By Mark Carpenter –
In my years here at the paper, I have been privileged to be part of many special nights, some of them in the arenas of sports and some of them not. Last Friday night at North Adams was another of those nights that will rank as unforgettable when I someday put away the camera and the notebook and reflect on the journey.
When I originally heard that Mr. Tom Breeze was going to be inducted into the Hall of Fame at NAHS, my first thought was “oh my, he probably won’t even show up.” Now that is not because Mr. Breeze is afraid of the spotlight, but because he is one of the most humble men you will ever meet. (And if you have never met Tom Breeze, you are certainly missing out on a treat.)
So I was looking forward to making it to Seaman on Friday night to watch a man receive a well-deserved honor and get my chance to congratulate him and spend a few minutes with my microphone stuck in his face. Trying to get him to be serious for long enough to answer my question was a chore, but when he did, I got the answer I expected, which was for him, “it was always about the kids.” Did you expect anything else?
One of the measures of a great man is the impact he has on the lives of others, and judging from the reaction of the crowd on Friday night, the number of well-wishers who stopped to say hello, and the reaction on social media, Mr. Breeze must have done something right. Some of the Facebook reactions to a photo I posed from the ceremony, “Great guy-well deserved honor”, “One great man”, “One of the greats”, “Such a well-deserved honor”, “One great man and teacher”, “They don’t come any better”, “Always been a Hall of Famer in my book”, “Could not have honored a better person”, and “No one deserves it more than you do.” My first response was “How did he fool all these people?”, while his first responses was, “They must have run out of candidates.” See what I meant, humble.
As we go through life, we can only hope that somewhere along the way we make friends like Tom Breeze. I consider it an honor to have met him so many years ago and to know that he still is a friend to this day. We don’t see each other except for the occasional crossing of paths in the NAHS gym, but I always know then that I am in the presence of greatness at that moment. Through the wonders of Facebook, we might send a message back and forth every once in awhile, which he will undoubtedly do after he reads this and declares me ready for some mental institution. Anyway, congratulations from me Mr. Breeze, I don’t care how many candidates there were, they picked the right one.
Mr. Breeze was not the only one who grabbed center stage on Friday night as one very deserving female athlete joined him as a Hall of Famer and then just the night before, I found out that Friday’s festivities were going to be opened by another special moment.
Watching the Green Devils the past couple of years, I always saw the young man who led them on the floor before every game, but I never paid much attention to him beyond seeing him work hard on the bench as the team manager, but I was told that I had better be there by 5 on Friday to see the big moment for one Hunter Rapp. Hunter was going to crack the starting lineup for the North Adams freshman team, in uniform and in action, and talk about making the most of your moment in the spotlight.
With my added responsibilities in this office, I find it difficult to get anywhere by 5 o’clock but I made it on Friday night with time to spare and was in position when the opening tip of the freshman contest went to North Adams and then to Hunter, who was ready about 10 feet from the basket. One dribble and swish, nothing but net! Put his name in the scorebook! Back down the floor to play a little defense and then Hunter retired for the night, after putting the first two points of a big evening on the board and taking home a perfect shooting percentage. Does it get any better than that?
All of those early mornings spent in the NAHS gym doing nothing but shooting basketballs paid off when Hunter hit the stage for his big moment. After hitting his big shot, Hunter just went right back to what he loves doing, taking care of the Green Devils, showing no outward emotion to the big cheers he was receiving, just ready to get his hand on some popcorn.
Did I mention the word humble? As I look back, I realize that I was in the presence of two humble men on Friday night, both of them Hall of Famers in their own way. It really was a special night for everybody.