Wednesday, October 29, 2008

It's Not Just Dearborn; It's Deer-bern!

Today I did a little good will hunting at The Lil' Cafe on Michigan Avenue in downtown Dearborn at Pat Stagg's unofficial City of Dearborn High School Hall Of Fame.

The basketball book is in full research mode and although Dearborn won't have nearly the stake in the basketball book as it did in the football book, I still thought it prudent to look for a few compelling pictures, maybe a background or inset picture for the cover, perhaps. Plus it's really cool to root around in Stagg's restaurant and talk prep sports with all the fans over a plate of strawberry pancakes at three o'clock in the afternoon!

Are my sleep patterns messed up or what?

Anyway, the day's events brought me back to a quote from my friend Orlin Jones in Detroit, he of Pershing High track and field fame from the 1950s. To quote Jones, ever the historical collector: "There's always a connection in high school sports."

I've refereed basketball since 1988 when I was working for coach Roy Inglas on the recreational courts at basketball hotbed Vincennes University in Vincennes, Indiana. I returned to Michigan when I enrolled at Eastern Michigan University in the fall of 1990. Besides discovering the difference between junior college cross country and powerhouse, Division-I cross country, as well as the difference between a Huron and an Eagle, I learned about veteran MHSAA officials, the ones who wore the striped shirts that former EMU track coach Lloyd Olds invented nearly 80 years ago on the same Ypsilanti campus.

Guys like Paul Kinder, for example. Kinder was already long remembered for his acumen as an official rather than his days as a basketball captain on the Dearborn High team of 1955. Therefore, you can imagine the astonishment when I saw the picture of Kinder, a young, focused floor general in his testosterone days as a Dearborn Pioneer on the walls of the Lil Cafe today.

There was another photo of a hotly-contested game between Kinder's Pioneers and the Edsel Ford Thunderbirds that evoked The Orlin Jones Rule, if you will, that was discovered today. In the picture was a referee identified as Casey Lopata. Now, there aren't many Lopata households in metro Detroit, but there is a K.C. Lopata on the current University of Michigan football team, the same K.C. Lopata from the Farmington - Farmington Hills area. Many a Ford Motor Company employee moved from Dearborn in the late 50s and early 60s to the sticks of Farmington, Birmingham and Royal Oak.

Maybe it's all a huge coincidence, but my eye-opening experience with the football book tells me the chance that Lopata is related to the referee working this game I found in picture today is much greater than the chance he isn't.

There's always a connection, right?

Photo courtesy of the The Lil' Cafe, Dearborn, Michigan

~ T.C. Cameron is the author of Metro Detroit's High School Football Rivalries, available from retail and online merchants now. Cameron's second title, Metro Detroit's High School Basketball Rivalries, is due in August 2009 from Arcadia Publishing.

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