They were fired up and fun. They beat each other up and laughed about it. They were interested and very, very interesting. They reminded me that while this Hoops thing is plenty about foul shots and fundraising, it’s above all about human connections. Yes, it’s good to get out of the driveway every once in a while.
Meet the Winders family, of Rochester, NH.
“I just hope you’re not a dud.”
That was the greeting from Mr. Jeff Winders, a disabled Veteran, a former 82nd Airborne paratrooper, a retired postal worker, a father of two, a husband of one and a listener of WOKQ radio, which recently replayed our interview of a few months ago. Jeff heard it and told his wife Ruth, who sent an e-mail this way, which led to our meet-up at the Epsom Central School gym Monday evening … which led to Jeff’s declaration.
He was smiling when he said it. Come to think of it, he was smiling most of the night.
Extremely cool people, these Winders. Ruth is a school teacher, daughter Caitlyn is a shooting guard and sophomore-to-be at Berwick Academy and, well, you’ve already met Jeff. As if they weren’t All-American enough, guess where 10-year-old Matthew was? Right, Cub Scout camp.
The first 100 or so were creaky on my part, but then we got into a rhythm — mostly with Caitlyn and Ruth taking turns directly under the hoop, the other one closer to me in the paint collecting strays, and Jeff standing by my side, with the handoffs up high … no wasted movement, perfect almost every time.
We had our moments. Ruth went tumbling once after she and Jeff went for a loose ball at the same time.
Ruth: “You tripped me!”
Jeff: “You stepped on my foot!”
Caitlyn: “Dad, it’s her job to rebound, not yours.”
Soon thereafter, maybe by accident or maybe for a little bit of payback, Jeff got finger-jammed by a hard pass from Ruth when he wasn’t exactly, well, looking.
And we had our fair share of flyaways, including one that knocked the camera good and sideways.
But mostly, we just cruised, as the skills and persistence of the unflappable Winders family sped us through — 2,000 made in about an hour and 43 minutes, or just three minutes more than the ultra-quick 20-per-minute pace. They weren’t fooling around, and we were flying.
It was great, frenetic fun. With those 2,000, along with 1,500 the following morning (Tuesday) and 1,000 this morning (Wednesday), we’re now at 364,007 down, 635,993 to go to 1 million made foul shots.
And for that night at least, we were very un-dud-like.
“We’re going to tell people about this,” Jeff said.
So am I, sir. You guys were a blast to have around. Thanks, Jeff, Ruth and Caitlyn … and come back any time.