He is, as they say, a well-traveled man. Germany, the Czech Republic, the Philippines, South Korea, and Canada top a list of places he has been.
Pope Benedict XVI, you’re asking? Nope. Maine’s Commissioner of Basketball, Peter Webb.
Webb landed Saturday in Frankfurt, Germany and, until Sunday, he will meet in Heidelberg with school officials, coaches, and referees to discuss the finer points of officiating. This so-called interpreting, which is something the Houlton native has done in one capacity or another for 38 years, has taken him all over the world.
Consider that, then consider this guy’s abiding affection for the game of basketball and the role he has played in it for all those years.
Once considered one of the state’s top high school and college basketball referees, Webb has even served time in the pro game as a Continental Basketball Association official in Bangor when poor weather kept officials from traveling to the Bangor Auditorium from their Boston homes.
Webb’s recent journey will find him giving four days of instruction to officials and prospective officials in the finer points of blowing the whistle and learning the inherent mechanics of running the floor.
Next, there will be a two-day session of on-the-court evaluation and tune-up.
Language barrier, Peter?
“No,” said the affable Webb, the international coordinator of IAABO training of officials, “not usually.” The Commissioner went on to explain that in the isolated instances where language difficulties do arise, an interpreter is provided.
Much of what Peter does abroad is done with and through United States military bases, places which house high schools that offer basketball for service personnel and their families.
I first met the likeable Webb at one of his so-called preseason “smokers,” which he gives each and every fall in gyms around the region to enlighten coaches in the specific areas of rule changes and points of emphasis.
A number of years later, Webb asked me to accompany him on a trip to Aroostook County to offer a coach’s perspective on the proceedings.
At that time, I had the privilege of serving our state’s high school basketball coaches as president of the Maine Association of Basketball Coaches.
I agreed to speak briefly to the County hoop officials on the finer points of sportsmanship and bench decorum.
My only request to the Commissioner was that we make a brief pit stop in Houlton on the way back so I could visit the place my grandmother used to live behind the Elks Club.
Much to my surprise, the trip home found me fast asleep. I awoke suddenly when the car stopped and I quickly recognized the Powers Avenue surroundings.
“Peter,” I said, “how did you know where Nana lived?”
“I was her paperboy, Ronnie,” he said.
Dumbfounded, I called on my memory bank. “You were the redhead who rode his bike here and talked to me on the porch.”
It was an incredible coincidence because this guy played for Houlton High and shared many County basketball stories with a budding hoop enthusiast.
Webb’s small world has since expanded considerably and, as he stepped off the plane Saturday in Frankfurt, he embarked on his latest journey of spreading basketball’s good news to another wayward haunt.
Maine hoop aficionados are indeed fortunate to have a man of Peter Webb’s caliber directing the officiating fortunes in our state.
BDN columnist Ron Brown, a retired high school basketball coach, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org