BOWEN COLUMN: This life story begins in 1973 (kind of)

Published 9:30 am Thursday, February 23, 2023

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Very good day to all my friends and loyal readers in my great hometown of LaGrange, Georgia and beyond. Through the years – twenty-five and counting – we have rehearsed life’s events past and present with a glimmer-in-the-eye look toward the future. One thing I have not told you is that in August of 2022 I stepped out and decided to go back to the classroom on what they call a halftime basis. I laugh at that, because, unlike coaching, there is no real ‘half-time’ in teaching. 

After six grueling months that make getting lost in Yellowstone look like a walk in the park, I decided to write some life updates to my students. We write in a book called the “Creek” book, which is a glorified name for a journal. With that writing, I remembered just how easy it is to fall into the autobiographical mode, the exact place where you will fall into, too, if you take one more little-bitty step with us here.

We started simply with, “Last week.”

Last week, I bit the bullet and dug down into my ‘pocketbook’ and went to SMU to see my Houston Cougars basketball team play the Mustangs. UH is now the #1 team in the nation for the third time this year, as Purdue and Alabama, mainly, have bounced in and out of the number-one spot. This year is the first year they have been ranked #1 in the country since 1983, forty years ago.

The year 1983 is a key period because it was the era of what we know as the ‘Phi Slama Jama,’ the UH team that had two future Hall of Fame NBA players in Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde the Glide Drexler. It was one of the greatest teams in the history of college basketball and definitely the greatest team not to win the national championship. When you get a chance, google the Houston / North Carolina State 1983 NCAA championship game. It was one of the biggest heartbreaks of my life, I have to tell you. NC State pulled one of the greatest upsets of all time in the most ironic way imaginable: a buzzer-beater lob-pass slam dunk. They stole one out of the Phi Slama Jama playbook. Ah, my heart sank that night, and I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing.

Another reason that the 1983 era was so important is because I attended UH in those years. I would see Clyde Drexler in the hallways, and I even had a class with Hakeem Olajuwon. I was almost through with my college work at that time and would student teach in the fall of 1984, which I did in my hometown of North Shore at North Shore High School. I would soon turn my bricklaying trowel in for a whistle and overhead projector.

I graduated high school in 1974, so, obviously, I was on the ten-year plan. I say that with a smile, because it is not the plan I recommend for those who go to college. Not only that, by 1984 I had been married for nine years and had both my children who had been born in 1977 and 1980. I married the ‘Amazin’ Blonde’ in 1975 at the tender, baby-faced age of nineteen – that’s 1 – 9, nineteen. That’s two years older than most of my high school juniors and a year older than my eighteen-year-old grandson Connorman. I cannot even imagine any of them being married in a year. To make it worse, I was a ‘young’ nineteen. I had never written a check and do not even know if I had a bank account. Internet, I’d say, ages all young people by three or four years beyond their actual age.

I had moved to Texas just two years prior in 1973. When someone looks back at me when I’ve taken that ‘final Yellowstone hike’ – you understand what I mean – and begin to tell my life story, they surely will mention the year of our Lord nineteen-hundred and seventy-three, as the old writers would say.

One of the topics my students are writing about is a time in their lives when their lives changed suddenly and forever, the way it does for the beautiful Scottish Shepherd dog Buck in our novel study of The Call of the Wild. The 1973 year was an abrupt, sudden, dramatic, and powerful life change for the man the folks at church and my students know simply as “Coach.” On that regard, it is like one of John Wooden’s books, Call Me Coach. Once a coach, you’re always a coach, you know. 

So, I suppose all of our good readers and all of my high school English students and any others who venture to travel these literary trails with us are in store for another piece of our life’s story, beginning in that dramatic year of 1973.

Stay tuned, and buckle your seatbelts. We’re heading to 1973.

I’ll sign, appropriately, simply as this: ‘Coach’ 

Again, you understand.