Chasing Basketballs and Sweaty Towels

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BASKETBALL

High school was loaded with activities.  Everyday there were announcements about new ones.  One day, it was about basketball and decided to check it out.  I never played basketball formally.  None of the kids I knew owned a basket ball.  The playground at OLH didn’t have a backboard or a hoop.  One kid did nail a bushel basket that he cut the bottom out of to a telephone pole.  There was no backboard at all.  He used to shoot baskets that way.  It  was my only contact with basketball at that point.

The Mendel gym was on the second floor of the west wing.  It was short and the roof trusses were low to the floor.  Anyone trying to take a long shot had a good chance of hitting a truss with the ball.  Mr. DiGiovanni, a short and stocky man with a full head of back hair combed straight back coached the team.  His voice was soft and calm except when he was shouting directions to the players.

The day I went to tryout the team was there practicing.  I was amazed at how tall they were.  I hadn’t started growing yet and was very short.  Mr. D was nice to me and let me down gently, but he offered me the position of team manager.  I accepted immediately because I wanted to be part of the team.  The job involved keeping the equipment organized and ready.  I had to make sure a dozen balls were ready for practice and properly inflated. There were a bunch of sweaty white towels to handle too.

The sessions lasted from 4 to 6 p.m.  By the time I put everything away and caught the streetcar home, it was seven o’clock.  During the practice I sat on the sidelines and did homework.  I learned a lot about basketball that year because Mr. D was always teaching fundamentals.  Today, when I watch NBA games, I see violations of the basic rules at every game. NBA players are a big offenders of the palming rule.  Palming is holding and rolling  the ball over from underneath while dribbling.  Dribbling is supposed to be done by the pushing on top of the ball.  Palming allows the player to carry the ball in between dribbles. Palming goes in tandem with another NBA violation; walking.

I learned strategy, too, like zone defense and man to man, or a pick.  It was fascinating.  I can’t play the game, but I could probably coach it.

I went with the team to all games and kept the equipment, uniforms and towels straight at host gyms. I usually rode with Mr. D in his old Plymouth. During the games, I kept stats. It was important for the coach to know who scored baskets and free throws. He analyzed the stats during and after every game. If a player missed free throws Coach made him practice 50-100 throws. I would stand under the basket and return the ball to him.

Near Christmas break I got the flu and couldn’t go to school so I missed the instructions for what goes on with the team during the time off at Christmas.  Throughout the holiday season I kept thinking I should check with Mr. D to see if I should be doing something.  I didn’t even know if they practiced or not.

After the break, when school started again, I showed up for practice.  Mr. D really let me know how upset he was with me.  The team played in a tournament during the holidays and they practiced too.  I missed all of the fun of going to the games and let the team down.  I never missed another practice or game after that.

One thing I learned about athletes during that season is that they are aloof.  Although they were friends among themselves, I never became part of their clique.  I did become a part of the coach’s life though, and the priests who ran the sports program.

I finished out the season and earned my letter in basketball even though I didn’t play on the team.  I never received the award in person because I didn’t make the award banquet in the fall of the sophomore year. That is another story.

I loved being manager and I loved the sport.  I looked forward to the next season as manager provided that I didn’t make one of the other sports teams, like football.

Fair and Balanced?

We live in a dangerous period of US history. Our representation in government  is totally lopsided. The uneveness makes it easy for the President to implement an agenda of radical ideas. When the Congress is not balanced there is no debate, nor any chance for compromise. As we have already seen in recent sessions, huge spending packages have been passed without dissent. In other words, the Congress “rubber stamped” approval of bills proposed by TOTUS.

The Republican Party has to get their shit together and take back some seats in 2010, or we’re screwed

Fair and Balanced

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