January 7, 2011

Steve Solloway: A showman shows the real deal

It's difficult to miss Jason Gibbons at Maine Red Claws games at the Portland Expo. When the players aren't on the court, Gibbons takes over, bringing out the basketball talent in kids and adults for prizes. He is a showman. The weekend before Christmas, he took his act to Texas on his own time for Operation Care-Dallas.

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Jason Gibbons

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Keegan Hyland

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"It was jaw-dropping, just unbelievable," said Gibbons before Thursday night's Red Claws game. A crowd of about 14,000 homeless people from the Dallas-Fort Worth area converged on the Dallas Convention Center to get everything from free haircuts, clothes and food, to medical and legal advice or a long-distance telephone call. Entertainers donate their time. Gibbons, whose ballhandling skills are second to Harlem Globetrotters wizardry, got a round-trip plane ticket and a whole lot more that can't be valued in dollars.

He had a couple of scheduled gigs inside the convention center. But standing outside, watching a band leave a stage, Gibbons saw an opportunity. He asked a sound man if he could take the microphone. He got it and enough juice to be heard by everyone in the plaza. You can see a few minutes of his 45 minutes on the outdoor stage on YouTube. He told his own story of nearly dying in a Maine hospital and his spirituality. He connected. ...

Keegan Hyland would be a nice fit for the University of Maine men's basketball team should he take his work ethic, maturity and shooting eye to Orono. The decision, of course, is his to make to satisfy himself, not Maine basketball fans. ...

Two years ago, while Tom Brady rehabbed his leg injury, sport talk-show callers finally fell in love with Matt Cassel. With good reason. Cassel, the perennial understudy, stepped up when Coach Bill Belichick put the offense in his hands. At the time, some callers advocated that the Patriots keep Cassel and ship Brady out of town. The fear was Brady would be hobbled when he returned. Right. ...

The apple didn't fall far from the Dulac family tree. Zach Dulac's story as a team captain, linebacker and offensive lineman for Cheverus' championship season was told once or twice this fall. Dulac was also named a first-team, All-State linebacker. Dulac's father, Greg, was captain of Portland High's 1982 state championship team, and a first-team, All-State linebacker. Zach can one-up dad in this regard: He was named a finalist for the inaugural Frank Gaziano Memorial Offensive and Defensive Lineman Awards. ...

When the column was written on 2010's top 10 local sports stories, the reference to the incredible success of Scarborough's female teams omitted the indoor and outdoor track teams, who shouldn't be overlooked. That same column, noting Bowdoin College's field hockey championship, contained the quote: "I joke with my family about all the other milestones in life that are supposed to be the best moments, getting married, having kids. They will all come in second and third. The quote should have been attributed to goalie Emily Neilson. ...

Initially, I had a flippant response after reading Steve Buckley's column in Thursday's Boston Herald, where he revealed publicly that he is gay. So why is this important? Buckley was a long-ago colleague at the Portland Press Herald and Maine Sunday Telegram. On perhaps my first assignment to a Bruins game at the old Boston Garden, I sat alone in the media dining room. Buck asked if he could join me. We probably talked about Joey Gamache, one of his favorites from his days at the Press Herald. High school wrestling, another Buckley interest. The old Maine Mariners. Buckley once donned goalie pads and played several minutes in the Mariners' nets when Tommy McVie was the coach. Buckley almost always wrote and fought verbally with his chin out. I liked that.

I stood up from the table to leave and Buck thanked me for sitting with him. Huh? Later Thursday afternoon, I learned our dinner together was about the time others were trying to out him. A straight person may never understand the weight of being gay. That's why Thursday's column was important.

Staff Writer Steve Solloway can be contacted at 791-6412 or at:



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Matt Cassel
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Matt Cassel


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