Sunday, March 06, 2005

Tragedy :), & other tales

Sadly, the Illini Men's B-ball team lost today (last day of the season, even) for the first time (record is 29-1). I was really hoping they could replicate the '76 Indiana teams unbeaten, National Championship season! Oh well, at least the loss wasn't during the first or second round of the Tourney. That I don't think I could bear!

You may think it's weird that a 38yo, almost 39yo, spinster, such as myself, should get caught up in NCAA basketball. But anyone who knows me, knows I've loved basketball since I was an itty-bitty kid. I grew up with five older brothers who taught me to play b-ball the men's way, hard fouls and all. I loved it so much (being a true tom-boy), I went out for the boy's basketball team in junior high; there was no girls team at the time. I was one of two "3 point specialists", or so I like to think, anyway. My best shot was the wa-a-ay outside shot and when Coach. B. would put me in the game, he would ask me to shoot the ball outside the 3-point line. He'd get ticked when I didn't always take the shot, instead passing off to someone who might have a better shot. I think he was trying to prove to other people that I was as good as he believed me to be. One of my all-time favorite memories of Coach B. was one day during practice when I'd out-played a kid who was about two feet taller than myself and scored a basket. Mr. B. shouted, "Atta boy, Deb!" I loved it! It just seemed so cool that, in his excitement at my making such a good play, he'd forgotten my gender and just complemented me on my abilities. My twin brother & I were both on the team, and we had a great season, going on to State where we eventually lost. I wasn't allowed to play during the state tourney, 'coz girls weren't allowed. This was hard to take, but I didn't want to cause problems for my team-mates & just took on the role of manager, instead.

One of the things that was interesting, but tough, was how other teams responded to playing a girl. I would be spat at, kicked in the belly, or anywhere else they could reach, (whenever there was a scrum of players all going after the ball the other team would go out of their way to get dirty blows in) and cussed out more times than I can remember! The hardest times were walking out through the opponent's crowd, on my way to the locker room. The things that were said were really disgusting and, honestly, a little confusing, especially as much of it came from the parent's of the other team's players! Coming from a fundamental Christian household, I knew very few swear words, but I learned way more than I wanted to during those times!

The next year, the eighth grade coach decided, for the first time in the history of junior high basketball at our school, to have tryouts. (He'd never been very happy about my playing for Mr. B, the seventh grade coach. I heard from other students about how he'd said it was "an embarrassment" to our school to have a girl playing.) Of course, I didn't make the cut. A friend, who had dwarfism and was 2ft 11in tall, did make the team, but he, of course, was the correct gender. This was my first exposure to sexism and it was hurtful, to say the least. The coach didn't have the courage to tell me I'd not made the cut (being a little ashamed of himself). He sent his son, who was a year or two younger than me, to tell me. To give him credit, I think his boy was pretty ashamed of the whole thing, although it obviously had nothing to do with him and wasn't his fault. A year or two later, the Junior High started a girls b-ball team and it's had one ever since.

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