Every Pro Sports Team Needs a Ned Coten

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Updated: August 31, 2016

Who the hell is Ned Coten??

Unless you are a Perth Wildcats fanatic, you can be forgiven for not knowing who Ned Coten is. For the record, Ned Coten was a basketball player for the Perth Wildcats in the NBL. He played in a total of 5 games for the Cats over two seasons (1984, 1989). In 1989, he had a total of 15 minutes court time for the entire season. He didn’t score a point, had 1 rebound, 3 assists and a steal. But statistics don’t tell the full story about the impact that Ned Coten had.

In 1989, I was a sports-mad 9 year old. I would devour anything to do with the Perth Wildcats, West Coast Eagles or the Aussie cricket team. Their posters were on my wall, I could pretty much recite the entire playing list of the Wildcats and Eagles from memory (in order of jersey number), and I would spend the weekend watching the VFL and NBL matches with my Dad. So when I found out a few Wildcats players were coming to a shopping centre in my town, I couldn’t have been more excited. What’s more, one of the players coming was James ‘Alabama Slammer’ Crawford.

When the big day finally arrived, Dad took myself, and my sister (who couldn’t have cared less) over to the shopping centre to meet the players. There would have been around 150 other eager young kids waiting there also to get a glimpse of their sporting heroes. I don’t know if it was pure luck, or strategic planning on behalf of the organisers, but they set up the event out the front of Toy World. I’m sure the owners loved having 150 kids hanging around out the front of their store.

Anyway, soon enough, the players enter to meet the mass of excited kids. And there is James Crawford, all 6’8” of pure basketball awesomeness. Along with every other kid, I rushed forward to get a poster and get close the great man. Maybe, if I just got close enough to him, some of his basketball prowess might rub off on me. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to me, Ned Coten grabbed a bunch of posters, and started wandering around to the parents standing at the back, who were just making sure their kids weren’t getting trampled in the stampede. Along with the parents, there was also a number siblings who were either too nervous to go in with crowd or were like my sister, and didn’t know what all the fuss was about. Ned walked around, had a quick chat to each of the parents, and then offered a smile and a poster to the kids that were hanging back.

Once I had my poster, I made my way back to my Dad and my sister, and was thoroughly confused as to how she also had a poster in hand. When I asked Dad, he said “Ned Coten came around and handed them out”. I never forgot that. As I grew older, the impact of that statement, and what it meant began to sink in. It has actually made more of impact on me over the course of my life than getting to see the Alabama Slammer. I know it had just as strong an impression on my Dad, as he occasionally mentions the day himself.

That is why every professional sporting team needs a Ned Coten. The superstars will always receive the most attention, mainly from all the sports nuts like me. But what about the other kids? The ones that may have nothing more than passing interest in sport. They can’t be forgotten. What if there is a young Nat Fyfe or a young David Warner, and that one gesture makes them pick up a footy or a cricket bat for the first time?

The next time basketball season came around, my sister played her one and only season of ‘mini’-ball. Now, I can’t say she chose to play because of what Ned did, but I can’t say it had nothing to do with it either.

By the way, if you want to see a truly awesome/cringeworthy basketball promotional video that features Ned, Crawford, Tiny Pinder, Mike Ellis and the rest of the 1989 Wildcats. Check out the Wildcats Rap below. You’re welcome.

Let me give you another example of how a small gesture can make a lasting impact.

In 1988, Dad took me to my first West Coast Eagles game. I remember it vividly because I was that excited in the morning before we left for Perth that I vomited my breakfast up. There was much discussion between Mum and Dad as to whether I was sick, and if the trip should be called off. That just got me even more upset, and I vomited again. In the end, it was decided that it was pure nervous excitement that caused my stomach woes, and off we went.

We got to Subiaco oval early enough to watch the most of the curtain raiser match. At some point, Dad noticed a group of Eagles players had come out from the change rooms to have a look at the game themselves. Dad took me over to the players’ race, pulled out a notebook and a pen, and asked the players “Hey guys, how about an autograph for the young fella?”

One player – whose name I remember but choose not to publish – just turned his back and walked away. Adrian Barich then walked over, said “Not a problem mate”, grabbed the notebook, signed it, and took it around to the other players standing there to sign it. I don’t remember much from that day, except that the Eagles beat Geelong, but that little notebook became my favourite thing I owned. I even slept with it under my pillow for a few weeks after the game.

Before that day, I was an Eagles fan. From that day on, I was an Eagle for life.

I have no doubt Ned and Adrian don’t remember these interactions. Why would they? They were just doing what they had done with hundreds of other kids. And that’s what makes them special. The fact that I still remember these two occasions so vividly, nearly 30 year later, shows what sort of an impact a small gesture can have on an impressionable child.

 

So now I want to know: Who is your teams’ Ned Coten? Who made a major impact on you when you were young, or perhaps made an impression on you because of the way they interacted with your child?

Let me know on our OTLS Facebook page, or hit me up on Twitter @OTLS Archie

 

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Written by Jayden ‘Archie’ Keeler (@OTLSArchie)

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