Using my usual photographic skills, I was able to snap this glaring photo of a small plaque that hangs in the gym of the Helena YMCA. It honors Pat "P.O." O'Leary, one of the regular noon ball basketball players during the 1980's.
Noon ball protocol doesn't allow for a lot of name exchanges. You have to play for 3 months or more before someone will ask to know your name. Until then, others refer to you with a combination of physical attributes and basketball strengths or weaknesses. Here's an example: We called one guy "Manimal", you know the average size guy who hacks you on every trip down the court. Oh, and it's first names and nicknames only until you have been around a couple of years or more. So, I only knew Pat as P.O. until shortly before he tragically died at the age of 52.
P.O. was a tough competitor. I had him by about 6 inches, but ended up guarding him quite a bit because I was one of the other experienced (old) players in the game (I was 39 at the time). Pat was born in Anaconda and maybe that accounted for his ability to set rock solid screens and to box out bigger opponents for rebounds. He wore Kareem type goggles and a mouthpiece, an indication of his mindset for playing YMCA basketball.
Near the end of P.O.'s run he continued to play noon ball. It happened pretty quickly (cancer) and he lost a lot of weight in just a couple of month's time. He showed up just a week before he passed away to play some ball and it was obvious to all that he was in bad shape. I was tasked with guarding him and playing my usual hard nosed, lock down defense. Early in the game P.O. got a shot off and made it.
He snarled at me, "Don't cut me any slack". Honestly, I wasn't. So, here's remembering Pat O'Leary. A great guy. He never gave up and played the game of life with a lot of class until the final buzzer.
- it is my custom to use italics to denote sarcasm