Out of Context: Below the Rim

Out of context: below the rim

Professor of Music Blake Wilson (far right) comes to a jump-stop moments before hitting his shot. Photo by Carl Socolow '77

by Matt Getty

Stroll into the Kline Center around lunch on Monday, Wednesday or Friday, and you’ll hear a Dickinson tradition stretching back more than three decades. Amid the thump of the ball against hardwood, there will echo cross-disciplinary discussions on theatre, biology, economics, archaeology, music—and perhaps even the infinite complexities of a moving pick.

Such are the sounds of the faculty basketball game, a spirited half-court battle among colleagues in which the knee braces seem to outnumber the knees, ages can range from 18 to 75, and—though the shooting percentages run high—the action stays well below the rim.

“I try to never miss it,” says Professor Emeritus of Economics Gordon Bergsten, the longest-tenured player. “It’s a great bunch of guys, and a great game. I don’t know what I enjoy more, the pregame chats or the exercise.”

Bergsten joined the game in 1984, the same year he joined Dickinson’s political science department.

“I wanted to find ways to see my students outside of class,” says Bergsten, who at 75 relies heavily on a long-range set-shot from the hip that—if given enough room—is so automatic it’s effectively a 22-foot layup. “So I gave them a few options. I told them we could have lunch, you could come to my office for a half-hour chat, or if you like basketball, you could come and play basketball—and a lot of them took me up on that.”

One of those students was Keith Fischer ’02, who has since rejoined the game on the other side after returning to Dickinson as associate director of admissions.

“It’s a great way to have some interaction among faculty, staff and students,” says Associate Professor of Archaeology Christofilis Maggidis, who makes the game a family affair, bringing in his son and daughter, Paschalis ’19 and Chrysanthe ’16. “To be able to stuff your son’s shot in front of your colleagues—it’s a great feeling.”

Dozens of players have come and gone since the ’80s. The only undefeated competitor has been knee trouble, which in recent years took Professor of Mathematics Barry Tesman and Professor of Political Science Harry Pohlman off the court.

But the game survives, with three to 10 players on any given afternoon. Their comfort with fuzzy math allows the athletic academics to play with uneven teams, but no matter how many show up, full court is always out of the question.

“Too much chance of injury,” says Brian Whalen, president of The Forum on Education Abroad, who joined the game as Dickinson’s executive director of the Office of Global Education and stayed with it since leaving the college in 2010.

Today, the game continues to grow. In addition to the Maggidis clan, Shawn Stein, associate professor of Spanish and Portuguese, and Mark C. Aldrich, associate professor of Spanish, joined in recent years. And though the game does boast NBA ties (John Ramsay, son of former Portland Trailblazer coach Jack Ramsay, was a regular when he was Dickinson’s director of teacher education), it’s more than the level of competition that keeps players coming back.

“It’s been a good run,” says Professor of Music Blake Wilson, who recently stirred up that debate on moving picks—a discussion that extended over a half dozen emails complete with links to several instructional videos. “We won’t always admit it, but I think we’d go out of our way to re-arrange our teaching schedules just to make sure we can play.”

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Published April 28, 2016