Not only is the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Manhattan cancelled, but it looks like the Brooklyn parade is cancelled too.
Not only is the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Manhattan cancelled, but it looks like the Brooklyn parade is cancelled too.
I attended Holy Name of Jesus grammar school from first grade to the eighth. My time at H.N.S. started in the Fall of 1970, graduation was in the Spring of 1978.
In the first grade I cried on the first day of school. My mother walked me right up to my classroom. After seeing all the kids, I panicked. I wouldn’t let go of her hand. Thank God things wouldn’t be too bad after that day.
Looking back at my years in Holy Name my teachers were wonderful, except for Miss Lynn in the third grade. She was awful. I can just hear you now, telling me I shouldn’t talk about the dead. Well I am sorry, third grade was not a good experience. Miss Lynn was on my case everyday. I was jealous of my friends across the hall who had Miss Lynch for third grade – the stories they would tell me about her made me want to switch out of Miss Lynn’s class and transfer over. But those things weren’t talked about back in the day.
Fifth grade was my favorite year. Mr. Mussa was my teacher. Stop it, OK. I don’t want to hear it. Yeah, yeah, I heard all the stories about Mussa. Must tell you though, I was with him many times, guy never touched me. Mussa was a big sports fan. Football, baseball and hockey were his favorites. He coached baseball and ran the intramural football leagues at Holy Name. Mussa loved the New York Yankees. Our class Christmas party was off the hook. Mussa was sick that day – we had the sub, Mr. Verzi. Everyone was bummed, no party for us. It was all books. No fun. With about an hour left in the day, Mussa showed up, it was amazing. With him were the party goods. It turned out to be a good day.
On Wednesday afternoons the public school kids from P.S. 154’s would visit Holy Name for religious instruction. That meant we had a half day, lucky us. While I was out in the boys schoolyard getting up a few jumpers, the public school kids were learning about God. And oh yeah, I can never forget our teacher reminding us, “don’t leave anything valuable in your desk.”
In the sixth grade Holy Name went co-ed. That’s right, the nuns were keeping a close eye on us boys. Up until this year, we had two departments, girls and boys. I don’t know about the other dudes in my class but every chance I got I was checking out the ladies. Maureen Delaney and Mary Budgell were the two prettiest girls in our grade. I recall seeing Mary on Prospect Avenue a few weeks before school started.
“Who do you have?” She asked me. She was referring to my future teacher.
Seventh grade was probably the hardest academic-wise; Miss Monzillo was my teacher and boy was she beautiful. But I had a hard time concentrating. It was also the year we took the co-op. My four high schools were Power Memorial, Christ the King, LaSalle and Bishop Ford. I never talked to anyone about any of the schools. Power was my school of choice, I lasted three days. Bishop Ford was five blocks away, that’s where I should have went. I transferred to LaSalle but that lasted one month. I had zero interest in school.
In the eighth grade, after playing on the school basketball team from third grade to seventh, I was bummed; we didn’t have a team that year. No one had the time to coach us.
Overall my last year at Holy Name we had fun. Best thing was meeting my first girlfriend in the Spring of 1978; she was two years older than me. The class trip to Great Adventure was a blast. Our School Dance was memorable – after the dance we went to Felix’s restaurant down on fifth avenue. On our way back to the neighborhood we stopped in a bodega and chipped in for a six-pack.
Prospect Park here we come.
To this day, I am proud to say I attended Holy Name – it was there where I made so many friends. We played all sports. Hung out in the boys and girls schoolyards morning, noon and night. I was late for class often – this with living across the street. What can I say, I wasn’t a morning person. I do wish I was a better student.
Those were the days my friend…
No NBA playoffs tonight, I’m bummed. The conference finals begin tomorrow night.
For some reason I was thinking of the first time I picked up a basketball. Christmas morning, the year was 1970. I was 6. Holy Name boys schoolyard.
My mother gave me a Voit basketball for Christmas. I think it was the only present I received that year. The schoolyard was around the corner from our apartment. I grabbed my ball, got dressed and walked to the yard…alone.
Back in the day you went places at a young age, no one really cared. I will never forget that morning. I was getting shots up in the empty schoolyard. After a bunch of attempts, most of them misses, a priest came out of the rectory and screamed at me to go home. I was scared. I stood there frozen looking at him. He shouted again. This time I sprinted out of the yard and went straight home.
It wouldn’t be the first time I would get kicked out of the schoolyard. That morning was the start of something special though. My love for the game…
I was six years-old when I fell in love with basketball.
Matter of fact, it was right around the time my father left our family.
The year was 1970, Christmas morning. The boys schoolyard at Holy Name of Jesus elementary school was the spot.
When I look back at my childhood, I realize that basketball took the place of my father.
Little did I know at the time basketball would save my life. No, it didn’t make me millions of dollars. It helped shape the man I am today.
Basketball taught me valuable lessons along the way, lessons I should have learned from my absent father.
The game, the players, the coaches and fans. All taught me lessons on how to do things the right way.
