Tuesday, December 27, 2005

More sunset goodness

Today I drove from Palmer to Homer (5.5 hours), worked a full shift in the cement box (8.5 hours) and watched a movie while putting in 80-percent effort on the trainer (1.5 hours). All in all, a pretty full and pointless day. I have been trying to develop a regimen for my New Years training. In order to get through some creeping self doubt, I have been experimenting with power of positive thinking. My mom told me that the friends and fam liked my last childhood sports story. I have only a handful of athletic stories from my education years, but this one is by far my favorite:

When I was a junior in high school, I somehow slipped through registration without enrolling in a required phys-ed credit. When my counselor realized the mistake, there was only one class available during my free period - boys basketball.

The class was actually called "Fundamentals of Basketball" and there was no implicit gender requirement. But 30 out of 31 students in that class were boys - and not just any boys. They were the casualties of our 5A state champion basketball team, a fiercely competitive squad that generated a lot of castaways. When boys didn't make the cut, they landed in Fundamentals of Basketball - bitter, rough and only interested in my presence if they were part of the designated "skins" team. (I self-regulated myself to "shirts," but, interestingly enough, Coach never made any rule about this.)

So, for a shy girl with too many "Less Than Jake" posters on her wall, this was the kind of teenage torture that only seems possible in John Hughes movies. I was plowed into and run down and fouled and rarely had possession of the ball anyway. I took the beatings with a quiet sort of grace - my only defense - but Coach did have one after-game ritual that seemed particularly cruel.

At the end of every class, Coach gave one boy one shot, and one shot only, to land a free throw. The other members of the class could bet on whether he would make it or not. Each stood on the side they were gambling on - yea or nay. Whoever bet wrong had to run one lap around the track before they could shower. If the shooter missed the toss, he had to run either way. After several weeks, nearly every boy in the class had taken that shot. Coach said it was my turn.

As I walked to the line with a greasy ball in my hands, all of my classmates without hesitation moved to the "nay" side. It may have been the only time the decision was unanimous. I don't remember. What I do remember is standing at the free throw line and feeling a tingle of resignation creep through my fingers. I thought of the cold wind outside, the smirking faces of the boys who had it too easy, the image of myself jogging alone along the lonely track. The sophomore gym class had finished their tumbling workshop early and were lingering on the bleachers, waiting for the bell to ring. Their faces, too, melted into the blur. It was all going dark. I probably even closed my eyes. Then I shot.

The groans that quickly erupted from the "nay" side nearly drowned out the cheering sophomores. I never heard the "swoosh," never saw the ball drop neatly through the webbing and land with an even bounce directly below the basket. When I looked up, Coach was herding more than two dozen slump-shouldered boys toward the track. "I guess you're the only one who doesn't run today," he said to me. As I walked in disbelief toward the showers, the sophomores gave me my first - and only - standing ovation.

It wasn't long after that when my counselor announced she found a spot for me in the sophomore gym class. Without regret, I traded boys' basketball for badmitten and bowling. But for days and even weeks later, girls I had never met would approach me in the locker room and say, "you're that girl that made all the boys run!" All I could do was smile and nod. Yes. Yes I was.


  1. I've long believed that the finest moments in sport are individual ones. My most memorable plays occurred in practice scrimmages and informal pickup games: the running jump shot I made over a starting varsity senior when I was a freshman; the high-and-behind-me catches in passing drills; the perfect kill shot on a racquetball court with only me and one friend there to witness it. They're all frozen permanently in my mind. (Which is good, because I never did anything memorable in real competition.)

    But sinking the bucket and making the boys pay for betting against you?

    That had to be SWEET!

  2. Wonderful story! It is SWEET when a girl wins one in the old battle of the sexes, not that I care about that sort of thing or keep score but well...Thanks for sharing it!

  3. that made me cry, I really shouldn't be drinking alone....

  4. That's a great story!

    I wish I could have one that rewarding from gym class, but they just aren't there.

  5. This is such a great story! I'm actually surprised you don't remember seeing the ball...

    My college faculty-adviser told me, as I was sharing the news that I had just returned victoriously from the Div. II Championship weekend where I anchored the winning relay which clinched the overall win for the ski team, that this athletic event would be my most vivid memory of my entire college career. She was right! I can replay almost the entire race...

  6. Great story. I was never good at sports; I didn't even make the basketball team in 7th grade, then sat the bench on jv soccer in 9th grade. It did serve one purpose, of keeping me in shape before I got into the mountains, running, biking, hiking, climbing.
    Mountain endurance is so much easier than sports, you don't have to be good, just crazy with dialed systems.....
    Way to Go


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