Brad Anderson reflects on more than 60 years of Railer fandom

Provided photo

Brad Anderson and his older brother Phil Anderson III are at their usual spot in Ravenscroft Gym watching the Newton Railers play basketball.

 

By Blake Spurney

Harvey County Now Staff

NEWTON—Watching and following Newton High School sports is a cottage industry for the Anderson family.

This year marks the 65th year that Phil Anderson III has had season tickets to Railer basketball and football games and his late father had season tickets for 66 years. But when Phil III was asked about who may have been the biggest supporter of Newton athletics that he knew, he didn’t hesitate to name his younger brother.

He’s a walking encyclopedia and he can tell you all of it,” he said about Brad Anderson. “He can’t seem to forget some of the records for anything.”

Man, that was installed in me when I was 8 years old,” Brad said. “I started going to the basketball and football games with Mom and Dad.”

Brad doesn’t just follow basketball and football. Rather he keeps up on all things Railers. He said he quit going to games for a period during the COVID-19 pandemic, but he has returned to his seat next to his brother when he can make it to games. He said he didn’t go to away games, but he followed the results on his phone. He said he used to listen to away games on the radio, but games haven’t been broadcast for 30 years.

Brad said he kept up on track and cross country because he competed in both in high school. He also follows the volleyball, baseball and softball teams. He noted the soccer team had a great season this past fall by placing fourth in the Class 5A state tournament.

Brad said the best player he ever saw wear the black and gold on a basketball court was David Piehler, who was on the 1979 team that won a state championship. He went on to play for Southern Methodist and had a tryout with the Dallas Mavericks.

Brad, who follows all of the sports with the same ardor, named Janae Voelker as Newton’s best female player. She played for Oral Roberts, where she still serves as the director of basketball operations.

Brad said two of the more memorable losses for the Railers in basketball occurred in 1966 and 1984. The Railers lost in the state tournament by one point in 1984, but it wasn’t as strange as what befell the 1966 team. Newton led aby 15 points in the third quarter of the regional final against Manhattan. A player lost a contact and play was halted for 15 minutes, which caused the Railers to lose their mojo. Manhattan caught up with Newton right at the end and won in overtime.

That’s probably my most heartbreaking loss as a fan,” he said. He noted that Mario Garcia and Stan Broadhagen both went on to play basketball in college.

Brad said he thought his father enjoyed sports because he wasn’t good enough to play. His father also ran a bookstore that used to be right across from the high school during the glory days.

They were ranked number one for most of the time and won 13 state championships between 1916-56,” he said. “It’s easy to become a fan when the team you’re supporting is so good.”

Brad said he thought stories about legendary coach John Ravenscroft finding jobs with the railroad for the father of big youths was mostly a myth. He said the only player who possibly fit that narrative might have been Bill Lienhard. He noted that Lienhard came to Newton as a junior and Ravenscroft taught him to shoot. Lienhard would go on to start for the University of Kansas team that won a national championship and he was a member of team that won a gold medal at the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki. 

After he got good, rival fans would say that they got his dad a job,” he said. “The school had no bearing on the railroad hiring employees.”

Brad said the acoustics were terrible at Lindley Hall when the Railers were in a packed house during a close game. He said it was the loudest place he ever watched a game and he saw Jo White and later Piehler play games in Allen Fieldhouse.

Brad has collected every old Railer yearbook he could find dating back to 1908, and has thumbed through them for tidbits. He also picked up a lot of history from the school newspaper, The Newtonian, over the years. He said the paper started in the 1930s.

I collect Newton memorabilia,” he said. “Whatever comes along, I snatch up. Whatever comes up Newton, I try to read.”

Brad said Hutchinson was Newton’s archrival when he was growing up. He said that rivalry later switched over to McPherson.

We have a very dismal record against McPherson since the ‘60s,” he said. “It’s not very much of a rivalry when you have a dismal record, at least in basketball.”

Brad said he couldn’t put his finger on why Newton has struggled in many of the team sports of late. He noted that Newton’s wrestling team had a bunch of great athletes and that the girls teams had been strong until recently.

I guess talent comes and goes,” he said. “Can’t blame it on the coaches. Coaches can only work with what they have.”

Brad and Phil have passed their fandom on to the next generation of Andersons. Phil’s granddaughters, Emily and Erica, go to every home basketball and football game they can make.

We have Railer blood flowing through our veins,” Emily said. “Win or lose, we like to show up to support them.”

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