Marching madness

Jayhawks Basketball baby!

Jayhawks Basketball baby!

The Kansas Jayhawks take the court tonight for their ninth game of the 2012-13 season.  We live in Lawrence, KS and I can tell you that we are a Jayhawk household through and through.  The games are blasted in our living room…or we join the throngs of other hawk-crazed fans at local eateries downtown.  As my love for my team has grown over the years, so has my understanding of the game.  But this wasn’t always the case.

I grew up in the high desert of the southwest.  There wasn’t much to do besides play basketball.  Driving down a dirt road, common landscape fare always included a beat up metal hoop with a square plywood backboard.  Most of the time, the rims didn’t have nets, but that didn’t really matter.  What mattered were that the makeshift courts were available at all hours for pick-up games.  Sometimes car lights were used to keep a hot, competitive game going until the wee hours of the morning…or until the car batteries started whining.

As you can imagine, every childhood dream included a stint playing professional basketball.  These dreams always began to blossom in junior high.  Everyone who was anyone tried out for their local school team….including me.

I was in the eight grade with my older sister (cousin).  She grew up with an actual basketball court just down the street…and no real curfew.  That meant, she was able to hone her skills all summer long and she was gooood.  I wasn’t so lucky.  But, that didn’t matter, I was determined to tryout for the team anyways.  And what do you know, I made it.

The girls practiced right after school.  It was fun getting to dress out in the varsity locker room.  My parents even bought me a new pair of Nike hightops for my budding basketball career.  That season, I learned the 3-man weave, the hi-post, low-post and an amateur version of the pick and roll.  I remember watching my sister and simply following her lead.  What she did, I did.  Practices were always “fun” and exciting.  Let me repeat…PRACTICES were fun and exciting.  But, the games?  Now, those were a whole other story!

I recall the first game I played in.  Well, I didn’t actually get much court time, but I did get to play.  My sister, on the other hand, was a super-star!  Remember, she came to the court with a summertime of practice in the bag!  When I eventually got to go in, I was sooo flustered.  I remember having near panic attacks because I couldn’t remember what I was supposed to do.  Being 13 is awkward enough, but throw a little anxiety in the mix and you had a hot mess!

As the season went on, I began to dread game days.  I would try to play sick.  But, only sick enough so that coach wouldn’t make me dress out and not so sick that I couldn’t go to the JV and Varsity games later in the evening.  It was a very tricky song and dance that I had going on.  The days that my excuses didn’t work and I HAD to dress out, I always sat near the end of the bench.  Waaaay down there, out of coach’s line of sight.  My mantra on those days was, “be still, no sudden movements, and don’t, at all costs, make eye contact!” It worked like magic for most of the season.  Until that one fateful day….

We had a home game and my mom and aunt came to watch.  I had tried to dissuade them by saying that my tummy hurt and I didn’t think I was going to play. But, they wanted to come and be supportive and cheer me, my sister and the team onto a victory.  I took my usual spot at the end of the bench.  The game was moving right along.  Halftime was a few minutes away and I hadn’t had made eye contact with anyone, not even my teammates.  I remember getting caught up in the court action and then it happened.  One of my teammates went down.  She went down hard with a twisted ankle.

Remember that anxiety??  Well a surge of it went through my body the very moment that I realized that I would most likely get thrown onto the court.  My heart felt like it had just been stabbed with an adrenaline shot!  I tried to run over to offer my help to the injured.  My thought was that maybe I could get her ice, or carry her home….but, no.  I was shooed back to the bench.

“Lori, go in.”   Those words came out of my coach’s mouth in slow motion.  And I just stared at him for what seemed like an eternity.  My  thoughts were that maybe I give him a few seconds to realize that he actually said the wrong name.

Nope.  It was, in fact, my name.  He threw a hand up and shrugged his shoulders as if to yell, “WELL??”

“Uhh…ok,” was all I could muster.

There I was, shaky and sweating, even before the buzzer even went off to signal me onto the court.  I was a mess.  And there was my mom and aunt, clapping and yelling, “Yaaay, Buntie.”  “Woo hoo, Loji!”  I couldn’t even look their way.

So, the game continues.  Time is ticking.  I manage to dodge the ball a few times as I trotted around the court.  I helped my defender defend me by keeping her between me and the ball.  But, as the game continued, I starting to feel a little at ease out there.  “I can do this,” was what I was thinking.  On a fast break, one of our girls was fouled.  She was sent to the side line to throw it in.  I can tell you that the defense on the other team wasn’t so great, because not matter how hard I tried, I kept coming up open!

http://stjosephsindianschool.files.wordpress.com/2011/11/st-josephs-indian-school-girls-basketball.jpg

And then she threw it to me.  I had the ball and my defender wasn’t anywhere in sight.  I had a clear path to the basket.  “I got this,” I thought to myself!  I began dribbling and gunning it down the court.  My bench was on their feet.  The crowd went crazy.  I laid it up and into the into the hoop like the star I was about to become. Man, it felt good to redeem my career.

I jogged to the wall and grabbed the ball to toss to the ref.  That’s when I turned around and saw my bench and the crowd staring at me with their jaws on the ground.  It took me a minute to figure things out.  I was so confused.

My shining moments fizzed quickly as I realized that I had just scored two points for the other team!

My old friend adrenaline slapped me in the face! I jogged off the court and into my mom’s arms in the bleachers. I was humiliated.  I remember her hugging me and then making me go back out there and sit with my team.  “They need you, shiyazhi. Even if you only cheer.”

Needless to say, that was the very last competitive basketball game I ever played….ever.  But, I did go on to be one darn good cheerleader the next year.

I survived the rest of at school year with minimal taunting.  I went to a Christian school, so I took every opportunity to chastise the fools who dared to tease me.  🙂   What I learned from that experience was to hold my head up, especially in the face of disaster.  I’ve used that lesson many times over in life.

These day, my hoops dreams are focused squarely on Lawrence, KS and one of my favorite teams, The KU Jayhawks.  I’m sure I fool many a fan by my fanatical love of the game.  I don’t mind.  Let them believe I come to cheer with a retired hoop career that fuels my college basketball obsession.  I’ll continue to be a die-hard with all the rest who live for  October and “Late Night in the Phog”…..and the annual start of our mad march to the Championship!

Basketball Mecca - Allen Field House, KU.

Basketball Mecca – Allen Field House, KU.

Advertisements

%d bloggers like this: