The high school boys in Texas’ Gainesville Correctional Facility, The Tornados, didn’t get out much. In fact, it was only as a reward for good behavior that the boys were allowed to leave at all, and then only to play basketball against some private Texas schools.
It was Steve Hartman who found them “On The Road.” The Gainesville boys told him, “Our fan base was close to zero. Nobody was allowed out to see us play. Nobody saw us, really, and nobody cared.”
But far away, something else was happening. Two young players from Vanguard Prep school in Waco, knew the Gainesville boys would soon be coming. Together, they grasped what seemed an unfair situation. “We aren’t going to play a team,” one of them said, “that has no fans and no supporters. It doesn’t seem right.”
With their special brand of magic, before the arrival of the Gainesville team, the two Waco players organized their own fans, asking that half the audience cheer for the Gainesville boys. Taking it a step further, they found five girls and outfitted them in “Gainesville” uniforms, preparing them to organize cheers for the other team.
As Hartman says, “That night the real game wasn’t on the court: it was in the stands.”
To the astonishment of the Gainesville boys, who hadn’t seen it coming,
every basket they made was accompanied by enthusiastic whoops and yells. At times their fans leaped to their feet to urge them on. The five girls led special cheers. The Gainesville boys were likely playing to sounds they’d never heard before.
Amazed and overwhelmed, the Gainesville guys played their hearts out. Afterwards one told Steve Hartman, “I’ll remember it for the rest of my life.” Another said, “It’s something I won’t forget.” And another, If I live to be 70, I’ll never forget this.”
As Hartman summed up the night, “Nobody cared who won. So we don’t care, either.”
Later, the two Vanguard boys voiced their own thoughts. “This is how sports should be.”
My memoir, "The Tail on My Mother's Kite," available, autographed, at Maralys.com. Also available, e-book or paperback, on Amazon.