For Team Piedmont, an Amateur Athletic Union basketball team made up of 15-year-olds from Alamance and Guilford counties, the recent Division II National Championship Tournament in New Orleans looked like a can't-miss opportunity. The team would have seven days of games against top-flight competition, with plenty of open time to get a taste of The Big Easy. My son was playing, so I was happy to volunteer as the official driver and team photographer.
The first night's group tour of Bourbon Street gave the boys and their chaperones a chance to see how far from North Carolina they really were. Coach Rob Gasparello immediately called a team meeting and let the boys know that no player was to leave the hotel--located at Bourbon and Canal Streets--without an adult along.
The warning was heeded for all of three days: When the coach and I had to go across town for a coaches meeting after a game that ended just after 11 p.m., all bets were off. It took the team less than 15 minutes to lose their chaperone and head to party central. Ten minutes later, a New Orleans police officer noticed the group walking along Bourbon Street, with 5-foot-2-inch point guard Todd Gasparello in their midst. The officer called them over, checked IDs, and sent for the paddy wagon to haul the boys off, who were in violation of the 9 p.m. curfew for unescorted minors.
When Coach Gasparello and I returned from the meeting at 1 a.m., the boys were nowhere to be found, and the chaperone sheepishly told us that they needed to be picked up by a responsible party. Coach Gas went to retrieve the boys, but offered them the choice of running the mile and a half back to the hotel with him driving the escort van, or spending the night in a jail cell. They took their medicine cheerfully, all things considered, but the 2 a.m. run home was the last they saw of Bourbon Street.