I was certainly glad I purchased a Broughton's Brawlers T-shirt Tuesday night at the Anything Can Happen alumni basketball game and tribute to former Truman High School boys basketball coach Steve Broughton.
I used it throughout the night as a handkerchief as emotions, love, laughter and rock-solid courage made the Truman High School gym the site of an event none of us who attended will ever forget.
I've known Steve Broughton for 25 years. I've known him for so long that I actually remember when his salt and pepper gray hair was actually kind of dark.
I always appreciated the way he treated his players, and me.
He never spent more than a few minutes with his team following a game – win or lose – and he made my job easy with his breezy quotes and colorful insight into the game he dominated as a player and a coach.
Steve was one of those guys to whom people gravitate. You could talk to him about his beloved Kansas City Royals, the area high school sports scene or just life in general.
If you called him, you got a return call in minutes.
Unfortunately, that's a coaching trait that has become a thing of the past.
A few weeks ago, he felt some discomfort in his stomach so he went to see his doctor. The next day he got the phone call we all dread, “You need to come to the office immediately.”
He was informed that he had pancreatic cancer that had spread to his liver. Steve is not sugar-coating his latest challenge. The prognosis is not rose colored, and he is undergoing painful chemotherapy treatments in hopes to battling a disease that has already claimed too many people I love and respect – including little Ryan Christian, who was the most gallant champion I will ever meet.
The beauty of Tuesday night's celebration, in which former Truman players returned to Independence to take part in an alumni game, was that Steve was there to witness the love and respect he has earned over the past 25 years.
I arrived at Truman at 6:20 p.m. for the 7 p.m. event and there wasn't a parking spot to be found. I might as well have walked from Grain Valley.
More than $10,000 was donated at the door, and that total does not include T-shirt sales and auction items.
Somehow, he managed to take a microphone and say a few words to the near standing-room-only crowd as members of his family watched in awe.
It was a John Wayne moment, only it was real.
I was sitting with former Blue Springs High School coach and activities director Tim Crone as Steve took the microphone. Crone was as emotionally spent as I was, and he said, “Now, there's a man!”
I couldn't have said it better.
Steve, you saw what our community, your school, your players and your loved ones thought of you Tuesday night. As I sat there, I just kept thinking of the words of Winston Churchill, as German bombers turned his beloved London into a heap of rubble.
Churchill simply said, “Never, never, never give up.”
I know you won't.
Bill Althaus is a sports writer and columnist for The Examiner. Reach him at 350-6333 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @AlthausEJC