A Father...A Son and a 'Friendly Wager'

Have you ever heard the story of Sean O'Neil betting he could beat his son, Matt, in a game of 1 on 1? After 6+ years, and a lot of trash talk, that bet was settled this past Sunday.

Upon moving to Pelham nearly 10 years ago, I was excited to learn there was a pretty decent 'Old Man's Run' -that’s basketball, folks- that took place Sunday mornings, at the New Rochelle Boys and Girls Club. It was at this weekly 'run' where I met my good buddy Sean O'Neil.

Most ‘Pelhamites’ have to know Sean: 5' 6, maybe 5' 7, great head of hair and quite possibly the largest nose in Pelham. On top of this, he's the nicest guy in the ENTIRE town and I'm lucky enough to call him...well I call him a lot of things, but you get the point.

Anyway, somewhere around 6+ years ago, we were there on a Sunday morning 'running and gunning.' Bill Henson was complaining about Harry T fouling him, Cory Highland pulled up any time he got the ball over half court and Matty Tolan's knees still worked.

Many times guys would bring their kids, you know, give the wife a break on a Sunday morning.

On one particular morning, I was playing one on one with one of Sean's twins, Matt (who happened to come alone that morning), and, after finishing, the following conversation ensued:

Me: He's pretty good, for a 3rd grader.

Sean: yeah, he's ok.

Me: At what age do you think a son beats his father?

Sean: No idea...maybe when he's a senior in HS.

Me:Really?  I think he beats you before that.

Sean (dismissively): Right! Not a chance!

Me: You know what, I think he'll beat you before he gets into HS (to be fair I was half joking, knowing the reaction this would provoke).

Sean (even more dismissively): NO WAY! (I'm paraphrasing here folks)

Me: Tell you what, I'll bet you xxxx that he beats you before he enters HS! (This is a clear example of a man-me-just simply making a bad decision because of not wanting to back down..I like to call it: 'having a big mouth').

Sean (incredulously dismissive):YOU'RE ON!!! (I can't write what he called me)

Me (turning towards, and speaking to, young Matt): I will pay you 1/2 of xxxx, if you beat your father, in a game of one on one, before you go into HS.

Matt (with $ signs in his eyeballs): Ok

Sean (uncontrollably laughing): Nice Lid...nice

Well, from that day on it had been a running joke with our local crew of fathers. Sean's twins Matt and Ryan began High School earlier this month, at PMHS (as did my daughter Sarah, Jordan Ammorelli, John Walsh, Sam Teller and Jack Gilchrist). 'Time stops for no man' and Sean's day of reckoning came, this past Sunday at Hooperstown. Now, I have to qualify this a bit: Sean had been away for 10 days on a grueling business trip, and had been home for less than 24 hours, after taking a ‘red-eye’ flight back. Nevertheless, he and his boys showed up and we played, in our weekly run, before the 2 competitors took to the court for the inevitable match-up.

The rules were set: the first to 21 points wins. Sean’s wife Erin and daughters, Julia and Olivia, were there; as were a select few who showed up to watch. Anyone expecting a blow out was quickly surprised; this was going to be a game. Matt, took an early 5-3 lead and later extended that to 9-5, his quickness and array of ‘around the basket moves’ dazzling his father. But Dad was not to give in easily. After a ‘TO,’ Sean had a quick burst hitting 2 quick 3-pointers and a nice running layup to take a 13-12 advantage. To be honest, I thought it was over there, as Sean looked to be taking control. But young Matt battled (and I'm sure his Dad was proud of the competitive O'Neil spirit his son displayed). They traded a few baskets back and forth and now it’s 18-17, Dad. One more patented ‘Seanny O 3’ and the young buck will have to wait for his time (and I’ll have to reach for my checkbook). Sean squares, rises and realeases....but the ball clanks off the rim.  Quickly, Matty rebounds and, to the amazment of the crowd, hits a 3 of his own to take it to 20-18 lead. Referee Steve Colombo announces: "point game".  After a quick Matt miss, Sean rebounds pulls up, and let’s fly another ‘3' (surely this has to go in), but the combination of jet lag, no sleep, and 1.5 hours of basketball already on his 43 year old legs (and 80 year old back) caught up with him, and the ball again bounded off the rim. Matt quickly retrieved it and took to the basket. Sean aggressively went for the block, but Matt got the shot away. His lay-up ‘tickled the twine’ and gave him a well earned 22-18 victory. Who’d of thunk it???? Terry Connor certainly didn’t!!!! Ladies and Gentlemen: THAT JUST HAPPENED!!!!

What started out as a gag, at least 6+ years ago, ended this past Sunday.I looked at Sean’s wife Erin and said: “I wanted Sean to win.” I have to admit I was sad. First and foremost, I was sad that Sean lost; I was rooting for him, secretly. I was also sad because this goofy little wager has been a talking point for so long, and now that too was gone. Erin looked at me and said: "C’mon Lid, do you really think he could beat 15 year old?" (Um..yes I did) I think she was sad too, (but wouldn’t admit it).

To young Matt O’Neil I congratulate you. I always knew you’d win! You have a prize coming your way son. To Ryan O’Neil: who knows how things would have turned out if you didn’t sleep late that Sunday morning. Finally, to Sean O’Neil: one of the things I love about you most, kid, is the email you sent later that day: ‘He was better today. Bet I'll beat him before he enters college.’

Hey Matt, care to make a wager????

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Sean O'Neil September 18, 2012 at 11:35 AM
Still crushed. This defeat has me working out hard. I'll be dunking by Christmas!
Terry Connor September 18, 2012 at 12:14 PM
It should be noted that Sean's personal motivator / mental strategist (me) was not able to attend this challenge match due to a scheduling conflict. I've witnessed (and contributed to) some of Sean's greatest victories over the past few years: the paddle match against Dusty, the 'race' at Moretti's house... I know in my heart that the outcome would have been different had I been there.
Terry Connor September 18, 2012 at 12:17 PM
It should also be noted that I am resigning my position as Sean's personal motivator / mental strategist. Can someone please forward his son's contact info?
Cindy J Tahil September 21, 2012 at 11:21 AM
"great head of hair and quite possibly the largest nose in Pelham. On top of this, he's the nicest guy in the ENTIRE town" In MY opinion, THiS is the FUNNIEST part of the entire story! Sean, had I been given adequate notice, I would have been there cheering for you! Nice try! Better luck with the pre-college bet! Perhaps your friends should ALL wager?! Congrats to Matt!
The Commissioner September 22, 2012 at 11:12 PM
A sad day for all of us. I thought you would have pounded that little fella


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