By Tom Kurpinsky
A few weeks before the State Firefighter Olympics were played, several of the SFFD members were able to go back to Indianapolis and play in the Ninth World Police and Fire Games. (Okay, so you figured out if I were a real reporter I would have been fired years ago. Did someone say deadline? I thought I was on fire department time. Sorry! I’ll try to make the Olympic article late also, so you’ll know it didn’t all happen at once!)

The trip didn’t start out all that well, but I don’t want to get into that. For the old guys who were going, this was going to be about a 10 day trip with the over 40 three on three hoops the highlight. Or should I say the hope light. We felt that if we had a real chance to bring back some hardware the over 40 three on three was where we could do it. We were also along for the ride to try and help the younger guys with the 5 on 5 full court games.

After getting off to a terrible start and losing the first game on Friday, we got Saturday off. Now we had time to think about how bad we played and about the fact that if we lost on Sunday we would have two more days off before the 3 on 3 started. Things were different on Sunday though as we got back to our winning ways and beat the hometown Indianapolis Fire Dept. That was a

Photo Provided By Tom Kurpinsky
great victory for us, as everyone wanted to show that the first game was a fluke of sorts. On Monday we started out with a team from Finland and got a victory. Later in the afternoon we met the team that would go on to win the Silver Medal from Connecticut. We played good enough to win for about 30 minutes, but the last 10 did us in. A compliment from Connecticut was that they told us we were the toughest team they had played. One of the directors told me later that the committee was very impressed with our team as they had looked at the ages of all the players and were surprised at how well we still played. He told me that by far we were the oldest team in the competition. (As if we couldn’t figure that out) I reminded him that 6 of the players on the team had won the silver medal in 1985, the very first World Games in San Jose. He gave me a funny look, but 1985 doesn’t seem that long ago to me!!

Our 5 on 5 team consisted of Justin Brown, Rob Dotson, Lou Ibarra, Chet ‘Dog’ Spirlin, Eric Nuemann, Mike Pasquini, Gary Bradford, Dave ‘Big Foot’ Long, Treut Sperry and Tom Kurpinsky. We also had a first for me, a traveling Probie Kevin Shea. He was great and assisted in many ways. Thanks Kevin. . .you were a worthy road tripper. Everyone played hard and it was a pleasure to have the chance once again to play with these gentlemen and enjoy some quality time with them.

Now here is where the story gets even better. We were done on Monday and guys were talking about going home. (Or should I say making new air departures home) Lots of reasons but no names as they are still in the business. My Road Dog Treut and I were dismayed to say the least that now we were half way across the country and might not be able to form a team of 3 on Wednesday for the 3 on 3. We had a third, Dave Long, but he was going to miss a game for sure and then we weren’t sure if he’d make it back for the next game. (He had to go to Chicago, family thing.) So on Tuesday two hours before we were flying back and giving up on playing, we worked the big foot one more time. Cell phones appeared and Big Foot got permission to stay. Now we had three. At this time there were 7 members from the team left, (four had already flown home) and by the time we finished afternoon drinks and snacks all 7 were staying. Not only that, we found out that Chet Dog was not only staying he was going to play! Here he was with us all week and neither Treut nor I knew the Dog was old enough to play with us. What a bonus, now we had a squad. Or so we thought.

After winning our first game of pool play the next day beating Madison, Big Foot Dave Long tells us he’ll see us tomorrow. We were like, “Dave, you told us yesterday you were in.” He says, “that was yesterday now you have Chet you don’t need me.” Well, we thought we did and were mad for a minute but we beat San Diego big without him. The first of three times we were happy to have Chet. That first day was a lot of fun. Sperry and Kurpinsky averaged over 70 points a game. I guess we were just happy to be playing and not going home.

The next day we had Big Foot back and beat a good Chicago Fire team by 20. I believe that might have been the best game we played. They were big and strong with 6 players and we played our smartest game taking whatever they gave us. The win gave us first place in the pool and a bye for the next day. After sitting out a game, we played Toronto who had beaten Indianapolis. It was a good and close game. We won by about 8 pts. Late in the game when I got hurt, Chet Dog came in and hit some big shots to help keep the lead. This was the second time we were happy he was able to play. This win put us in the Gold Medal Game. After the pool play it was a single elimination tournament.

So here we were on the final day after we thought we would have been home for four days without even the chance to know how we might have done. I guess the other teams by now had wished we went home too. I think the will of Sperry was too much. I tried to remind him that we would at least walk away with Silver, but he was not buying that. He kept reminding me “how many more chances do you think you’ll have to win a World Gold?” We already have a World Silver.

He took that attitude to the court on this last morning. After getting down by 10 to a much improved and smarter Chicago Fire I couldn’t go any more. For the third time in the tourney we were glad to see Chet Dog. We battled back to a three-point deficit at half time. Throughout the second half the lead exchanged hands many times. We finally took a lead for good around the 2-minute mark. Clutch free throws by Big Foot and a couple of 3 point shots by yes, Chet Dog, kept us in the lead. Chet also got a rebound off a missed free throw by Long and dribbled out the clock. What a great feeling having won the Gold after thinking you weren’t even going to get a chance to play. I have won a lot of Gold medals with my brothers over the years but this one was very special. This will go in the record books for me as one of the BEST!

It was truly a great team effort. Dave Long was outstanding through all the games. Shooting, rebounding and blocking shots. Sperry was like a bulldog. He had his eye on the prize and made us see it too. The man is a tough 3 on 3 hunch player. We voted Chet the MVP. As it turned out, without the fourth guy we really would have been in trouble. Chet bailed us out big time. As a team we called him MVP right at the end of the tourney and it was only fitting that it would be him. I also don’t think we could have found a finer gentleman for the role. Chet, thanks for all the other little things you did for me and everyone else on the trip. I noticed many of them. Thanks especially for hanging with us and making everything work.

I hope this wasn’t too long. Those of you who know me know I’m usually a man of few words. This turned out to be one of the best road trips of all time for me. I prefer the California coastline, but this trip gave me some great stories. Anyone for 50 and over in Barcelona in 2003?


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