat well before the dance was over. He would leave the dance floor, go freshen up, change t-shirts and go back out on the floor. Dancing was a release from the seriousness and constraints of his work, and he let it all hang out.
In the middle of one dance, an acquaintance came up to him, with a beaming smile on his face, and asked, "Say, Doc, I've been watching you. What're you drinking?" When my father told him he didn't drink, the man's expression turned to one of utter amazement. He couldn't believe that anyone could have as much fun as my father was having, without being intoxicated.