The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

February 10, 2014

You can tell the size of a winner’s heart by his eyes

An Editor's Notes

By Jim Raykie

- — The eyes can tell it all. As they did in the 1978 movie thriller, “The Eyes of Laura Mars,” in which fashion photographer Laura Mars is able to look through the eyes of a serial killer as he commits his crimes.

Where’s all this leading? Many years ago, I asked former Farrell High legendary basketball coach Ed McCluskey one day in his tiny office above the gymnasium that bears his name about his uncanny ability to know the mental toughness of his players.

Looking through his thick Coke bottle-like glasses, he responded without the slightest hesitation – “The look in a kid’s eyes when things get tough will lead you to his heart.” I never forgot that.

I write this as a backdrop to my experience at the Sharon-Hickory basketball game last Friday night, as I watched Hickory guard Anthony Cannone shred the Tiger defense with 31 points.

As I watched him throughout the game, I looked for similarities between him and his dad, Nick, who was sitting across the way. He’s the former Hickory head coach and a good friend since our days at Farrell Junior High and Farrell High. Nick and I graduated in 1970 from Farrell, where Nick was a multi-sport star – baseball, football and basketball –  ending up at Purdue University on a football scholarship. He was a pivotal player as a junior on McCluskey’s 1969 state championship team and quarterbacked Coach Bill Gargano’s Night Riders to the MAC football championship as a senior.

As I watched Anthony from two rows behind the Sharon bench, he’s not as tall as Nick (Anthony is 5-9 and Nick 6-1). We used to give Nick a ribbing in high school about his pigeon-toed gait, and Anthony’s got a little of that.

But as he neared the sideline to guard one of Sharon’s players, I got a real close look at the striking likeness: The eyes – that same fierce steel-eyed look that I saw so many times playing pick-up basketball against Nick or batting against him in baseball at Farrell City Park.

As my wife and I were leaving the gymnasium at Hickory, longtime friends Rick Roskos and his wife Monique were walking behind us. Their son Tom, a former Sharpsville High standout and area golf professional, is an assistant coach for Hickory. Monique reflected on our days at Farrell as ardent fans  who packed the stage with others, watching the Steelers during their great runs every year that we were in high school. “It’s something watching Nicky’s son It’s like watching Nicky over again ... even a little pigeon-toed.”

Of course, Anthony’s mom, Chris, might be saying, “Just wait a minute. He’s got my eyes, too.” The eyes most times do tell it all. Like Apollo Creed urges Rocky Balboa, “C’mon Rock, eye of the tiger, man.”

The angst of school closings

School superintendents these days are mostly proactive, rather than reactive as they were when I was in school. Technology affords them to cancel or delay classes well ahead of the bad weather, rather than reacting to it on the day that it happens.

I chuckled when school officials canceled school at the last minute last Wednesday morning because of icy conditions. Some parents and school staff members, spoiled by more advanced notice, were miffed. I paused for a minute and thought, what’s the big deal? Back in the 1960s, it was always like this. Most times we were dressed and ready for school before hearing on WFAR that it was canceled for the day.

Was there any better feeling than to hear that school was canceled on a day when a big biology or math test was scheduled or when a big project was due?

Jim Raykie is the editor of The Herald and his column appears on Mondays.