Saying Goodbye to Mr. Babstock: THHS’ Biggest Sports Fan

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Normally, we run objective news articles that cover a teacher’s whole career when they retire. For Mr. Babstock one of our reporters wanted to do something different. He explained: Before you read any further, I want to clarify that this article is heavily based on my personal views of Mr. Babstock. I am in no form speaking on behalf of anyone or any group, so whatever this article entails is solely my own opinion. I wrote this from the perspective of both a sports fan and an impacted student, so anything that may seem to be biased is part of my sentiments. Now with this in mind,  I hope you enjoy the article and appreciate the legacy of a Townsend Harris teacher.

 

The end of the 2017-2018 school year marks not only the start of the high school journey for some, but also the end of the road for others. One of our fellow trekkers has been on his path for thirty-one years now, and he is finishing the final stretch with an optimistic goodbye. He is none other than one of the greatest English teachers to have ever walked the pensive halls of Townsend Harris: Robert Babstock.

As Mr. Babstock bids his farewell and gets ready for a long-awaited retirement, he is preparing for future endeavors. The first of these is to denounce the grueling urban lifestyle of New York and to escape to warm Florida where he can bask in an ecstasy of Florida’s year-round sunshine coupled with a rest in the arms of manatees. This, he hopes, will stir his creative juices as he prepares to “start working on [his] own Raymond Chandler whom he believes are transcendental and seminal figures in sculpting American culture. Indeed, they were not so different from Mr. Babstock who too has exerted enormous influence on the mental fixture of his students and colleagues alike. But, now it is his time to expand the breadth of his humanitarian literary service, one that means embracing the freedom of retirement and the clear waters of the Florida Keys to complete the next noir classic.

Not only is Townsend Harris saying goodbye to one of literature’s acolytes this year, but also to the school’s biggest sports fan. A man who has been watching sports for all his life will no longer be shedding his perspicacity on the dynamic world of sports between bells and after 3:05. It is evident on a daily basis the amount of adulation he furnishes to all the sports teams, no matter the sport. One can always overhear him asking students how their team is doing, when their next games are, and invariably wishing them a stroke of serendipity. In fact, Mr. Babstock is always trying to get more students involved in sports by either joining a school team or attending games in order to bolster their school spirit. He believes discipline is a fundamental element of sports, which all students are apt to adopt. “The people who complain the most are the ones who don’t play organized sports,” he said. “People can learn resilience and discipline from playing sports. Sports force you to rethink situations and analyze them instead of simply giving up and resorting to complaining.”

He has a love for sports that is deeply rooted in his childhood. As a child he played sports year round with the four seasons; his most proficient sport was baseball. “I was a pitcher as a kid, and from that, I always associated sports with thinking,” Mr. Babstock explained. “I thought of my classes the same way as when I was on the mound. You have to know each batter’s weakness and try to get in their head. Nevertheless, as a pitcher I had my good moments but also moments where I faltered; but I always loved the game and never wanted to stop playing.”

Although he was originally devoted to baseball for many years, things changed for Mr. Babstock in the sixth grade when he suffered a throwing arm injury while getting blown out in a little league game. The injury rendered him unable to pitch the way he once did. However, he remained unbroken and he marks this experience as one that showed him the value of sports and truly defines his life.  In fact, this misfortune brought the sport of basketball much closer to his heart. “Basketball is my favorite sport. It was where I bonded with my father and other relatives. I can still remember watching the Celtics vs. Knicks in the third overtime and just hoping the Knicks would pull it out. Through this, I guess, I grew to abhor anything to do with Boston. As a kid, I got to watch Earl ‘The Pearl’ Monroe and his creativity in the paint, which my friends and I would always try to replicate on the playground.” It was a good time to be a New York fan in those days, he added, “I actually got to watch the Knicks when they were a solid franchise unlike their state today and that is something I miss.”

Unable to play baseball in high school, he joined the varsity basketball team where he played for all four years.  “My school was never really good, but I got to see kids really good at what they did,” Mr. Babstock said. “Some of the talent I witnessed on the court made me love the game even more.” This is yet another reason why he is always encouraging all his students to engage themselves with school athletics. He believes that becoming a part of a team is similar to entering a community that will always support you and provide an invaluable social skill set. It is an escape from the chaos of the surrounding world and the insipid world of politics. “I go to sports partly to escape politics. It is still hard to do because politics is everywhere, from our school to the social media we consume, but sports offer an exciting refuge,” said Mr. Babstock.

When asked about his favorite athlete of all time, it was a surprise not to hear the name of a basketball player; instead, he said, “Mets Pitcher #41, Tom Seaver. I admired him the most growing up as a pitcher. He was the most scientific pitcher of that time. He always adjusted his game and his braininess.” It is no surprise that Mr. Babstock seems to admire such an athlete whose style of play was so shrewd and cloaked in intellect.

In retrospect, that is why Mr. Babstock is unlike any other teacher and sports fan; he is always bringing together his love for the humanities and his zeal for sports. He understands that many consider them to be disparate fields, but when you “enjoy every second of [them]” it takes on a new form. In turn, Mr. Babstock will remain one of sports’ most articulate proponents even after his departure from THHS.

Mr. Babstock: You will never be forgotten in this school as both a teacher and fan. Your love for teaching has manifested in the hearts of all your students by cementing a candid love for English literature. You have transformed the classroom from a grueling tedium of work to an interactive one, full of discussion and critical thinking. Now, as the school year ends and we all go on our separate paths for the summer, both new faces and old will embark on yet another year at Townsend Harris. But this time we won’t see a familiar face, so here is goodbye from The Classic and your fellow Harrisites.

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