Monday, March 07, 2005

Fouls and Free Throws

There’s a blog I make a point to read every day. The owner of the blog is also a caregiver, and we’ve exchanged commiserating emails from time to time. We also have in common our childhood spent in two far-flung but eerily similar little Texas towns. Rana has a great sense of humor and can draw a mental picture that turns a mundane event into roll on the floor hilarity. So wander on over to if you need a little diversion on a dreary day.

Yesterday, thanks to Rana, I began to remember my brief and dismal athletic career. For two years, in 8th and 9th grade, I actually joined the girls’ basketball squad. If you’ve ever seen me attempt any kind of physical coordination, you know that it was a sad time for Smiley. I was truly terrible. But I wasn’t the worst on the team. Oh, no. There were two other girls that were even worse then me. The three of us generally spent the games warming the bench, but in the spirit of letting every player play (who thought that stupid rule up anyway?), there was a torturous period of time in each game when the three of us were sent in to provide comic relief.

Those were the days when girls played half-court basketball. The three court jesters would be sent in to play defense some time in the 3rd quarter. (While I could shoot free throws fairly consistently, I couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn when in motion. I guess the coach figured we couldn’t do too much irreparable harm if we just chased the opposing team’s forwards around for a few minutes.) On one frightening and forgettable occasion, the poor coach had a brain freeze and sent the three of us in to play offense at the tail end of the last quarter. Good Lord, were we ever offensive. I think the only reason we weren’t laughed off the court is that the game ended before the shock of our ineptitude wore off.

Thankfully, we seemed to play mostly out of town, so I didn’t lose too much respect on the local level. I guess we played plenty of games at home, but I only seem to remember the away games. With one exception.

I was not an aggressive player by any stretch of the imagination. I was not into physical confrontations. (I bruise easily.) At one home game, however, I couldn’t seem to do anything without fouling or being fouled. As I recall, I actually sank a free throw at one point. That was the good news. The bad news was that my parents were in attendance and my father took the opportunity to embarrass me royally by clapping, whistling and hollering approval every time I committed a foul. Unfortunately I did not foul out, which would have ended my misery. The crowd (thankfully small) and my coach seemed to appreciate the few light moments provided by the antics of the Wilcoxen Comedy Troupe in an otherwise dull game.

Two years was all I could take. Actually, in a perverse way, I almost enjoyed my basketball days. But I took pity on the coaching staff after two years and retired my gym trunks. (Speaking of which, man were they butt-ugly.) I managed to avoid team sports for the most part after that, except for a semester of tennis in college. I was lousy at that, too, but I had a good time and the best part was that I never embarrassed myself with more than three other people at any one match.

Girls basketball is much more exciting these days, since they now play full court. But thank heaven that they didn’t start that until years after my participation. I shudder to think what I could have done to humiliate myself playing the entire court.

I always sympathize with the physically inept. I was the kid who was picked last when choosing up baseball teams in grade school. But I was the first chosen for spelling bees, so I guess it all evened out. Looking back, it just seems like there were a lot more baseball games than spelling bees. The moral of the story is, don’t force your kids into athletics if they’d rather be reading a book. And if they decide to play a sport, go to their games but keep your mouth shut.


No comments: