Football was always my favorite sport, but there were several reasons I never tried out for either the junior high or high school teams. I was tall and skinny, and it seemed I could not gain enough weight despite eating as much as I possibly could. There was not the emphasis then on strength training, so I was not particularly strong. I had to wear glasses, and without them it would have been impossible to play football. Contact lenses were new and not adapted for sports, so whatever sports activity I participated I had to wear my glasses.
Basketball and tennis were the two sports on which I focused during those years. I had discovered my skill level in tennis while attending a summer camp at Camp Stewart in southeast Texas when I was fourteen years old. I won both the singles and doubles titles for the camp, and from then on I was hooked on tennis as a secondary sport. Basketball was the primary sport in which I wanted to excel. It also worked well for me because basketball was a fall and winter sport and tennis was a spring sport.
I spent many hours practicing basketball during the junior high and senior high years, until by my senior year at El Dorado High School I was a starter on the Wildcat squad. I have many wonderful remembrances of that year and have written about some of them in the story Wildcat Basketball. Although I was 6′ 2″ in height I was not heavy enough or strong enough to be a very good rebounder. I played mostly on the perimeter as a shooting guard and seldom “mixed it up” underneath the basket. As a perimeter shooter I didn’t get many personal fouls and never fouled out of a game during the two years I was on the varsity squad. On one occasion I did get a technical foul which is more serious than a regular foul. Two technical fouls and you are tossed out of the game. There are various reasons for being assessed a technical foul, but the one I received was for making a smart aleck remark to the referee. He had called a regular foul on me which I didn’t think I deserved, and I said something like, “That was a terrible call– I didn’t even touch the guy and you missed it!” The referee held his hands to signal a technical foul on me which gave the opposing player 2 extra free throws. My coach Pel Austin was not at all pleased with me but left me in the game after a good scolding on the sidelines.
I remembered the incident well and the referee who was a regular high school referee named Dub Martin. He was a native of El Dorado and well-known in the area for being a man of great character and an excellent, no-nonsense referee. He and his family were very active members of Marrable Hill Chapel under the pastorate of Brother Sam Shepperson. His son Charlie became a prominent Southern Baptist pastor. Years later I was privileged to serve on the staff for Brother Charlie Martin at the First Baptist Church of Indian Rocks in Largo, Florida.
As a general surgeon for almost 29 years in El Dorado between 1971 and 1999 I had the privilege of serving many people with whom I had experiences during my formative years of growing up there. One of those patients was Dub Martin. He had an uncomplicated surgical problem which needed repair, and he came to me as a patient for that procedure. I had not seen him in years, but certainly knew about him and his reputation as a kind and Godly man. I was pleased and honored he selected me for his operation and made it known to him how grateful I was for the trust.
The night before the procedure I was visiting with him and explaining what he might expect during the operation and the anticipated recovery time for such a procedure. I could tell by his demeanor I would be able to add some levity to the situation so I said, “Brother Dub, before I pray with you about the operation and your healing, may I ask you a personal question?” He said, “Sure Brother John, what is it?”
“You may not remember what happened thirty-five years ago, but in a basketball game the Wildcats were playing against Camden you called a technical foul on me because you thought I was disrespecting your call of a foul on me. I got in serious trouble with Coach Austin over it, and I have never forgotten about it. Before I take you into the operating room and put you to sleep to do this operation, do you want to re-consider that technical foul?” I was grinning when I told him the account, and he knew I was having fun with him. I didn’t expect his retort.
“I have often thought about that call Brother John”, he said. “I was a referee for many years and made thousands of calls. In all those years I now believe this was the only call I made which was wrong, and right now I am reversing that technical foul!”, he said laughingly. “It’s never too late to ask forgiveness”, we both said joyfully before we shook hands and prayed together for his healing.
Brother Dub healed nicely, recovered well, and — I was set free from the stigma of a technical foul!! I just wish Coach Austin could have been there to hear it. 🙂