Funny Thing ... Happy endings
Back in high school, Rennoldson Burt was known for two things. He was the only student who, when attendance was taken last-name-first, sounded like his name was being read first-name-last. And he had an incredible propensity for rim shots -- not the musical kind, where the drumstick hits the edge of the drum at the same time as the skin to create a loud retort, but the sports kinds.
Rennoldson didn't have the most unusual first name in our class -- we had a boy named Alpheus, a girl named Espen and a Yancy, who had permission to skip gym class and, thus, remained of an undetermined gender.
Rennie, as he was known when attendance wasn't being taken, was a pretty good athlete: tall, coordinated, in shape. I didn't play alongside him much because we went out for different sports. In the fall, he played lacrosse and I ran cross country. In the winter, he went out for basketball while I went home and watched "Match Game." It wasn't until the spring, when we both made the baseball team, that I got to know him.By then, he was a school legend.
Rennie raised eyebrows during his very first lacrosse game. Early in the first quarter, he received a pass, faked out a defender so badly he feel to his knees, spun to his right and fired a shot past the goaltender. It hit the crossbar and bounced away -- no point.Fluke, right?
Rennie managed to catch the metal edge of the net four more times that game. While he did score twice it was those near-goals that were most notable. No one could recall someone coming that close, that often.
The game wasn't an aberration. Throughout the season, Rennie consistently -- inexplicably -- bounced balls off the frame of the goal. Opposing goalkeepers loved him. Drove our coach crazy. No one kept track of how many "rim shots" Rennie ended the season with but he never went one entire game without one.
It was with this reputation for the near miss that Rennie tried out for -- and made -- the varsity basketball team. And here is where his myth really took flight.
It turns out Rennie's propensity for almost making the shot was transferable. Those lacrosse balls that bounced left and right off the goal rim were now basketballs that ricocheted at all angles off the basketball hoop. Forget "nothing but net." With Rennie, it was almost always "nothing but rim."
Being an excellent defender and a pretty good rebounder, Rennie made the starting team despite his less-than-stellar shooting.
In the season's first game, he amassed a triple double: 11 blocked shots, 12 rebounds and 10 rim shots. He managed to bounce 10 shots off the hoop. Some came up just short, others bounced several times before falling away. It was a remarkable performance. Rim Shot Rennie was born.
Word got out. At the next game the opposing team's fans brought snare drums into the stands. Every time a Rennie shot hit the rim -- BAMP!-- the gym echoed with rim shots. It was deafening. And a little funny.
Fortunately, Rennie was so strong on defense, the team kept winning. And he had a good sense of humor about himself. He didn't let the drumming bother him and, when the home fans began bringing in drums as something of an homage to Rennie's reputation, it generated additional excitement. The local paper even did a story on the Rim Shot Phenomenon, as it was headlined.
That spring, the varsity baseball coach encouraged Rennie to try out for the squad.
Rennie said thanks but he'd had enough of the Rim Shot limelight for a while. The coach -- one of those grizzled sorts who didn't have a high school degree himself but could out-debate any college grad -- said he thought Rennie had the makings of a great pitcher. He was persuasive and Rennie joined the team. During practice, from my perspective at second base, I could see what the coach had in mind.
Still, when Rennie took the mound for that first game, a buzzing crowd wondered what to expect. It didn't take them long to find out.
Rennie downed the first batter on three straight called strikes. The next batter fouled a pitch off but also went down on strikes.
The coach had been right. Rim Shot Rennie, who couldn't help but bounce lacrosse balls off the goal frame, who seemed incapable of swishing a basketball through a hoop, likewise was unable to throw a ball over the heart of the plate. Pitch after pitch caught the edge. He ended the game with 15 strikeouts, the rim shots from the stands getting louder with every pitch.Rim Shot Rennie has found his purpose.
Messenger managing editor Kevin Frisch's column, Funny Thing..., appears each Sunday in the Daily Messenger. Contact him at (585) 394-0770, Ext. 257, or via e-mail at KFrisch@MPNewspapers.com.