Big Game, Small World
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LUCERNE TEAM PHOTOIn the fall of 1977 I stopped out of college to spend a season playing ball for a team in Lucerne, the fetching lakeside city on the fringe of the Alps. Two decades later I revisited my old club to take inventory of the changes there, as well as to ruminate on the lot of the have-jump-shot, will-travel hoops mercenary— ruminations that were particularly timely in light of what I’d just witnessed in Poland.

The 1970s was a decade marked by lapses in good taste, particularly in matters of clothing, sporting and otherwise. Pius Portmann, a baker’s son and our star center, is third from the left in the back row of this team photo. As a teenager watching his first televised game, the 1972 Olympic final from Munich, Pius could only guess why some shots were worth two points and others only one. He thought it might have to do with whether or not the ball struck the backboard. Fortunately, his learning curve was steep.

The author is the emaciated, greasy-haired vagrant in the center of the front row.


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