“Ain’t nothin’ gonna break my stride. Nobody gonna slow me down.” – Matthew Wilder
It was spring of 1984 and Matthew Wilder was climbing the music charts. Released late in 1983, “Break My Stride” was Wilder’s biggest hit and was on it’s way up to #5 in the U.S. and to the top 5 all around the world. At the same time that year, a lanky 13 year old living in Seminole, Oklahoma (me) was adopting this song as his theme song and climbing the charts so to speak on the basketball court. Let me explain (and by saying “lanky” that’s just a nice way of phrasing the fact that I was really skinny).
Every year, the Elks Lodge or Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks sponsors a free throw shooting contest called the Elks National Hoop Shoot in which boys and girls in every state from the ages of 8-13 compete in a contest of shooting free throws. Each person in the three ages groups (8-9, 10-11, 12-13) shoots 25 free throws over two rounds (10 the first round and 15 the second round), and whoever makes the most is the winner.
According to the website, this contest was the brainchild of Frank Hise of the Corvallis, Oregon Elks chapter, and the organization has had some version of this contest for over 60 years, and it still lives on to this day.
“You’re on the road and now you pray it lasts.”
Wearing my lucky Kentucky basketball t-shirt that had been given to me by legendary Kentucky coach Joe B. Hall (I was a huge Kyle Macy fan back then and had met Coach Hall on one of his recruiting visits to Seminole Junior College where my dad coached one of the top juco players in the country – former Orlando Magic guard Anthony Bowie). I proceeded to blitz the local competition in Seminole and moved onto the district competition where I once again defeated my competition. I don’t recall how many I made or how many I competed against, but nevertheless I was off to the Oklahoma state finals!
With each progression in the Elks Hoop Shoot I would always hear “Break My Stride” on the radio the day of or maybe hours leading up to the event riding in the car with my parents. It was fate, destiny, whatever you want to call it. It didn’t matter. That song pumped me up, and as long as I heard it I knew Matthew and I were on our way to a championship.
“The road behind was rocky, but now you’re feeling cocky.”
Well I was feeling a little cocky heading into the state finals. There were four of us, and after the first 10 free throws I had made 8 out of 10 while watching two of my three competitors make all 10 (the other one made 7 out of 10). As luck had it, the two that had made 10-10 both missed three free throws each in their final 15 shots to finish at 22-25. I know Matthew Wilder got into their heads during those final 15. I just know it. I stepped to the line knowing what I had to do and didn’t let anything break my stride. No one was going to slow me down, oh no. I proceeded get in rhythm and knock down 15 in a row en route to the Oklahoma state title by making 23 out of 25.
I vividly remember being so excited once I took my seat next to the other contestants and even shot my parents a quick glance as they sat in the stands. My mom, holding her homemade chart that she would keep track with at every contest, knew I had won as well.
I advanced to the regionals against the winners of Texas, New Mexico, and Colorado. I remember not hearing Matthew Wilder that day and I promptly finished third out of four and my career in the Elks National Hoop Shoot was finished. I fell short of my ultimate goal of being a national champion, but maybe it was just not meant to be much like Wilder’s song not making it to #1 because of the likes of songs from Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie and Van Halen at that time.
People like to say that music is the soundtrack to your life and it’s so true. To this very day every time Matthew Wilder and “Break My Stride” comes on the radio I am transported briefly back to that time in 1984 when there was no one better than me (in my mind) from the free throw line. I could have beaten Larry Bird or Isaiah Thomas or even the great Kyle Macy if I had needed to back then.
(Below is a picture of my dad on the left and maybe the only one I couldn’t have beat shooting free throws in 1984. Myself, on the right, wearing my lucky Kentucky t-shirt holding my state championship trophy along with my mom and sister holding my other two winning trophies circa 1984 in Seminole.)
You need more proof of my dominance? LOL. Here you go!
Well, I couldn’t be more pumped to post this video and all of its’ 80’s deliciousness. From the dancers and the costumes to Wilder’s wardrobe and sweet early 80’s stache I just love this video. Also remember that this is back in the days when it was normal to lip sync when performing “live” on tv, and it’s easily noticeable as you watch the performance below.
Also of note is a peculiar instrument being played called the Chapman Stick, and you can see it being playing by one of Wilder’s band members over his left shoulder. Not sure if his name was Floyd or Lloyd Moffitt, but he performed with it on American Bandstand a few times as well with Wilder. Out of curiosity about the fellow with the funny instrument I shot Wilder a tweet and he responded. Here’s my brief “Twitterview” with Wilder:
Well regardless of if he still performs the song with a Chapman Stick player or not, thanks for the perfect song at the perfect time, Matthew.
And thanks for reading.