This & that: Apology come lately

Image composite: tempters from photo by : Kuo Chun Hung/iStock/Getty Images; St. George News

FEATURE – I recently made a long overdue apology – 35 years overdue to be exact. I’m sorry John Ratcliff, and I will explain.

In Indiana in the 1980s high school basketball was king. Some may disagree with me but in my opinion the other winter sports were only there to provide conditioning for the athletes who got cut from the basketball team. My sophomore year I went out for the team. Making the team was going to be tough; there were several players that had played ahead of me my freshman year. I had made the freshman team only because my school had a “no-cut” policy for freshmen.

Unlike Utah, Indiana does not have “sophomore” level teams. There is only freshman, junior varsity and varsity.

The junior varsity coach was Bob Nocton. He was short and super intense: He demanded hustle from everybody. After the weeklong tryouts I was ecstatic to see my name on the final roster.

My taller, ganglier and less-coordinated twin brother, Shawn, also made the team. I am not going to lie. Probably the main reason for both of us making the squad was that our older brother, Scott, not only started varsity as a sophomore the prior year prior also led the team in scoring and rebounding.

But a few games into the season it soon became evident that neither Shawn nor I would get off the bench.

The first two games I did not see any action. The next three games were not close so Coach Nocton put me in for a few seconds at the end of the games. It was frustrating for me because I felt, rightly or wrongly (usually wrongly), as a kid that I was better than the boys playing in front of me.

One of those boys was John Ratcliff. Ratcliff was taller than me. He had always started in front of me and he had been our starting center in junior high and on the freshman team.

Three weeks into the season Coach Nocton kicked Ratcliff out of practice. I can’t remember why but I do remember that instantly, at that moment, I saw a glimmering light. Could playing time be in my immediate future? I began to dream of the possibilities right then and there.

Then it all came crashing down. Coach Nocton called me over.

“Darren,” he said, “go tell John he can come back.”

As I started my way to the locker room my previous feelings of euphoria turned to utter disappointment. Just as I entered the locker room a light bulb went off. I could say that the little devil on one shoulder won over the little angel on the other shoulder, but at that moment the little angel was nonexistent. In other words, my sudden brainchild did not arrive with any anguish or turmoil.

Ratcliff was getting ready to enter the shower. Misrepresenting both the coach’s words and tone, I relayed to John: “John, the coach is really ticked. He said for you to get your butt back into the gym right now!” – or words to that effect.

My teammate’s response was immediate: “Go tell the coach that he can …,” Ratcliff said. (I will let your imaginations run wild at this point.) Let’s just say that the rest of his reply was too colorful for this column.

Unlike the coach’s message I had delivered to Ratcliff … doctored, I repeated Ratcliff’s reply word-for-word to Coach Nocton. And, the next game I came off the bench and played most of the game. I led the team in rebounding and was second in scoring. After that, I started throughout the rest of the season.

Fast forward 35 years. I made my confession to Ratcliff who is now my friend on Facebook. We still go at it occasionally as we are on opposite ends of the spectrum on a few political issues, but I made a full confession to him.

As it turns out Ratcliff does not even remember the incident. In fact, his exact words explained why he quit: “Eventually … it just wasn’t fun anymore.”

Was my apology wasted? Not really.

That anguish and turmoil that were nonexistent when I doctored the coach’s message for my own benefit actually came later. It didn’t happen that season and didn’t even happen for a couple of years, but eventually I felt it. And this was different because I knew that neither my teammate nor Coach Nocton had been aware of my slight. It wasn’t like they harbored ill will for me all these many years.

And sometimes that is the way it is.

I have made apologies in the past when the recipient of the apology had never been offended. But that doesn’t mean an apology is not in order; an apology can be a balm for the giver as well as the receiver. Even if it is 35 years overdue.

Darren Cole is a developing columnist and otherwise sports writer for St. George News. Any opinions given are his own and not representative of St. George News.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter:  @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

Free News Delivery by Email

Would you like to have the day's news stories delivered right to your inbox every evening? Enter your email below to start!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.