Daddy's Got Game 

When Coach Blake Chong cut Lynn Rubin's son from the varsity basketball team at Union City's Logan High School, he found himself with a different kind of court date.

"The father of a high school sophomore is seeking $1.5 million in damages and the dismissal of the school's basketball coach after his son did not get a spot on the varsity team. Lynn Rubin sued the New Haven Unified School District on Nov. 27 because his son, Jawaan Rubin, was told to return to the junior varsity team after being asked to try out for varsity."

--Associated Press, December 11, 2001

Dad's crazy, right? Dad must be one of those parents who just can't deal with the fact that his kid is not, if the truth must be told, The Greatest Person Who Ever Lived. Hell, people like this Lynn Rubin character, they're one nasty step away from that dad in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the one who beat his son's hockey coach dead -- in front of the whole team! -- arguing about playing time!

Parents. When will they get it?

When the story of Rubin's lawsuit hit the wires, sportswriters across the country jumped on it like free hot dogs in a press booth. Another Idiot Parent! Alert! "Tell Lynn Rubin he should be ashamed of himself," wrote some guy from the Wisconsin State Journal. "Then ask Jawaan if he has ever heard of Michael Jordan. The Michael Jordan, who, when he was cut from his high school basketball team, did not sue."

But go visit Lynn Rubin in his two-story home in Union City, and he'll tell you the entire story like it was one hilarious practical joke, one that worked just to his liking. Rubin has the gangly stride of the basketball star he once was as he walks around his living room in blue sweats and white socks. He played on a full scholarship at Grambling University, tried out for the Indiana Pacers, got cut, and then the Houston Rockets, got cut. As he starts talking, he picks up a powder-blue comb and sticks it in his black hair.

"Truth crushed the earth to one day rise again!" he likes to say. Thump, thump. At the center of his dining room table, there's a leather-bound Bible. Rubin was the son of a preacher in San Francisco and is an ordained Baptist minister himself. Plays the organ on Sundays.

He likes to clap his large, long, hands when he laughs. His bony shoulders, the wide crossbar atop his long frame, flap up and down. He looks around the living room in delight, recalling the morning the reporters came calling. He points out the spots where they lined up and waited for him, politely, like puppies in a kennel. "I had Channel 7 right there," he says, wagging a finger to the wall, "I had Channel 2 right there, I had KPIX waiting over there. Had radio stations from London, Seattle, Arkansas, Los Angeles, New York -- you name it." Clap! "I had my fifteen minutes," Rubin says, nodding, leaning back in his chair, the powder-blue comb still poking out of his head. "But I tell you what! The media did not manipulate me. I manipulated the media!"

Union City is a place where most residents are experts in two areas: Logan High School sports and Krispy Kreme doughnuts. The Krispy Kreme, understand, is sort of a beacon rising above the waffle of tract homes. People use it to give directions ("Go to the Krispy Kreme, turn left"). They use it as a mutually agreeable gathering place ("Meet at the Krispy Kreme in thirty minutes?"). They find it a point of civic pride ("You know ... we've got a Krispy Kreme").

The Chamber of Commerce markets Union City as "The Gateway to Silicon Valley," and most of the rich kids at Logan High live in the foothills near Fremont and the high-tech mother lode. The middle-class kids live in the flatlands with parents who likely grew up in Oakland and San Francisco and migrated twenty years ago or more. Logan is the only high school in a city of 68,500 people. And it's a huge one: 4,200 students huge.

That can be a big problem if you grow up in Union City and like to dribble a basketball. About 2,000 male students attend Logan, and only thirteen can make the varsity basketball team. Can't get along with the coach? Move to Hayward.

Logan's coach, Blake Chong, looks like a bulldog: black flat-top; black goatee; chiseled game face. Wearing a suit and tie, strangling a white hand towel in his fists, he stomps along the sidelines during games, yelling instructions at players nonstop: "Slide! Slide! Slide! Jerrel, slide! Jerrel, slide! Jerrel! SLIDE!" Chong graduated from Logan, where he played basketball all four years, then played for Stanislaus State before returning to Logan as a physical education teacher. He's been coaching twenty years, and he must be the envy of his peers within the Mission Valley Athletic League, the seven-team athletic conference where Logan competes. Not only does Chong get to pick from one of the largest pools of high school athletes from here to Eureka, he's also got the sweetest gymnasium outside the Oakland Coliseum: a $4-million job done glossy.

Most Logan High teams eat MVAL titles for lunch and take the larger, more prestigious California sectional titles for dinner. Logan football? Over the past fourteen years, the team has a record of 130-30, which -- do the math -- equals about two losses a year. And most of those have come against nationally known De La Salle High School, which hasn't lost a football game since the Bush Administration -- the first one. Logan baseball? Won the state section last year. Logan wrestling? Won the state section five of the last seven years. And those are just the boys' sports; the women win large, too.


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