This true sports story, submitted by former coach Jack Bottinger, was inspired by the 1971 Paul VI High School football team.
Sometimes while sitting doing nothing in these retirement years, our minds wander, and at times, recall events from the past that make us all tingly inside. I had one of those moments yesterday. These moments always seem to occur around the beginning of each new football season. I believe this was triggered by the oldie The Impossible Dream that was playing on the radio yesterday afternoon!
You may not get all tingly inside and emotional, but some of these football moments were very special to me, and of course, to the many folks involved at the time.
The true story of a team united by the Impossible Dream…
I no sooner walked in the door of our three-room apartment back in 1971, returning from our regular Friday night pregame meeting , when the phone rang. To our surprise, it was the township police. They inquired if I was the football coach at Paul VI High School. I answered yes and asked if there was a problem. The officer went on to say that our football team had climbed the fence of the township football field and were sitting somewhere around the 50-yard line. He said they were quiet and really not a problem. However, he thought I would like to know. I thanked him and said I would be heading there shortly. I called a couple of the assistants, and we made our way to the field. Because we had no home football field, we played our home games at the local township high school.
We met the police at the locked gate The field was dark and silent. Not a whisper. From that distance, we had no idea anyone was out on the field.
Then, as if on cue, we heard voices singing–together and on key–the team theme song, The Impossible Dream. Silently, we listened and became overwhelmed with emotion. Even the policemen had tears rolling down their cheeks. We still didn’t understand their motives, but concluded everything was okay since they were singing the team song. After an explanation to the police what The Impossible Dream meant to the team, the officers said we could handle the matter and left the parking lot.
When the team had finished, they walked slowly to the now-opened gate of the field and were shocked to see us waiting there. Of course, our first words were, “What is going on?”
A team captain, Mike Bernert, replied, “Well, coach, you told us to visualize our performance in our mind’s eye just before we went to sleep on the night before the game. Taking positive mental pictures of us doing our jobs in the upcoming game would help our performance in the game. Well, to put us deeper into the moment, we drove to each of our opponent’s fields the night before the game as a team and visualized in our mind’s eye our performance in the upcoming game while sitting on the 50-yard line. Afterward, we would sing The Impossible Dream and return quietly to our homes.”
The coaches and I were overwhelmed with the news of their intentions. This was the 6th game of the season, and we played in some pretty rough towns to be going to at night unescorted, but there was never an incident.
The team, which was undefeated at this point, never lost a game that season. They went on to be ranked No. 1 in our area and gathered many individual honors as well. When I tried to tell others about this incident at other coaching assignments, it was difficult to get many to believe this actually happened.
Well, it happened. The team remembers, we coaches remember, the township policemen remember, and the team continues to visualize–especially when they play their music box with a statue of Don Quixote mounted on the top. They had opted for a music box playing The Impossible Dream instead of a football jacket to commemorate their fantastic undefeated season back in 1971