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Remembering Helps to Keep the Past in the Present

Deb Beaupre
 (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

Deb Beaupre (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

When my husband’s 2007 Newport High girls basketball team began having what looked to be an undefeated season, I started going to the games to see what all the hoopla was about. After about 20 minutes, I was hooked — even though, as has been noted, I have zero interest in basketball. The games were fast-paced, with lots of really astonishing plays.

At lunch the next day in the teacher’s room, talking about the amazing things that happened the night before, I was amazed to learn that some of the kids had learning issues. These were not girls who looked as though they had a hard time with anything, so total was their domination of the court. But to hear the clucks and the sighs of their former teachers, their collective learning challenges must have seemed insurmountable.

I happen to have just read a Howard Gardner book about multiple intelligences that previous summer and couldn’t stop making comparisons and connections with what I had read and what I was seeing.

There is no doubt in my mind that there is such a thing as kinesthetic intelligence. Those girls knew what was happening on the basketball court at every moment; they knew each other, they knew how to anticipate what was happening, they knew how to be where they needed to be and they played the heck out of every team that they encountered. The no-look pass was the least of the incredible feats they performed.

In addition to which, they were good-looking to boot. I mean, more than good-looking; they were stunning. Which was another thing that I found interesting: You would look at them and they were so beautiful and you would think, “Oh, how lovely,” as the refs would be talking to them. Then, the whistle would blow and they would scrap for the ball like she-wolves who would rip your face off. They would take down their grandmother if she were in the way. Sorry, Nana!

Yet another phenomenon of this team was that they held that town completely rapt for the entire basketball season. Every time they played, the place was packed from halftime of the jayvee game. I don’t recall if the jayvee team was any good; I do remember how hard it was to get a parking space.

So, the girls are playing and winning, fans are wearing specially created T-shirts, a sea of black lining the halls, the stairwells, the floor of the gymnasium. The police were there for crowd control, and the fire chief was there looking worried about capacity, and it was hot. It was then that a thought occurred to me. I wondered then like I wonder now if anybody else will remember how important those young women were — especially their own children when they have them. How do you explain to a kid that their mother was the best point guard their town ever had, could steal the ball from anybody, could out-shoot, out-run, out-dribble anybody in New Hampshire Class M?

No matter where we went, devoted fans and people everywhere talked were talking about the team. The Valley News, the Eagle Times, the radio stations: Everybody was commenting on it. It was the news of the winter. And it was all good news. The team won in a series of heart-stopping games up at Plymouth State University and then, boom, it ended with a 59-53 finals win over Newfound.

These young women have now moved on to college, jobs, marriage, motherhood and other pursuits. That wonderful season on the basketball court is left to the past.

There is a wicked big color banner in Wheeler Gym in Newport with the girls’ pictures and their record on it. The team members all have a little piece of net tied onto the rear view mirror of their cars to commemorate that moment.

Ultimately, I think the reason that people talk endlessly about the glory days is because you can’t fully understand or appreciate it … and how fleeting it is. You just can’t. This was honest-to-goodness one of those times when you just had to be there.

I’m glad I was. I’m happy I was there to see a player toss her mouthguard out in disgust at herself, get called to go back in, reach into a teammate’s mouth and take her mouthguard, insert it in her own mouth and go back in … to win the stinking game with seconds remaining.

I’m thankful I was there for all of it because I can write this piece as a small way to allow that moment to live on. Plus, because it was after that gag-inducing mouthguard game that I took the opportunity to share with the players the comment their coach made when we found out our first child would be a boy.

“Oh, good,” he sighed. “Girls basketball is so boring.”

Deb Beaupre is the wife of Newport High athletic director Doug Beaupre. Her column appears periodically in the VALLEY NEWS sports section.