GAME BALL

“Our cheerleaders took no offense because any cheer for East was a cheer to win, no matter how obnoxious.”

“Air ball” falling way short

When I think of basketball I flash back to the classic song by Cheech and Chong titled, “Basketball Jones.”

The 1970’s tune tells of a young man stricken with basketball fever. He has it so bad that he sleeps using a basketball as a pillow. Evidently that’s what gave him severe neck and spine problems later on in life.

I’ve never been a basketball fanatic like some of my friends. Because of this lack of interest I stunk at playing the sport. During PE class when teams were picked, I was generally the last guy standing. That didn’t bother me.

At Clark Junior High, friends talked me into staying after school and playing intramural basketball. Why I gave in to them still remains a mystery. I had a newspaper route delivering the “Anchorage Times” and on those game days the paper was late.

I viewed basketball more as a fancified version of hot potato than anything else. When the ball popped into my hands I quickly passed it off to another player. On occasion, just for kicks, from thirty feet back, I’d toss it towards the basket hoping for a miracle. That never happened.

Most if not all of my shots became air balls falling way short of the rim. Team members became disgusted with my lack of seriousness, and eventually left me standing on the sideline. That was okay with me.

It was later on in high school that I found my calling as a bleacher loud mouth. My voice has always been good and strong. When needed it was so overbearing, that I often drowned out the cheerleaders. Our cheerleaders took no offense because any cheer for East was a cheer to win, no matter how obnoxious.

One thing I developed to perfection was yelling “shoot” when an opposing player got the ball. I can’t tell you how many times I shouted that word. I’d say 50% of the time they’d let it fly after hearing the command. Opposing coaches gave me the stink eye.

If a player missed, I received admiration from fellow fans. On rare occasion the shooter would make a seemingly impossible 3-point shot. During those miscues I’d quickly slink down in my seat.

I rarely got to attend high school basketball games like some kids, because of having to work for my pop after school. Dad and another man owned Wonder Park Texaco and I pumped gas there.

The perhaps 10 games I was fortunate to see are memorable. Young fans loudly rooting for their respective teams sticks in my mind. Continuous stomping of feet on bleachers especially so. Those wooden structures must’ve been built extra-strong. In a way it was reminiscent of fans at Lone Star Wrestling events. More on that later.

It was sometime during either the year 1970 or 1971 when East played the Dimond Lynx. Dimond High is where my wife went to school. She believes she might’ve been at this particular game, yet doesn’t remember the climatic ending like I do.

Time was running out and East was ahead by a point. Dimond had the ball with perhaps 20 seconds left on the ticker. The Lynx were coming down court like a runaway freight train. When a Dimond player clutched the ball well before the three-point line line, I stood and yelled,

“Shoot!”

He instantly reared back and let go with it falling way short of the rim. East grabbed the rebound and ran out the clock.

Had replay been available in the 1970’s I should’ve been given the game ball. Unfortunately, my winning shout never received merit from Coach White or anyone else for that matter. That was fine with me.

My son and daughter, Gunnar and Miranda, played basketball during their school years at Muldoon Christian and Heritage Christian. I’d told them the unbelievable East vs Dimond story countless times. I always hoped for a little sympathy on their part yet none ever came.

Miranda once asked how come I was so loud and boisterous at sporting events when other parents weren’t. The only explanation I could give her, was that my brother Jim and I attended Lone Star Wrestling events when we lived in Lubbock, Texas. Dad took us there on Wednesday, Friday, or Saturday nights. They were the highlight of our week!

Where I learned to cheer (ad circa 1964)

Lone Star Wrestling was much like the WWF is today. Texas wrestling fans were loud and rowdy at these events. I suppose they still are. I continued emulating them long after we left the state, believing that was the proper way to cheer on a competitor or team.

During one of Gunnar’s last basketball games, the score was tied with only a few seconds left. I’d been quite vocal while watching them go up and down the court but not obnoxiously so like my East years.

When it appeared things would go into overtime, and the opposing team held the ball with maybe 5 seconds left, I decided a Lone Star yell was needed,

“Shooooot!”

He did. The ball swished in as the buzzer sounded. The other team won. I couldn’t get out of the gymnasium fast enough. A couple of parents gave me the skunk eye.

You’d think I learned a big lesson that night and I did.

For the rest of the time until Miranda finished school at Heritage, I’d sit on the opposing team’s bleacher and root. I’d yell to my heart’s content and get disgusted looks from strangers instead of folks I knew. That didn’t bother me.

Lone Star Wrestling fans back in Lubbock, Texas would’ve been proud!

East High Thunderbirds vs Dimond Lynx (1970)

Author: michaeldexterhankins

ordinary average guy

One thought on “GAME BALL”

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