I have never sat across a kitchen table from Chuck Norris, but I think I have a pretty good idea of what it might be like.
That’s because a couple of times over the last year, I have had the pleasure of a home visit from legendary Butte High coach Jim Street. He is the closest thing our town has to the martial artist who played Walker Texas Ranger.
Had I seen Coach Street approaching my front door when I was in high school, I would have been heading for the window like Jerry Lundegaard in the motel at the end of Fargo.
When I started at KBOW in the mornings five years ago, Paul Panisko and I thought it would be a good idea to share a few of the classic Chuck Norris jokes with a Coach Street bend.
We read them off, halfway hoping the coach was listening and halfway hoping nobody would tell on us.
When the Boogeyman goes to sleep every night, he checks his closet for Coach Street.
Growing up in the Mining City in the 1980s, I learned at an early age to respect and admire the coach whose Bulldog wrestling teams won every Class AA state title of the decade. Even though I was never a wrestler, I saw that Coach Street represented everything that I loved about the tough, hard-nosed reputation of my hometown.
He also scared me a little bit. In high school, I was terrified to cross with him, and he wasn’t even my teacher.
Coach Street once fought superman. The loser had to wear his underwear over his pants.
Probably the best thing about my job is that I have had the opportunity to get to know guys like Coach Street over the years. I really got to know him this past year, as I have been serving as the executive director of the Butte Sports Hall of Fame.
Coach Street’s 1988-89 Bulldogs, the team that cemented a decade of greatness in Montana, are going into the Hall of Fame this Saturday at the Butte Civic Center. So are two of his best wrestlers — his son Randy Street and four-time state champion Eric Dunmire.
The nominating process and the planning for this weekend has led me to get to know Coach Street more than I thought I ever would, and that has been the highlight of the new gig.
Coach Street counted to infinity. Twice.
I am hardly alone when I say I was a little afraid of Coach Street. The coach instilled a healthy fear into the hearts of his wrestlers over the years, too. That fear and a great deal of love and respect is still clearly there.
One of Street’s best wrestlers from the 88-89 team — and maybe ever — told me he could not make it to the banquet this year. He was too busy with work.
I broke that news to the coach as we were going over how to track down some of his wrestlers at my kitchen table. Coach looked at me for a second, then said, reassuringly, “I’ll call him.”
Later that night, I got a text from the wrestler explaining that he had a change of plans and he will be able to make the banquet after all.
Coach Street is the reason Waldo is hiding.
Other state champion teams to go into the Hall this weekend are the 1991 Butte High football team, the 1991-92 Butte Central boys’ basketball team, and the 1992 Butte High softball team.
All four teams rightly deserve to take their place alongside the Mining City immortals as the Hall of Fame celebrates its 30th anniversary.
Aside for this group being part of my first class as the executive director, it is special for me because I remember all four of these teams very well.
I watched the TV news that Saturday night in February of 1989, nervous as could be, to see if the Bulldogs pulled off yet another state wrestling title. I actually played with some of the members of the 1992 BC basketball team, and my cousin Melissa Hansen was a catcher for the 1992 Butte High softball team.
Coach Street doesn’t wear a watch. He decides what time it is.
Not to play favorites, but it was hard to beat that magical season of the 1991 Butte High football team.
Those Friday nights were unbelievably fun. It was also great sitting next to Brian Farren in study hall that season. That’s where I got to hear the war stories throughout the season as the Bulldogs went from a team disrespected by coaches in the preseason polls to an undefeated season.
The best thing about the 1991 season was that I had chemistry class during the first period of my first year at Butte High, which was my junior year. The teacher of that class was none other than Coach Jon McElroy, yet another throw-back coach who perfectly represented Butte.
Coach Street’s computer has no “backspace” button, Coach Street does not make mistakes.
Without question, there has never been a better time to be in Coach McElroy’s chemistry class than the fall of 1991 when his Bulldogs were making the rest of the state look silly.
Sometimes, Coach Mac’s chemistry explanations on the whiteboard would turn into a football play. It was usually one of the key plays that helped the Bulldogs win on the last Friday.
In addition to Randy Street and Dunmire, the this year’s list of inductees includes Anna Fabatz, Jamie (Wolstein) Toivonen, Mark Johnston, Rick Lyons, Mark DeVore, Joe Petroni, Fraser MacDonald and Dan Hodge.
Even though I don’t have a vote, I am so honored that these 10 individuals are part of the first class of the Hall of Fame that I was involved in.
Coach Street has a diary. It’s called the Guinness Book of World Records.
All 10 are tremendous representatives of all that has made the Mining City and the Butte Sports Hall of Fame great.
Fabatz and Toivonen were two of the best female athletes Butte High has ever seen. Mark Johnston was the Jim Street of Glasgow after he left Butte. Likewise, Hodge was the Charlie Merrifield of Kalispell.
Rick Lyons was, among other things, one of the greatest golfers the Mining City ever saw, Joe Petroni was a world-class trap shooter, Mark DeVore was a great Bulldog before helping Montana State’s football team win the 1976 national title, and MacDonald, well, he’s Fraser.
With these four teams and 10 individuals, the banquet on Saturday night will definitely be full of great characters. But only one will remind anyone of Chuck Norris.
Coach Street has a grizzly bear carpet in his room. The bear isn’t dead; it’s just afraid to move.
— Bill Foley, who decided he’d be a writer while struggling for a C in Coach Mac’s chemistry class, writes a column that appears Tuesday on ButteSports.com. Email him at email@example.com. Follow him at twitter.com/Foles74