For over fifty years now, every New Year's Eve Day at noon, basketball alumni from Everett High get together for some camaraderie and competition - the competition taking more of a backseat to the camaraderie as one ages.
It's a great tradition. And it's even a better gathering.
What more could you ask for at a school where they are desperately trying to hold on to the self-appointed label as "The School of Champions"? The guys who have been showing up year after year are salt-of-the-earth guys. They understand that this event is more than just a game. It's events like this that make the fabric of the school.
And of the guys who show up, it often plays out like a "Who's Who" of Snohomish County high school basketball lore. That happens when you've had some great teams over the last 50 years, which resulted in as many appearances at the state tournament as any other high school in Snohomish County. (Mountlake Terrace also has 16 appearances.) Occasionally, some legend from the past will show up if he is in town, such as all-state players Ross Rettenmier, Chris Chandler, Jessen Schilaty, Zlatko Savovic and David Vik. Across the board, the quality of play and the quality of players is worth the price of admission. (After all, it is free).
What makes this double-elimination tournament unique is that (1) it has been going on for so long, and (2) age doesn't matter. In fact, there is something about "cagey veteran play" in this tournament. It usually takes the young grads a few years to figure out how to play against the older players. And that usually surprises them.
The Everett High event began in the late 1950s when the then-basketball coach, Norm Lowery, opened the gym on New Year's Eve Day because some of his former players had asked.
And a time-honored tradition was born.
Just as impressive as the longevity of this event is the number of guys well into their 40s and 50s who show up, usually only sidelined when they have sustained some serious injury.
Playing in this tournament is special for these guys and it says something about their connection with Everett High. There are guys who come from California, Portland, and Spokane every year, usually coordinating their holiday time with their family around the tournament.
There will be almost a 40-year span of ages running up and down the hardwood next Tuesday at noon. There will be some chirping from some who still think they are playing for the WESCO title. There will be others who have blossomed into well-rounded players after their mediocre high school careers and want to legitimize themselves in front of their peers.
There will be those who are in playing shape because they are currently on a college team. There will be others who haven't touched a basketball since last New Year's Eve Day -- and it will show.
There will be some athletic specimens. And there will be others who are simply trying to avoid ripping their Achilles tendon.
Regardless, they will gather and hug each other, reconnecting with friends who in the past were like a band of brothers going to battle against Snohomish and Cascade and Marysville. For a couple of hours once a year, they will feel that tug of nostalgia.
They'll spend a little time running up and down the court and lots of time reminiscing. They'll shoot some bad shots, make some horrendous passes, play some pathetic defense that would make former head coaches Norm Lowery, Joe Richer, Roger Haug, Darrell Olson, Aaron Nations cringe.
And then they will have a flash of former brilliance that will have them thinking back to the 1970s, 80s, 90s.
And once they're done, they'll gather at some location to down beverages and start humming a little Bruce Springsteen. Until next year.
If you are an Everett High basketball alumnus: Show up at Everett Community College gym at noon on New Year's Eve Day for "the annual." If you went to another school in the area, there's a good chance your school has a similar event. It's a great time to get back out there with your former teammates, even if you haven't played since "The Boss" came out with his iconic hit.
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