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Vidakovich column: A last kiss goodbye

Mike Vidakovich
A bulldozer rips into the basketball courts at Sayre Park to prepare for a major overhaul of the facility.
Mike Vidakovich photo

I’m not often given to public displays of affection, but on the morning of Monday, July 19, I felt it necessary to give an old and dear friend a proper send off.

The only way I could show my true gratitude to this companion of my early and formative years, was with a long kiss goodbye. After so many spring, summer and fall evenings in her care, she was going away and being replaced by a newer and younger model of her old self.

That mid-July morning started like many Mondays throughout the summer, with me heading in to Sayre Park for an early practice with my Glenwood Middle School summer league basketball team. What I saw as I approached the basketball court from Grand Avenue was anything but normal. There was a bulldozer and several workers surrounding the asphalt and baskets that I had spent countless hours dribbling and shooting at during my high school and college years. I knew the renovation of the old courts was coming, but my heart still skipped a few beats when I got out of my car and walked up to the edge of the court, knowing that things would be changing forever in just a matter of minutes.



After talking with Greg Rippy and some members of his crew from Grand River Construction, and seeing the design for what the new courts would look like when all of the digging, leveling and paving was finished, I did what I knew I had to do. there was no choice in my mind of any other option for saying goodbye to a place that had been a home away from home to me and many other generations of Demons basketballers for decades.

I slowly approached the middle of the court, in front of the ready-to-rage machines and all of the workers with their shovels pointed toward the earth, and I got down on my hands and knees at center court, the same one that had battered my legs with countless miles of running and torn more holes in basketball shoes than I can count, and I bent down and gave that court a big, long and loving kiss.

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I knew the workers were staring, I could feel their eyes, but I didn’t care one bit. I then turned and stared at the basket on the northwest end of the court that faces Grand Avenue. I looked that way because of all the countless talented players and spectacular moves I had witnessed during those memorable summer evenings, the best one ever started to replay clearly in my mind.

As I looked toward the western horizon there was Bobby “Speed” Barrows heading for a breakaway layup, with Tyler “All World” McClain giving chase. I had replayed this scene many times in my mind as the years wore me into old age, but to heck with the workers and the bulldozer, I continued to watch as though this basketball clip was as new as a July sunflower.

Barrows left his feet and went high for the layup with the ball in his left hand, and sure enough, McClain went with him, ready to smack the ball into the backboard. That’s when it happened, just like it did so many summers ago when life was full of wonder.

Barrows brought the ball down between his legs in mid-flight and switched it over to his right hand, blocking McClain from the ball. As I trailed the play back then and watched as Barrows softly laid the ball off the metal backboard, I stopped in my tracks. My mouth was agape like a little boy at the circus. McClain could only shake his head at his foiled attempt at a block, but I knew at that moment I had seen something special.

The revving engine of the bulldozer snapped me out of my daydream. Smoke puffed out the top and it seemed to have an angry look, just like in the Bill Peet novels I used to read to my fourth graders.

The digging then commenced, but before I cleared the court, I grabbed a chunk of that asphalt that now sits proudly in my backyard in my quiet little area that I call “The Sanctuary.” That part of the old Sayre will stay with me forever.

These new courts are going to look great and serve the coming generation of athletes well. None of this would have been possible without the generosity of Rippy, who donated up to $100,000 of his company’s labor and asphalt toward the project. “Rip” is a class of 1973 Glenwood Demon and an all-around good guy. He does projects like this in and around Glenwood each year without notoriety or any fanfare. But I’m blowing his cover. Thanks Greg!

Mike Picore from Bay Equity also raised $5,000 toward the project through his summer Hoop ‘D Ville basketball tournaments, and Cassandra Irving of the Game On sports camps contributed money and countless hours of effort in making major contributions to have the renovation become a reality.

The community and the athletes who will use the new facility owe you all a big thanks!

Glenwood Springs native Mike Vidakovich is a freelance sports writer and youth sports coach. His column appears on occasion in the Post Independent and at PostIndependent.com.


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