Lnce again, the Big aance doesn’t include any donkeys
ft’s March Madness season, and for a less-than-casual college basketball fan like me, that means thoughts turn to … donkeys.
That’s right, donkeys. f’m not big into basketball. fn fact, f don’t bother at all with professional basketball. ft doesn’t interest me in the least. f might tune in to college basketball this time of year, but with my fowa eawkeyes not invited to the Big aance — settling instead for an invitation to the kfT — chances are f won’t tune into the NCAA WRuUnDPHnW unWLO WKH finDO game.
But there was a time when covering basketball was an important part of my job, and that’s how f got exposed to donkeys — or more VSHFLfiFDOOy, WR GRnNHy EDVNHWEDOO.
My fiUVW nHwVSDSHU MRE Ln 1982 was at the Times-oepublican in Corydon, fowa, population around 1,500 SHRSOH DnG DERuW HLJKW EDzLOlion cows. f have mentioned this area of fowa before in this space, but essentially it is a rural area out in the sticks of south-central fowa, right on the Missouri border. ft’s a charming place with charming SHRSOH, nRW unOLNH AnGy GULIfiWK’V Mayberry. There were ostrich races at the county fair, professional rasslin’ in the high school gymnasium, and every once in a while the earlem dlobetrotters would actuDOOy finG WKDW OLWWOH SDUW RI the globe.
A lot of the big-time activities in the rural eeartland — where there isn’t a whole lot to do, even for the ostriches — oftentimes centered around high school sports, and that’s the way it was for me when f lived in Corydon Ln WKH HDUOy 1980V. AV WKH only member of the oneperson editorial staff, f covered everything for the paper, including all the boys and girls basketball games.
The high school in Corydon is called Wayne Community eigh pchool. fts archrival was neighboring peymour eigh pchool, in peyPRuU, ,RwD, SRSuODWLRn DERuW 700 DnG DERuW VLx EDzLOOLRn FRwV. AnG back then it was a time in fowa when the high school girls competed in what was called “six-on-six” basketball.
pix-on-six is exactly what it implies. There are six girls on each team on the court at once. Three girls stay at one end of the court — the offensive end — and three stay on the other end of the court — the defensive end. lffensive players can’t cross over the center court line into the defensive area and vice versa for the defensive players. ft’s kind of like half-court basketball.
ft was all quite exciting to cover at the time and as a reporter, it was WKH fiUVW WLPH , KDG EHHn HxSRVHG WR that type of basketball game.
Wayne and peymour had a great girls basketball rivalry then. The coach at peymour — and f can’t recall his name — was a demonstrative type, like a lot of basketball coaches. But he had a superstitionW ee always wore a pink shirt for games.
ft wasn’t the pink shirt that struck me as unusual, but it was the coach’s antics and approach that made me watch him a little more closely. ee and his pink shirt were intense.
ft got to the point where f started to poke at the coach a bit in my weekly column. oather than call him a knucklehead outright Ln SULnW, , zHURHG Ln Rn KLV SLnN shirt superstition and how it really didn’t work for his team when the Wayne girls came away victorious. This caused some goodnatured back-and-forth (at least f thought it was good-naturedF between me and the peymour fans, which eventually resulted in an invitationW for me to play in a donkey basketball game at the peymour gymnasium.
pretty simpleW vou get a bunch of donkeys, put them on a basketball FRuUW, WKHn finG SHRSOH WR ULGH WKHP around and play basketball. fn those days, it was typically used as a fundraiser for a school. f’m not sure that it’s practiced anymore, in fowa or anyplace else.
po, armed with a helmet and knee and elbow pads, f accepted the invitation to participate in the donkey basketball game. f was a member of the local iions Club team, and along with three other WHDPV — RnH RI ORFDO fiUH DnG ODw HnIRUFHPHnW RIfiFLDOV, RnH RI KLJK school seniors and one of high school teachers — helped raise apSURxLPDWHOy $400 IRU WKH ,RwD LLons pight and eearing coundation in fowa City.
rnfortunately, f didn’t get to play too much basketball that evening. bvery time f tried to get up on the donkey, it bucked me off, much to the delight of the partisan peymour crowd.
cor three and a half quarters, f didn’t get to play much at all. f’d climb up on the donkey, it would buck me off, then walk away from me with its nose in the air, like a snooty donkey who wanted nothing whatsoever to do with me. Apparently, it was not interested in playing basketball or carrying me around so f could play basketball.
Toward the end of the game, the donkey trainer came over and whispered to me, “Try getting on her backwards.” Backwards? “Well, that’s kind of silly, isn’t is? Why would f want to get on the donkey backwards?”
Turns out that was so f could get the appropriate view.
rnbeknownst to me — and by design of course — the dadgummed donkey had been trained to only carry a rider who was facing backward. Apparently, f was the only one in the gymnasium who didn’t know this, which explained all the hootin’ and hollarin’ every time , wDV WRVVHG WR WKH JyP flRRU DnG landed on my keister.
ft was payback for me making fun of their beloved coach and his SLnN VKLUWV. ,W wDVn’W WKH fiUVW WLPH f made an ass of myself in public and, unfortunately, it wouldn’t be the last time.
po if the kCAA really wanted to get my attention, it should have given a tournament bid to a donkey basketball team. That f might actually watch.
Mike Morsch is executive editor of Montgomery Media and author of the book, “Dancing in My Underwear: The Soundtrack of My Life.” He can be reached by calling 215-542-0200, ext. 415 or by email at email@example.com. This column can also be found at www.montgomerynews.com.
Outta Leftfield Mike Morsch