Monday, December 15, 2008
Old to the New (The Erie Bayhawks do the Wave)
It's been over 16 years since the Erie Wave folded and left town for good. Ten days later the entire World Basketball League went belly up and one of the founders was sentenced to prison for embezzling money. Not exactly a glorious end to minor league basketball in Erie.
They were only around for three seasons, but I loved the Erie Wave (and as a 12 year old I loved the Eriesistable cheerleaders too). The games were cheap and the talent that passed through the league was a nice mix of former college stars and soon-to-be NBA players (Tim Legler, Mario Elie, Delray Brooks, Rick Barry's kid Scooter, Boo Harvey, Keith Smart, John Starks). You can even trace my love jones for Canada back to the WBL. They played a bunch of Canadian teams from places like Calgary, Halifax, & Hamilton so I heard the Canadian National Anthem all the time.
Hell, for their last season my friend Greg and I were ballboys for the team. It was a volunteer gig but we got in for free and hung with the team. Personal highlights included rebounding for the Estonian National Team (7ft monsters who didn't speak a lick of English) and getting accidentally stomped in the crotch by Jamie Waller while sitting under the hoop during a televised game. Did I say highlights?
I was crushed when they left town in 1992. Somewhere exists footage of myself and Greg outside of the Erie Wave offices pouring our little hearts out to a television crew about their demise. I spouted off about the politics of it all and how it was a travesty they were never given a fair chance to secure local funding. Remind me to find and destroy those tapes.
Cut to 16 years later when the NBA placed a developmental team here that is essentially a farm team for the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Philadelphia 76ers. The Erie Bayhawks tipped off at the Tullio Arena for the first time on Thursday night. It was pretty surreal being there and it conjured up a lot of memories from the Erie Wave days.
The organization put on a pretty impressive show and the team is off to a good start. Hopefully the people of Erie will support the team and their stay here is longer than the three years the Wave existed.
I'm looking forward to seeing as many games as I can and I wish the franchise success. When you're at a Bayhawks home game stop over and say hello. I'll be the guy sitting behind the home bench representing the Wave and yelling at the ballboys if they fold the warmup jerseys incorrectly.