Saying Goodbye To Freedom Hall, Part Two

Sykes Gets The Call On Legendary Hardwood

By Paul Sykes

I’ll always remember getting the chance to play a game at Freedom Hall. It was 1973 and I was a junior in high school. We had won our district tournament, advancing to Freedom Hall for the regional playoffs.

The thrill of getting ready for the game in the locker room where the University of Louisville and the Kentucky Colonels prepared was exciting enough. But to run out onto the court and participate in warm-up drills and layups was a dream come true.

"Goal by S-y-k-e-s," Tong intoned. I was grinning ear to ear. "At the line, shooting one ... S-y-k-e-s." I dribbled, went through the motions and released a perfect swish at the free throw line.

I’m sure it was just me but the rim and backboard didn’t seem as high as in our home gym. I seemed to soar thru the air during the pregame layup and shooting practice, confident I could “slam one home” for a dunk. Dunks weren’t allowed in high school hoops at the time.

I didn’t start and didn’t play during the first half. Still, it was exciting to sit on the sideline, hearing the legendary public address call of John Tong. We were in a close game and Freedom Hall was about half full.

I got my chance to play inn the third quarter. Our center had picked up two quick infractions and went to the bench with four fouls. I remember hearing John Tong making the substitution announcement. Seconds later I was running up and down the legendary hardwood.

Near the end of the quarter, I received a bounce pass in the paint and went to the hoop to try and score. The opposing center tried to block my shot but instead fouled me. The basket went in and I was headed to the foul line.

“Goal by S-y-k-e-s.” Tong intoned. I was grinning ear to ear. “At the line, shooting one … S-y-k-e-s.” I dribbled, went through the motions and released a perfect swish at the free throw line. After that, I returned to the bench.

I was sent back in when our center fouled out. I soon heard my name once again … a second time

“Foul on number 33 … Sykes.”

Our opponent pulled away with a minute to go. The coach emptied the bench so some of the scrubs could play. Near the end of regulation, I tipped in a missed shot back through the hoop, hearing my name still another time. Unfortunately, it was the only time I ever played there, not making it back my senior year.

“At the l-i-n-e, Sykes.” Heady stuff.

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Paul Sykes

Paul Sykes owns Paul Sykes Advertising and does contract work for other advertising and publishing firms. The proud husband of Sonja, he has a fascination with bears, bars and Cardinal sports. He's also the moderator of CardinalCouple.blogspot.com

One thought on “Saying Goodbye To Freedom Hall, Part Two

  • February 23, 2010 at 7:42 am
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    Memories of the late, great John Tong. The distinctive, professional approach that he took to any event in the Hall…be it UofL, high school hoops or Cardinal football.

    Many years ago, I was honored to meet the legendary P.A. announcer at a social gathering. Introducing me to him was another Louisville legend, the late Jack Tennant. Between the two of them, they kept the people at the table with Paul and I entertained with stories of Freedom Hall and the funny and quirky games they had witnessed there. Tennant’s recalling of sitting next to the late Dick Fick during a UofL vs. Morehead State basketball game brought us all to laughter and tears.

    Tong was also a smooth operator on the dance floor as well. Both Tong and Tennant are greatly missed. Although Sean Moth is one of the best at the P.A. mcrophone out there these days…older Cardinal fans will always remember the classic style Tong used to orchestrate Louisville athletic events.

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