After 49 comes 10 |

After 49 comes 10

Mike Vidakovich
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Mike Vidakovich

On Jan. 19, 1974, Notre Dame guard Dwight Clay swished a rainbow jumpshot from deep in the corner of Notre Dame’s Athletic and Convocation Center to defeat the top-ranked team in the country, the UCLA Bruins, by a score of 71-70 and end the Bruins’ incredible 88-game winning streak.

The following week, there was a story about the game in Sports Illustrated, and the headline read “After 88 Comes 0,” in reference to the longest winning streak in college basketball history coming to an end.

I was thinking about that game the other day and how it doesn’t seem possible that it was played almost 37 years ago. The man who coached UCLA in that game, and who guided the Bruins to 10 national championships, John Wooden, recently passed away.

Digger Phelps, who was on the Irish bench, is now a basketball commentator on ESPN.

It all seemed like just yesterday.

It also seems impossible to me that my next birthday will be the 50th.

I have been thinking quite a bit this summer about that ominous number 50, and I pretty much have decided that my next birthday will be the 10th instead of my 50th.

After 49 Comes 10.

I want a big, six-tiered cake just like the one they had on Blinky’s Fun Club when I was a kid. It should say “Happy 10th Birthday, Mikey,” because that’s what everyone called me back then.

My 10th year was one of the best.

It was the year of fourth grade and my favorite teacher, Mrs. Woods. She made everything fun and always had us kids smiling. At the end of the year, Mrs. Woods gave me an Australian football because she knew how much I loved sports. It looked funny, a little too round, but I still have it to this day.

As teachers go, I should also count Mrs. Browning, my high school English literature teacher, as a co-favorite with Mrs. Woods. It was Mrs. Browning who instilled the love of books and reading in me. Until I got to Mrs. Browning’s classes, I had faked my way through every book report in school. No kidding.

My 10th summer was when I spent every waking moment at Sayre Park, practicing, playing and watching baseball. I would ride my bike to swim lessons early in the morning, then it was out to the park until late afternoon or early evening.

What wonderful coaches I had waiting for me each day as I pedaled into Sayre Park. Dale Strode, Pat Riley, Rich Stubler, Harlan Spencer, Gary Bird and Dan Enewold taught us the game and worked us hard each day.

The fall of my 10th year was when I received the best gift I have ever gotten – a pair of gold football pants from Van’s Sporting Goods on Main Street.

Every time I went in the store, I would steer my dad past those pants and tell him, “They’re just like what the Irish wear.” He never seemed to take much notice.

Then, one day after school, I bounded up the steps of our old house, into my bedroom and found those pants, and a Dick Butkus autographed football, sitting on my bed waiting for me. They were calling out, “Let’s go play!”

I spent countless hours out in the yard, wearing those pants, throwing passes to myself and pouncing on imaginary fumbles at the Notre Dame goal line.

What fun!

I guess it’s inevitable that in a few months the old body will say 50, but I’m planning on my spirit staying 10 for quite some time.

Mike Vidakovich is a freelance sports writer for the Post Independent.

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