By Joanna Chadwick
If you went to any City League basketball games, you probably saw George Shaw there. Sadly, Mr. Shaw has died.
I cannot believe that when I go to see a City League game this winter, I won’t see Mr. Shaw there. He always had a wide smile and probably some candy to share. He’d be at the 6A basketball tournament, probably cheering on Heights — he videotaped games for former coach Goose Doughty — but he was just a fan of City League basketball. He loved the game, loved to talk about the game, loved to talk about the players.
Pretty much, he just loved to talk. He’d be sitting up there in the stands, probably with Linwood Sexton and Charlie Gill. Here’s a video from when I wrote the below story in 2007.
I’ll miss seeing Mr. Shaw. What a good man. He had a presence about him, and a real sweetness. I made sure my boys have met all three men. They are men you want to know.
I feel privileged that I knew Mr. Shaw. I wish I could have seen one last smile from him.
When Linwood Sexton was asked if he’d be at Thursday’s Southeast vs. East boys basketball game at Koch Arena, he reacted in the same way as George Shaw did – he laughed.
Understandable. It was a ridiculous question. Of course they’d be there. Wasn’t it expected to be the best game of the season between the top two City League teams, which are also contenders for the Class 6A title? So where else would they be?
If you’ve ever been to a high school basketball game in Wichita, you’ve likely seen Sexton, 80, or Shaw, 76, or Charlie Gill, 74. They’re the dapper gentlemen usually sitting at the top of the stands, against the wall.
They might be at Koch Arena, as they were Thursday to watch East defeat Southeast 91-84 in overtime. Or they might be at a junior varsity game or the Kapaun Mount Carmel girls tournament.
Why? They’re all sports fans.
Sexton, 80, is a member of the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame and played football, basketball and track at Wichita State at the 1940s.
And when Gill was a youngster, Sexton, who grew up in the same neighbor hood, coached him in basketball. Gill played at Wichita State in 1951-52. Shaw remains an avid tennis player.
Spending their nights at sporting events is the perfect life for them. As Sexton said, why would he want to stay at home and watch TV when he can watch a game in person?
Shaw, a former Shocker football player in 1951, is so serious about watching high school basketball that he clips the schedule for the upcoming season out of the paper each November, then figures out where he’ll be going. Likely blowout? Not interested. But any game that might be a toss-up, that’s where he wants to be.
And he doesn’t call Sexton or anyone else to discuss the top games. They just usually end up at the same games. The best games.
They don’t really root for anyone. Oh, they have their favorites. Sexton is a fan of Southeast junior Jordan Cyphers, who is an usher at his church. And Shaw has several grandchildren playing, as well as a nephew, Southeast sophomore Cecil Shaw.
But Thursday when Davon Gill, 9, asked his grandfather who he was cheering for, Charlie Gill answered “Both teams.”
He just wanted a good game.
Watching the game with the trio is fascinating. They seemingly know everyone, and friends routinely stopped by to chat. James Reed came by before the boys game and stayed and chatted through the whole game.
Others sit with them at various games, including Goose Doughty and Bill Himebaugh. Mack Meeks stopped by to talk briefly before going to his seat.
“See, when they bring their wives, they won’t come over,” Shaw said. “They (Gill and Sexton) have big mouths and will tell everything. They’re like a refrigerator – they never stay closed.”
The men comment on everything, from the cheerleaders to the flag team to the officials.
They watched the girls game and wondered how many threes East’s Cassie Rodriguez would hit. Gill said four, she hit three. Then the men talked about how big the court was, which started a discussion on whether Sexton could still run the court. He swears he could.
That’s the kind of banter Gill and Sexton have frequently, throwing out one-liners every few minutes. You can’t help but laugh.
But watching Shaw is the highlight.
He gets caught up in the game, living each moment with the players. He keeps statistics on specific players throughout the season, so he knows how East’s Garrius Holloman and Southeast’s Adonis Gantt have developed through the season.
He moves his arms and keeps up a running commentary. Saying “Move, move” or yelling, “Oh baby!” after a sweet block.
Sexton and Gill are the opposite, sitting back and watching while Shaw throws himself back and laughs at a particularly good play.
Gill shakes his head and says “We’re cool.”
That’s for sure.