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You Are Here: Home - Basketball , High school , House , Kenny Chesney , Norm Peterson , Richard Nixon , Sport , United States - Being A Teenager, And Moving, To Franklin, In The Middle Of The School Year ... Was My Best Day Ever

I remember my worst day ever. I was 13, an eighth-grader at Springboro Junior High, and at a really awkward stage. I had skinny arms, crooked teeth and — imagine me complaining about this now — too much hair.

Then, to top it off, my parents announced we were moving.

You know what this does to a teenager, don’t you? I was leaving my friends, moving out of the house I’d known just about all my life, and starting over in a new school. How would I function? What was the point of living? Only a huge pimple at the end of my nose could be worse.

We weren’t moving to just any school, either. It was Franklin, the scariest place any Springboro Panther could ever imagine.

They beat kids up for fun over there. The FFA was a club for Future Felons of America. I was pretty sure my new homeroom was next to a morgue.

It was like making an Ohio State Buckeye transfer to Michigan, or make a Kenny Chesney fan listen to Slim Whitman. Surely the Geneva Convention or something had some control over this.

For days I hid in my room. Then I begged my parents to let me be adopted, or go camp out in someone’s backyard until I graduated. But they didn’t budge.

Then they added insult to injury: “You’ll thank us for this one day,” they said.

That’s like thanking the first girl who dumps you. You’re convinced she’ll grow up to be Miss America one day while you won’t be able to find a new girlfriend at the dog pound. I was convinced then that my life was over.

When life takes an unexpected turn, we don’t see the full picture. All we know is everything’s different, and different isn’t good.

Divorce. Job loss. Financial trouble. There’s nothing good that comes from any of that, right?

So we worry. We expect the worst. We relate to Norm Peterson from “Cheers” when he said, “It’s a dog-eat-dog world and I’m wearing Milk Bone underwear.”

I started attending Franklin Junior High exactly 35 years ago this week. I walked in the first day ready for a terrorist attack and instead found everything and everybody to be ... cool (we used that word a lot back then). I quickly found a group of good guys who lived in my neighborhood. I was also soon on the football and basketball teams, and I never did see a morgue.

Maybe this change wasn’t all that bad, I thought to myself.

From there it only got better. My coaches were really good. And my teachers were excellent. Not only did they actually know how to read in Franklin, but there were skilled teachers who knew how to encourage budding writers who showed promise, too.

I never played on a losing team. Girls were cute, though it took me a long time to get through my awkward stage. My friends and I spent Friday nights cruising around town, listening to music, running through McDonald’s, then playing cards and eating pizza until well after midnight — and laughing the whole time.

In my senior year, the basketball team turned the town on its head by going 18-2, one of the most thrilling seasons in Franklin history. Today, one of the guys on that team teaches at Harvard, another is a doctor, another a pastor, one a teacher, one a CFO for one of the biggest companies in the country, and still another a guy who owns his own company.

These guys have been my best friends for 35 years. I can’t imagine going through life without them — Jer, Kev, Griff, Daws, Bake and Silk — and many others who actually have full names. I grew up with “The Heart of the Panthers,” but I will forever regard myself as “Once A Wildcat, Always A Wildcat.”

I will think about all of this Saturday night, Jan. 16, as the Panthers play host to the Wildcats in a rivalry that started back when Richard Nixon was president.

I’ll think back to those horrible days when I dreaded the change that was about to take place, never dreaming my parents could be right.

I’ll then come to the same realization so many others have come to when they’ve experienced a similar life change that was scary.

That wasn’t my worst day ever.

It was my best.

By Jeff Kirby
Author "Once A Wildcat, Always A Wildcat"
Printed In Dayton Daily News
January 14, 2010

In photo above, bottom (L-R) Dave 'Silk' Back, Danny Griffith. Top (L-R) Jerry Collins, Jeff Kirby. This was taken a week before the 25th playing of 'The Turkey Bowl,' a Thanksgiving Day football game these guys started in 1976 as high school sophomores.
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