Forging memories on the playing field
For Many alumni, lasting Duke Law memories were formed in the heat of competition — on athletic fields, basketball courts, and in bowling alleys.
More than 30 years later, Steve Spolar ’79 is still proud of his Duke Law softball team, the “Panama Reds.”
“We didn’t lose a game in three years,” Spolar said of their time playing the all-university level. “And we were just a bunch of guys that came together.”
The Panama Reds won the law school league championship all three years that Spolar was on the team and enjoyed a good-natured rivalry with their chief opponent at the school, “Bullock’s Puppies.” During Spolar’s third year, some friends put together a coed team that won the all university division.
“It was just a lot of fun. We came together with a lot of former athletes that were really very good,” Spolar said. “The biggest thing is it was just good guys. We were very competitive. We needed something to be competitive about and that was just as good as it got with the demands of law school.”
He and his friends also left behind a legacy that had remained seared in the minds of their competition. He recalls meeting sports writer John Feinstein at a Duke alumni event in the mid-1980s. “He walked over and said, ‘You were that damn rover on that Panama Reds team we could never beat!’” Spolar said. “I had no idea!”
John Schohl ’83 knew the first time he walked on to the intramural basket- ball court as a 1L that he was in a little over his head.
“My first memory was of walking along the baseline just as another player was warming up and did a reverse slam dunk,” he recalls. “I thought to myself, ‘What have I gotten myself into?’”
Schohl fondly recalls his days playing on Duke Law’s “B team.”
“I played intramural basketball in college, so when I went to law school I decided I’d love to do it at Duke. I signed up for the law school team and all the first years were put together as a B team,” he said. “I found out why [the others] were on the A team. A lot of them were former college basketball players for Princeton, UCLA, or NC State.”
But it was all in the name of friendly competition, he said, with the goal of playing in the finals in Cameron Indoor Stadium.
“We had a great time. We became friends and made it all the way to the semi-finals of the graduate division. We played the law school A team and they destroyed us. It’s horrible — I always remember the losses. I remember being so close but so far from Cameron. That was the carrot.”
Sarah Schott ’00 credits her classmate Jeremy Veit for building a team — and some lasting relationships — during their first week of law school.
“He really felt like we should have this social aspect to our law school experience,” she said.
It was exactly what they needed, even when the games became “highly charged,” she added. “It was much more an experience of banter and social bonding than it was a sporting event. It was a place where people could have some fun, blow off some steam,”
As it happened, some team members found lifelong partnerships. Schott and her husband, Brian King ’00, who celebrated their 10th anniversary this year, met through the team, as did Veit and his wife, Julie Ottoboni ’00. “None of us were dating when we started playing softball,” she said.
Today, Schott and her former teammates keep in touch through an email group.
“When someone has a baby or gets a new job we send a note and support each other,” she said.
Schott said of all her Duke Law memories, the softball ones are perhaps her fondest. “The thing that made for a fun, warm and fuzzy kind of feeling — that’s all anchored in softball.”
November 29, 2011
Jay Moyer '65
Although I had spent the fall of my first year acclimating academically, early in the fall of 1963 - my second year - I was recruited by two third-year students who had learned of my football background. I joined the team and became a regular in the backfield.
We won the University-wide intramural football championship, in the process defeating all comers, including teams from several of the 'jock houses.' Just after our season concluded, someone arranged a game between us and the UNC university champions, to be played in Chapel Hill.
On the appointed day we convened at the law school around mid-day. But we never made it to UNC -- because it was November 22, and the news came over the radio from Dallas just as our caravan was preparing to leave the parking lot.
(The Advocate editor's note: Mr. Moyer also offered this observation that the "Legal Eagles" pictured in the fall Advocate had to have played in the fall of 1961; members of the class of 1962 would have graduated before the 1962 football season. We accept that correction with thanks.)