Who Do You Love? The Red Johnnies!

In the fall of 1992, a few high school friends chatted at the end of Spanish class. It was the end of the school day on this mid-autumn afternoon and the young men talked about their plans for after school. The most unfortunate of the friends had to report to his job at a local apple orchard and he expressed his discontent with a few choice words.

"I gotta go pick some effing red johnnies or whatever."

Red johnnies? Wait. What? There's red delicious apples. And there's jonathan apples. But red johnnies?

Hilarity ensued.

. . .

It was early winter. A year later. It was time for teams to sign up for intramural basketball and the same group of friends -- now seniors -- considered forming a team. While some had played basketball in grade school and others had taken part in their share of pick-up games, none really had a significant amount of basketball talent. But that wasn't a problem. They weren't out to win. They were out to entertain.

All they needed was a name.

Since "Sexy Seniors" was already taken by a group of football players looking for something to do during the off-season, the friends referred back to that day in Spanish class when their (now graduated) co-hort uttered one of the most ignorant phrases ever spoken by an after-school apple picker.

The Red Johnnies were born.

. . .

Intramural basketball games were played during the school's daily lunch period. Those scheduled to play typically had to scarf down a lunch in record time and hurry to the gymnasium. In the gym, two games were played simultaneously as the four goals on the sides of the main court were lowered allowing two smaller "full court" games to be played.

The Red Johnnies record was not impressive. In fact, they only tallied a single victory all season. What they did accomplish, however, was to draw record crowds from the school cafeteria to the gymnasium to be entertained by slap-stick antics and laughable basketball.


The Red Johnnies had a solid fanbase and recognized them appropriately at halftime of each game with gifts of gratitude for their dedication. Typical rewards to the Red Johnny faithful included individual boxes of cereal and the highly collectible Red Johnnies commemorative plates (flimsy red plastic plates signed by members of the team).

The Johnnies were a force to be reckoned with as they would frequently draw calls from the referee/social studies teacher for flagrant fouls (kneeling on all fours to trip an opposing player running backwards) and hanging on the rim too long after a monster jam (apparently the rules of basketball do not allow a player to use the net to pull themselves to rim where they hang waiting on a lob pass to be "dunked").

For two ten-minute halves, a few times a week, cheers rung through the school gymnasium:





Mid-season, the Red Johnnies picked up a top recruit from the school's basketball team after he either quit or was removed from the team for general assery.

Either way, the magical debut season of the Red Johnnies continued but soon drew to a close.

For now.

. . .

The century had just changed. Y2K had arrived.

Some college friends toyed with the idea of forming an intramural basketball team. Among the newly-formed team of eight, some had played basketball in high school and others had taken part in their share of pick-up games, but none really had a significant amount of basketball talent.

This didn't hold them back. All they needed was a name.

One player on the team recalled his days playing for the Red Johnnies. The antics. The fun. The mediocre basketball skills.

The Red Johnnies were reborn.

Sporting their $20 reversible jerseys -- much nicer than the cheap t-shirts worn by every other team in the league -- the Red Johnnies took the court by storm every week for half a semester. There was no clowning around for this team as the Red Johnnies notched an impressive two victories in their comeback season.

Off the court, they celebrated each game with enthusiasm.

Win or lose. They celebrated.

One member of the Red Johnnies even spent halftime of one game celebrating at Marty's -- a bar across the street from the rec center -- before returning for a dominant second-half performance.

As the season drew to an end, the Red Johnnies were honored with an award. Nobody is quite sure what this award was, nor is there any record as to what was documented on the plaque being lifted high above their heads.

All that's known is that the plaque was borrowed from a wall in the building where one of the Johnnies lived and it served as a token of gratitude to these brave and courageous young men -- the original and the new -- whose presence on the basketball court has never been matched to this day.

They're an inspiration to us all.

Long live the Red Johnnies.

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