Listen, I’ve read "Chasing a Dream: The Carl English Story" [Flanker Press]. As after reading any memoir, I’ve taken some time to reflect on what I might have in common with the person whose story I’ve just finished.
So, what do Carl English and I have in common? Besides both being grown up bay-boys, that is?
Dare I say basketball?
Well, we’ve both bounced the pumpkin-like orb on the floors of high school gymnasiums (gymnasia?) in Newfoundland and Labrador. Dribbled, shot and scored.
Carl’s high school gym was in Fatima Academy in St. Brides. Mine was in Labrador City in the wilds of Western Labrador … before Carl was even born, I might add.
Of course, Carl went on to become a professional basketball player, to become famous.
I was in a pout when I scored. No sportsman, I was forced to play in gym class. For badness, one of the team hove the ball my way and I wrapped my arms around it, bounced (Yes, bounced, not dribbled) it once and myopically chucked it in the general direction of the basket. The ball dropped through the hoop without touching the rim. Definitely a fluke.
Unlike Carl, that was the single basket I made in a lifetime. Because I was such a lackadaisical (“lackadaisical”, the first time I’d heard the word) player — and also muttered bad words under my breath — the gym teacher sent me off to the locker room to sit out the rest of the game.
I was thrilled.
Again, unlike Carl, I’m not famous … yet.
Years after Carl honed his skills on the side of the road in Patrick’s Cove — an hour or so down the shore from my present-day place of abode — he ended up in Hawaii, in Honolulu.
I, too, once ended up in Hawaii — in October of 2001, one month after 9/11 — because Daddy’s Boy chose the Sandwich Islands for his destination wedding and Missus made me accompany her to … well, to Maui, to a place called Hana, where — daily — we were required to smother ourselves with Deet (or some such bug begone spray) for fear of nippers stogged to the proboscis with dengue fever virus.
Enough of my old foolishness.
Carl English’s story needed to be told. It’s a moving story; it’s an inspiring story.
Following his parents’ tragic deaths, Carl found solace in basketball. The story of his homemade net and backboard by the side of the road is the stuff of legend.
Carl’s dream of dreams was to be drafted to the NBA. That never happened.
But what odds, eh b’ys?
Carl did become a professional basketball player recognized worldwide — from Hawaii to Greece and places in between, like Brazil, for instance.
So there, a big ol’ Archie Bunker raspberry to the NBA.
While on the road to fame, Carl didn’t lose sight of his roots, or his humble beginnings back on the Cape Shore. Annually — every summer — he returned home to fish with his Uncle Junior, the man he most loved after his parents. As you might imagine, when Uncle Junior died Carl was devastated.
Other than the tragic events that haunted Carl, the disappointments and heartbreak he suffered, there were dozens of lesser bumps during his rise to fame. As if competing in a dunking contest, he hurdled each bump with admirable, steadfast determination.
"Chasing a Dream" is chock-a-block with details of Carl’s struggles as he rebounded hither and yon around the world exhibiting his credentials, proving his on-court worth.
I confess that I only skimmed many of the particulars regarding all the different contractual deals Carl made, the different teams he joined, the skills-defining games he played, the numerous injuries he endured. I’m a sports ignoramus — much of the day-to-day minutiae of professional basketball baffled my noggin.
Sports lovers — basketball lovers in particular — will not do as I did. Bet a loonie on that.
An aside: there’s a glossary of basketball-related words at the end of Chasing a Dream. Without it I never would’ve understood even basketball’s basics. I’d remain forever a basketball dimwit.
Change of focus.
The love of Carl’s life is his wife Mandy.
So listen, bear with me …
When I was a callow bay-bay “Love Letters in the Sand” was a popular song. Dummy me, I assumed the song was about folks in The Sanatorium [The San!] writing letters home.
See, stunned as a stump.
Maybe Carl heard a later cover of the song because …
… well, because, with romantic designs slam-dunking basketball dreams, Carl took Mandy to Gooseberry Cove beach to see the love letter — kinda — he’d written in the sand: WILL YOU MARRY ME?
Top that you NBA friggers, eh b’ys?
Thank you for reading.
Harold Walters lives in Dunville, Newfoundland, doing his damnedest to live happily ever after. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org