YOU KNOW the kind of kid I'm talking about, right? The too-skinny, too-slow type who shoots all day at the rec center and shoots all night in the neighbor's driveway and air-shoots in algebra class but never gets his chance in a real game?
Well, this story is about that kid.
His name is Sean Cronk, he's 17 and he lives with his disabled mother in a housing project across the street from the rec center in Everett, Mass. "If Sean could move his bed into that rec center," says his mom, Catherine, "I think he would."
And even though he can't beat a phone booth off the dribble and can't stop a slug on D, the kid makes the Everett High jayvee team as a junior this season mostly because they can't scrape him off the court with a shovel. And one day he gets in at the end of a meaningless game and sinks two free throws—swish, swish—like it's nothing.
So 10 games later they try him again, and Sean makes two more. Before long he's 10 for 10, which is no surprise to his buddies because he makes 50 foul shots in a row sometimes at the rec and has hit 25 straight threes.
Then the varsity coach, John DiBiaso, gets the crazy idea to add this kid to the roster for the stretch run and the state tournament. Not that he'll play, people figure; it's more of a reward thing.
The next day Everett is playing at Peabody for no less than the Greater Boston League title, and the game is tighter than Wayne Newton's face. There's only 20 seconds left with Everett up by three, when one of the Crimson Tide players gets mugged on a drive and has to be helped off.
And DiBiaso looks down the bench at his subs and says to the scrawny kid, "Sean! Shoot the free throws!"
Everybody in the gym practically swallows their gum as the kid limps out to the free throw line, dragging his left leg along like a dog that doesn't want to follow. See, Sean Cronk has cerebral palsy, which is why he is the kid who only shoots, shoots and air-shoots and never gets his chance when it counts. And yet here it is.
The Peabody crowd sees him pulling that bum leg, and they boo and whistle and holler from the very bottom of their hollerers. Hey, this is for the league title, after all. And Catherine, hobbled by a broken ankle, can hardly stand the pressure because no mom wants to see her only son fail in the moment he's rehearsed 100,000 times. So she closes one eye and grips her cane so hard that she nearly snaps it in half.