The Sentinel-Record

Basketball a welcome respite

- Melinda Gassaway Guest Columnist

As many people know, viewing competitiv­e sports — no matter the category — can afford us a welcome diversion from the woes of today’s world.

And as most of my friends, acquaintan­ces, and former co-workers are aware, I am an avid sports aficionado.

Being the daughter of a father who played golf and tennis and liked Major League Baseball, it was natural that this only child would learn a great deal about athletics.

Admittedly, though, I favor collegiate sports — particular­ly basketball — over the pros. I am exceedingl­y grateful to the preeminent local sports writer, Bob Wisener, for adding to my knowledge and understand­ing of men’s and women’s hoops when we were colleagues at The Sentinel-Record. As sports editor, he also helped me with several basketball-related columns I submitted for his perusal and placement in that section of the newspaper.

To this day, I enjoy talking sports with my gal and guy friends and even debating with them when we disagree on certain aspects of a coach’s personalit­y or how and why a game plan unfolds — or does not — during those big rivalry matchups.

Especially galling to several of my brother or sister sports enthusiast­s is my split-loyalty between Arkansas and Missouri teams. Yes, I am a native Arkansan, but the University of Missouri is my alma mater and it will always be near and dear to my heart. The times when they face off with one another calls for a wardrobe combo of red with black and gold.

Actually, it may be confoundin­g to some people why I root for so many women’s teams, including LSU, South Carolina, Tennessee, Iowa, Stanford, Notre Dame, Indiana, and UCLA. If I were a betting person, having so many good choices could come in handy. And as I often say with a smile, “Look how many chances I have to win.”

Having watched numerous girls and boys basketball games at Garland County high schools undoubtedl­y sparked my ongoing interest in seeing how far today’s players have advanced the sport.

Greater physicalit­y is understand­able given the better nutritiona­l and training regimens, and the early practical experience the hoopsters now have. But, I still cringe at the overt propensity of some court denizens to push, shove, curse, and otherwise demean their opponents. And then there are the coaches who whine or rage about referee calls and set a poor example for the teams under their tutelage.

This isn’t just a “girlish” complaint because there are inevitably some questionab­le decisions made in the heat of the battle. But, when players —and I include the women, too — and their mentors go too far, everybody pays.

As for my agenda the rest of this week and beyond — basketball games will again be a most enjoyable respite.

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