Thanks to Chuck Klosterman over at Grantland.com, a story that might have been forgotten has been thrust back onto a national stage (Grandland.com was created by über popular ESPN columnist Bill Simmons). Some 23 plus years ago, the tiny United Tribes Technical College Thunderbirds played a basketball game against the North Dakota State University at Bottineau Lumberjacks. The Lumberjacks were heavily favored and very good. The Thunderbirds had all of five guys on their team by the time this game took place (meaning they didn’t have a single sub) and weren’t terribly good, at least not if you go by their records at the time of the game, which were 17-8 for the Lumberjacks and somewhere below .500 for the Thunderbirds (Klosterman points out this took place pre-internet, and because the game wasn’t even regionally important, there aren’t many other records to go by.)
But Klosterman was there. And thank goodness for that. He goes on to tell the amazing story of how the Thunderbirds managed to beat the Lumberjacks…while playing three against five (two of their players fouled out, one of whom was far and away their star, Barry Webster.)
It’s not that the Thunderbirds lacked talent (they had plenty), it’s that they were severely outmatched physically (not a player on the team was above six feet). What they did have, however, was near superhuman stamina, and a considerable lack of doubt in their abilities.
Read Klosterman’s piece if you want to be wowed about a piece of sports history that deserved to be remembered, almost wasn’t, and now, thanks to the internet, will never be forgotten.
Nice piece, Chuck.