My boss, who is also one of my greatest friends, knows me well. She’s known me for 13 years to be exact. Whether she knows it or not, of the greatest compliments she has ever paid me is when she comments on my work ethic. She credits my parents first and my hometown second. She knows where I come from and where I call home. A small town she never heard of until she met me. Bristolville, Ohio.

Bristolville. 44402. Population 3,352. 74 people in my graduating class. One traffic light. And one big chip on its collective shoulder.

I think anyone from a small town can identify with me. The questions probably sound familiar. Bristol? Where’s that? You don’t have a football team – really?? Do you have any sports? Did you go to a one-room school house? Did you learn to drive on a tractor?

Yep. Keep pouring it on. We love it. It fuels us. Makes us want to be great. Better than you. Beat you. It was an attitude that ran things when I was in school. And whether it was in athletics or something you took with you into your professional career, we all had it in common. It’s something that you’ll see on display any time you go back, as I did on Tuesday when I went to watch the undefeated Bristol Panthers boys basketball team (first time that’s ever happened in Trumbull County) play in the district semi-final.

It was like walking into a time warp. I’ve seen this crowd before. Back in 1989-90 when I first started going to basketball games. In 1994 when they went to state for the first time. In 1995 when my best friends took us all for a hell of a ride again. In 1999 and 2000 when I was lucky enough to cheer for my sister in big games. In 2002 when the boys team went to state again.

And here we were again. It’s cliché, I know, but it truly was like that moment in Hoosiers (a movie every Bristol citizen is obligated to watch and memorize) when coach Norman Dale says “welcome to Indiana basketball”. Except it’s Bristol basketball. And it has the best fans I’ve ever seen at a game. Familiar faces. Familiar cheers. Familiar style of basketball coached by a familiar name. And best of all, a familiar sense of pride and professionalism that transcended the outcome.

We are a product of our environment. A large part of that is our parents, of course. I’m lucky – I couldn’t have better parents. But another part of that is where you come from – something my parents still, to this day, remind me to never forget. Don’t worry guys, I won’t. Couldn’t be more proud of where I’m from, actually.