Thank you Coach McKissick

  • Sunday, July 6, 2014

Once upon a time, I was a real football fan. This is why.

Entering his 63rd year as Head Coach this Fall is the winningest football coach at any level in United States history. He is John McKissick, Head Coach for the Summerville Greenwave at my high school alma mater, Summerville High School.

Coach McKissick, 88 years old this September and still standing on the field, thus far hasn’t missed a single game his entire tenure at Summerville, starting in 1952. Having won 613 of 777 games with 13 ties, he has a 79% career winning average with the Greenwave. In that time, the varsity Greenwave have had exactly two losing seasons. McKissick has coached grandsons of previous Greenwave team members. Imagine living the movie “Friday Night Lights,” not for an hour and a half, not for a season, but for a lifetime. That’s what John McKissick has done so far.

The Summerville Greenwave have won 10 state titles in those 62 seasons. From 1978 to 1980, they won 41 games in a row. Perry Cuda presided as quarterback over that streak. The only game he ever lost in that position was the last one he ever played as a Greenwave, the State Championship game against the Irmo Yellow Jackets, in 1981.

My last 3 years in high school, ending in 1984, while I was busy singing, acting, and struggling to graduate, the Summerville Greenwave won three consecutive 6-AAAA State Championships, ending the season of my senior year undefeated. North Carolina, where I live today, is a basketball state. But South Carolina is a decidedly football state. And for decades now, Summerville has been the high school football team to beat.

No, I didn’t play for the Greenwave. I couldn’t handle that and Chorus and Drama productions. I’m no Jim Bogstad. But I sure got spoiled as a fan. Summerville fans used to feel so bad for other teams, we were known to cheer for our opponents’ advances and touchdowns on occasion. Believe it or not. Sure, winning is gratifying. But constant, overwhelming domination can get boring. In fact, the best football game I’ve ever seen was Summerville’s loss on November 5th, 1982, to the scrappy little Middleton Razorbacks, 2-6. No, that score is not a typo.

Middleton was a much smaller team by every measure. They hadn’t beat Summerville once in their 14 year history. It should have been a blowout. But from the beginning, you could smell it in the air. That night, the Razorbacks came to Summerville loaded for bear, and hungry!

We didn’t just give it to them, either. Middleton sweated out every yard, every catch, every tackle, and every first down. Both teams played their hearts out, but once the Razorbacks saw blood, they would not be denied. In the entire game, they gave up one safety, and we gave up one touchdown.

When the clock ran out, all the fans stood up and cheered for both teams. I’ve never been more satisfied at a sporting event, which is probably why I was a fan instead of a player. The Razorbacks beat the Greenwave only one more time before Middleton High School closed in 2000.

Anyway, after going to Summerville High School, every other football experience has just paled in comparison. What else could really compare? Some might respond, “Well, then, you don’t really love football.”

I suppose they’re right. I recall Marc Cohn’s early nineties hit song, “Walking in Memphis.” He sings:

“Now, Muriel plays piano

Every Friday at the Hollywood

So, they brought me down to see her

And they asked me if I could

Do a little number

And I sang with all my might

She said, ‘Tell me are you a Christian, child?’

And I said, ‘Ma’am, I am tonight!’”

No, at the end of the day, I guess I’m really not much of a football fan. But when I was in high school, I was a huge fan of the Summerville Greenwave. Not many of us, in a lifetime, get to see the ultimate of anything — the absolute best, the greatest, the smartest, the fastest, the longest, the biggest, the bravest, the baddest, at any one thing, in person — ever — much less regularly. Camelot is an idyllic fantasy, we’re told, a legend, delusions of what once was and never could have been. Everyone knows that, right?

So, did it really happen? Did I really visit Camelot, and possibly at its height? Oh, yes. Yes, I did. Thank you, Summerville. And thank you, Coach McKissick.

Brian Howell, a 1984 Summerville High School graduate, lives in Asheville, N.C. His blog is at americanparser.wordpress.com. He can be reached at americanparser@gmail.com.

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