I've been thinking about what it means to be a teammate and part of a team. It's because Mort Deer, one of my best teammates and better friends from high school, is fighting cancer.

I've been thinking about what it means to be a teammate and part of a team.

It's because Mort Deer, one of my best teammates and better friends from high school, is fighting cancer.

Every school needs a Mort Deer. He was the guy who all the students loved and most teachers dreaded — in a good sort of way.

Mort's senior year, he decided to run for vice president of the student council. The thought of Mort holding such a lofty position likely caused the administration to raise academic standards required to hold such a position. Mort's name wasn't on the ballot, but that didn't stop him from getting more write-in votes than there were students enrolled at Gulf Breeze High at the time.

I even know a certain sports editor who voted for Mort six or eight times. I hope the statute of limitations has expired for voter fraud in a high school election.

The administration did back down and let Mort be the sergeant at arms.

Mort wasn't constantly in trouble in high school, but he did know his way to the principal's office.

He weighed in at about 115-120 pounds in high school, and was an above-average athlete. He was a receiver on the football team and a sprinter and long jumper on the track team. He was a legitimate 4.5 guy in the 40 back when 4.5 was really moving.

Mort's in Stockton, Ala., now, and I've visited twice since I found out about his health. I'm ashamed to say that it had been almost  10 years since I last saw him at his mother's funeral.

Oh, I planned on catching up with him and us getting together to go fishing or watch a ball game. I  even called him on his birthday a few years ago and we chatted for a few minutes and promised to stay in touch. But it seems the older we get, life has a way of rushing by more quickly than we could have imagined when we were in high school almost 40 years ago.

I've enjoyed my visits with Mort, but they aren't the same, as he can no longer talk and must use a dry erase board or pen and paper to communicate. I would give almost anything to hear Mort's easy laugh or his Alabama drawl.   

But the thing I want most is for Mort to beat cancer.

There was a time when, as a teammate, he and I could help carry each another through the tough times. We could encourage each other when the battles were the toughest.

When an athlete is tired, they can ask the coach to give them a break and send in a backup so they can catch their breath. But Mort is facing the fight of his life and he can't call in a teammate off the bench. So, rather than take his place in the game, I can only cheer from the sidelines and pray for Mort's healing.

Here's the point of this story: Anybody who participated in high school athletics can understand the bond of teammates. Most former high school and college athletes that I know spend a lifetime looking for that group that allows them to feel as they did when they were on a team.

I've written before that I love watching teammates as they interact in a game or throughout the course of a season.

I hope that teammates at Baker School, Laurel Hill School and Crestview High School will savor the team experience and hold tight to treasured friends and teammates.

I encourage current teammates to stay connected — I mean really connected — with phone calls and visits as often as you can. Friending someone on Facebook just isn't the same as getting together for a burger or to watch a game.

And if you are 30-something, 40-something or, like me, 50-something or older, try to find that special old teammate and celebrate the treasure of friendship you share.


Randy Dickson is the Crestview News Bulletin’s sports editor. Email him at randyd@crestviewbulletin.com, tweet him @BigRandle, or call 682-6524.