News and Notes

Pietisten Sport Prophet gets Ph.D.

Pietisten Sport Prophet gets Ph.D.

In January, Eric Ecklund-Johnson defended his doctoral dissertation at Loyola University in Chicago. He passed with distinction. Unawareness of Deficits in Dementia: A Comparison of Operational Definitions and Examination of Correlates is the thesis title. Eric's degree is in Counseling Psychology with specialization in neuropsychology.

Pietisten readers may wonder if this credential will improve the accuracy of the Prophet's prophecies.

The Last Saturday at Riverside. I climbed the fire escape steps at about 9:45 a.m. for the last time and knocked on the door for entrance into this old basketball court. I had been climbing these steps for 35 years. I thought of the days of Marty Sabo, US Representative, who seldom hesitated to take a jump shot, and of Pastor Sheldon Torgeson who made up for a lack of finesse with pure hustle and team play. They had been absent for at least 25 years. I thought of Red-headed Mike, Dave, Mike Groh, Brother Don, Ted, Howard, Joe, Tony, and all the boys who had come to play ball with the old men, some with their dads whom they event-ually eclipsed. Eric, Aaron, Nels, Paulo and Eddie—the Angolan Airforce, Donny, Derek, young Mike, Chris, Damien, and others. I thought of the days of John with the long, over-the-head-one-hander and Roland who handled the money and the keys until he retired and Aaron took over. There had been a continuous stream of young men like Dan and Nate who came to play ball. During those 35 years, I estimate that I played basketball with at least a 150 guys and two girls. I probably know the last names of about 20.

Four-on-four was all this court would allow. The rims were friendly, often needing to be bent back up before we started. For the last time we dragged the wrestling mats out into the little hallway. Don, always full of energy, once again swept the floor. As the years passed, Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays were special because the former boys, now young men, were home from college. It was a delight for Eric and me to hop in the car and drive down River Road to the People's Center, making sure we were early enough. Our rule, often bent, was that the first 12 could play—three teams. Late arrivals had no claim—though accommodations were usually made. For years, we had to wipe up the water and watch out for the wet spot where the heating unit in the ceiling dripped. The warped spot it created on the court became part of the game.

Riverside (Avenue) Presbyterian Church, was built more than 100 years ago. Trinity Lutheran moved in to share the facility in the '60s, and, finally, it became the home of the People's Center. We had survived the threat of a karate club preempting our Saturday morning, but now we had our final notice. After this morning, our beloved court would pass to a ballet troop.

In this place, some of us experienced a gradual diminishment of our game but hung on, using experience and position to hold our own as best we could, taking advantage of the small court. A game was seven baskets, win by two, out at nine.

Finally, my last Riverside game—maybe my last ever. Our team led six-to-five. A bucket to win. Nels fed me in the low post. I put up a left-hand hook—off the board and in. The final shot, the final win. I was satisfied and thought it fitting. My Riverside career was over. It was sad, but all things come to an end. The fun could not be measured, the privilege had been immense.