Lnce again, the Big aance doesn’t in­clude any don­keys

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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.

aon­key bas­ket­ball

is

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 msquared35@ya­hoo.com. This col­umn can also be found at www.mont­gomerynews.com.

Outta Left­field Mike Morsch

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