The more things change, the more they stay the same.

It’s been a month now since I left the Augusta Civic Center after the last basketball game of the 2023-24 season. That contest, Monmouth Academy’s 52-50 win over Mount View in the Class C boys state title game, was the kind that had my heart pounding from the excitement and my ears ringing from the noise.

It was the kind of game that has you disappointed that the season is over but already looking forward to the next season. Whereas March began with me looking forward, it ended Saturday with me looking back — and reminding me of the great ways that the excitement of sports always seems to repeat itself.

Showed Saturday at the Winthrop Maine Historical Society as part of a “Winthrop Madness” lookback at the Ramblers’ state title-winning 1965 boys basketball team, the tape, like many artifacts of its kind, was discovered by accident. A full recording of the team’s Class L state championship win over Bucksport, it was found by Ken Patten as he was cleaning out Winthrop High School in 2004. 

Winthrop’s Denis Clark tries to grab the ball in a boys basketball game against Monmouth in 1964. Photo provided by Winthrop Maine Historical Society

The audio is pristine, of far better quality than the countless broadcasts of classic games that have become distorted over time. Announcer Don Roberts, known at the time as the voice of the Cony Rams, leaves out no detail, even in a fast-paced game. Meanwhile, the roars of the Winthrop and Bucksport fans can be heard with each basket.

The game is a back-and-forth one with Bucksport, led by Ronny Gross, fighting the Ramblers tooth and nail every step of the way and even taking a 33-32 lead into halftime. Eventually, though, Winthrop, powered by future NBA draft pick Denis Clark’s 28 points, pulls away and ultimately claims a 71-61 victory to win the first of what’s now six state championships.


As humans, we sometimes struggle to picture things outside our scope of familiarity. For example, it’s easy for me, someone born in 1993, to picture a 1965 basketball game as being from a different time and a different world from the ones I cover on a daily basis. Was it? Maybe, but part of the beauty of sports is their ability to connect eras, places, cultures, people and other things that seem so far apart.

Winthrop Madness did that to the fullest extent. I felt connected to a time years before my existence listening to Clark, fellow stars Austin Farrar and Charlie Gordon make big shots and Roberts singing the praises of Winthrop’s coach, Roy Chipman. These were people I never met, some of whom I had never heard before today — but in this moment? That mattered not.

We lament often in life about how things change, and sports are no exception. In college sports, we’ve seen the demise of longtime conferences and traditions; in Major League Baseball, the adoption of interleague play, the designated hitter and replay review irked many purists; even in Maine high school sports, changes come about that make us nostalgic for yesteryear.

It’s all talk, chatter meant to pass the time — until we watch the games. Maybe we’re in the arenas or gymnasiums, a matter of feet from the action with hundreds or thousands of screaming fans at our backs, or maybe we’re at home, listening on the radio or watching via the many streaming options we have these days. Either way, when the game starts, we feel the same.

You can see it just making your way around central Maine. Go to Fairfield on a Friday night in the fall, and it’s hard to miss the pride the town still has for the Lawrence Bulldogs. Go to Gardiner or Winslow and see all the local businesses bearing the local team names. Those schools might be smaller than they once were, but they’re Tiger and Black Raider towns just as they were when the Gardiner girls basketball team won the first-ever state title game in 1975 or when Winslow football ruled the Pine Tree Conference’s Class B in the ’80s.

Denis Clark’s name is seen on a Maine Basketball Hall of Fame chair honoring him and other members of the Class of 2015 during the Winthrop Madness event Saturday at the Winthrop Maine Historical Society. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

You see it in the scenes, too. At the end of the game tape, Roberts describes the sights of seeing Clark and Gordon embracing their coach, jubilantly celebrating a run that began a year earlier when Winthrop fell to a 55-52 defeat to Ellsworth in the 1964 title game. It was no different just four weeks ago as Monmouth head coach Wade Morrill stood with his heads in his hands and a grin a mile wide, in some sort of a giddy disbelief as his players celebrated around him. After falling in regional title games in 2022 and 2023, this, too, was redemption.

It’s a simple observation, perhaps; we celebrate our wins and try to regroup after our failures. Yet in a world where we’re constantly talking about the changes around us in a seemingly negative light, that observation is a sign that what made things special to us when we first fell in love with them — in sports, at least — still do.

Yes, as things change, we find ourselves looking at what matters in the same way — and whether 1965 or 2024, the way the same sporting events bring us together and the feelings they bring us is one of those things that stays the same.

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