My father would come around from time to time but it was never real; he never had my best interest at heart. I think he spent time with me just to keep my mother off his back. My father never told me he loved me. Come to think of it, even when I was with him, he wouldn’t say very much. My basketball showed me love. It always stayed with me, never left me. The round ball was always there for me. My basketball talked to me. It never left me for someone else.
Basketball loved me and I loved it back. Bottom line, when my father left us, he let me down, the rock was there to cushion my fall.
At times during my life I abused Mr. Basketball. I threw it away. I kicked it, kicked it when it was down. When it was begging for me to pick it up off the floor, I ignored it.
When my ball desperately needed air, I allowed it to suffer. Walking past it every day. Paying it no mind. You have to show a basketball much love. Every day.
When I played the game I passed the basketball to teammates, shot it from all over the court and dribbled it up the court. The feeling of holding a basketball was the best feeling in the world. Like a parent holding their newborn. Picking a basketball up off the floor is like no other feeling in the world. When I would hop on my bike to go play ball I would hold my basketball under my left arm and hold the handlebars with my right hand.
On that Christmas morning in the boys schoolyard I took my first shot. I recall that day like it was yesterday. My mother bought my first basketball. No one forgets their first basketball and their first shot. The ball was a Voit, I don’t even think Voit is around anymore?
Washing my basketball every night in our bathtub became a daily ritual. My mother and brother would get mad at me when I would use the hair dryer on it.
“That’s for my hair, stupid,” my mother once said to me.
I slept with my basketball. If my sister could sleep with dolls and stuffed animals, why couldn’t I snuggle up with my basketball?
Walking to the schoolyard on that cold Christmas morning I was dribbling the ball across 9th avenue, down Windsor Place and up Howard Place to the entrance of the yard. Families were walking together to church. I was headed to my church, the schoolyard. It was there that I worshiped the game of basketball. The schoolyard was my safe-haven.
The first time I was on a team, I was eight years-old; I was taught to always keep my head up when dribbling. See the floor. “Hit the open man” is what New York Knicks head coach Red Holzman used to say to the Knickerbockers.
From my apartment on the corner of Windsor and Ninth, it was 212 steps to the schoolyard. Don’t laugh, I once counted the steps while I worked on my cross-over dribble. If someone was walking towards me, I got low and crossed them up.
On December 25, the yard was empty. Why wouldn’t it be? It was Christmas morning. But on most days, the yard was packed with kids from the neighborhood. On Saturday mornings I always wanted to be the first one there. Last to leave too.
Just me and my Voit basketball. Lucky me, six baskets to choose from. The boys schoolyard at Holy Name became my paved paradise.
I worked on my dribbling, shooting and even used the concrete walls of the church and school to practice my passing. Throw the ball against the wall, naturally it comes back to you. There was a big white sign on the church wall which had the hours the schoolyard was open. While I dribbled towards it I recited the hours. Keep your head up!
One of my favorite things to do when I was alone in the schoolyard was to dribble to every basket and make a lay-up. After dribbling to my right side for six right-handed layups I would do it all over again but this time I would reverse my direction and go left, and of course shoot it with my left-hand. We were taught in the third grade to use your opposite hand. I should mention that from grades 3-8 at Holy Name we had outstanding coaches.
They taught us to play the game the right way. Share the ball. Be a good teammate.
Growing up in Brooklyn, New York I had hundreds of friends but basketball became my best friend. My older brother once said, “You’re going to marry a basketball.” He was close, after these years I have been having an affair with it.
At times in my life I ran away from basketball. Turned my back on it. Gave up on it. Thought there was nothing in it for me. I abused it. I was selfish. But today, I realized the ball is everything to me. It dawned on me this past summer while coaching groups of youngsters at a summer camp just how much I love basketball.
This summer I was able to rekindle the flame for hoops.
Over the years I played in many basketball games all over New York City. We played full-court and half-court. I have taken many shots on many different rims. My experience in basketball is probably no interest to anyone but it means the world to me.
I never played college or professional basketball. I was lucky enough to play a few games in high school. It was a time where I let basketball down. But I got to do the next best thing, coach it. I have been able to coach at the collegiate level and now currently at the high school level. I love being around the players. I love helping them improve. I will pass for them and rebound their shots.
Mr. Basketball, thanks for always being there for me. Thanks for waiting for me. Most important, thanks for putting up with me. I haven’t been the greatest partner, but here I am, at 54, learning to love you once again.
One lesson I learned is if you love and respect the game, it tends to reward you back.
Basketball, I will never let you down again.
The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life.
Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company, a church, a home.
The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past…we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude.
I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you, we are in charge of our attitudes.
— Charles R. Swindoll
Received an e-mail from a reader of the blog.
They asked me about a former teacher from Holy Name.
Whatever happened to Mr. Castaldo? i believe he taught 6th grade at Holy Name.
Not sure if I got the spelling right…?
Leave a comment or you can e-mail me.