By Matt Roach
At first glance, the 2018-19 boys’ basketball season was not especially celebration-worthy; we fell short of the PSIT, MAPL and State championships, and our record was around .500.
Coaching and teaching, though, don’t take place at first glance. Upon closer inspection, this season was special - a vital intersection of Peddie community, academic and athletic life.
For one thing, there was the beautiful new basketball court (Thank you, Ian Graham ’50), which allowed players to change direction smoothly, and even (very occasionally) dunk. For another, the games made for great community celebrations. The fans were enthusiastic and loud; there was even a student-run ESPN broadcast at one point.
But this season was exceptional for two other, rather bizarre reasons that have as much to do with math and English as they do with sports.
First, the math: This team hit more 3-pointers than any team in Peddie history. We shot 306-903, or 33.77%, from 3 this season. During one game, we set the school record for threes, with 18. Later in the season, we broke that record by seven threes, and made 25. The team’s offense was spectacular, because a) The team had excellent shooters and unselfish passers and b) Math.*
To score as many points from 2 as we did from 3 this season, we would have had to make 153 more shots, and shoot nearly 51%, from 2. Now, 2-point shots are theoretically easier to make than threes, but with the ways that defenses play and the small size of our team, that wasn’t really the case for us. So, because of great players and some help from mathematical analytical reasoning, we set records and unprecedented point totals.
Secondly, in a strange twist, the boys’ basketball team suddenly embraced “Hamlet.” This began on a bus ride when some players complained about having to read it. “I hate ‘Hamlet,’” said one player. “‘Hamlet’ is so bad,” said another. Debate ensued about the play’s value. It was one of those glorious moments with teenagers when a complaint is actually a way of entering a real conversation. Before long, the team and the coaches were comparing players to “Hamlet” characters, and shouting lines from the play at each other.
Coach Rulewich merged the two themes of the season when he quoted “Hamlet” before a big game: “Though this be madness, yet there is method in it,” he said, uniting our relentless approach to taking threes with Hamlet’s antic disposition. This line was later stitched on team shirts.
Before another game, we asked, “To three, or not to three?”
Our season ended with a tough loss at Blair (like Hamlet, we had trouble with pirates). But the joy and impact of this season, and this team, remains.
It’s fitting, perhaps, that “Hamlet” ends with a game of one-on-one. Shakespeare well understood the value of public showcases, and play. He knew that performances give our lives meaning, and teach us things about each other. Like theater, sports allow us to connect with our communities, bond with our teammates and test ourselves intellectually and emotionally.
When a basketball team embraces both mathematical and literary wisdom, it’s a special thing. But that’s what happens when you’re in a school like Peddie; interplay between the arts and sports, math and strategy, and literature and team bonding is possible, even likely. It’s a joy to be a part of, even during a long winter.
Matt Roach is the assistant coach of the varsity boys' basketball team and chair of the English department.