My affection for basketball is well-known among my friends.
I played 6 a.m. basketball for years in another town before moving here in 2000, and started the Hood River “Morning Ball” games 18 years ago (see photos on A7 in the Nov. 28 edition) because it was always tough to work in an evening or weekend game. So, yes, 6 a.m. IS the best time of day to play hoops.
I don’t have much of a game, really: Decent outside shot, and I can run up and down the court with fair speed, but my specialties are “slow on defense but he can’t rebound.” My chief contribution is the (un)official name of our Morning Ball tradition: The Cantaloupe League. Why that? Well, it’s played before breakfast, and when it comes to the often-arduous decision on Which Ball To Choose, I have always said, “Well, we can play with a cantaloupe, as long as we all play with the SAME cantaloupe.”
As much as I love basketball, I am the first to admit it is really a dumb game, in concept: Put a ball into a hoop.
My occasional disdain for the professional game I sometimes express by calling the players “millionaires running around in their underpants”.
I feel a rising dissatisfaction with the college game, in its emphasis on money and rushing unprepared players into the NBA, and I have a long list of ideas for improving the pro game (raise the rim to 11 feet and disallow three-point shots in the fourth quarter, for starters.)
But one thing I take no issue with is the pure pleasure of high school basketball. This is where the joy of the game, and considerable talent going into it, can often be found. The emphasis on teamwork is the hallmark of the game at this level.
It’s been fun to talk with coaches and do write-ups for the Horizon Christian School Eagle girls’ and boys teams (see page A7) as I’ve handled pre-season coverage this year.
(Is it too late to put in a bid to the Athletic Directors at Horizon and HRV to add an Eagles-Hawks game this season? The series is tied 1-1 over the past few years, and an in-town game seems an obvious way to fill out the pre-season calendar.)
Hoops pre-season started this week, and in my current role as interim sports writer, I would attend Friday’s first home hoops game at Hood River Valley High School with Connal, my son and fellow hoop-head. (As added appeal, the opponent was South Albany High School Redhawks, and I am a member of the SAHS Class of 1976, back when they were the Rebels, a name gratefully changed this year.)
So as a consequence of my hoop madness, a funny thing happened this week on the way to the game at Vannet Court: For the past two weeks, I’ve talked of attending this game and as a result, my wife, Lorre, has repeatedly teased me.
“You must be getting so excited for next week!” and then, “Just a few more days: Can you stand it?”
Then again, “The game is just a couple days away. Are you excited?”
I went to the court Thursday night to make contact with boys coach Christopher Dirks, and got there shortly after practice had ended. Players were still shooting around and I asked one, “Do you know where coach Dirks is?”
The young man said yes, probably in the locker room, and offered to show me the way. I thanked him and said I knew the way and he turned back to practice his jumpers.
Then he called out, “Hey!”
I turned and said, “Yes?”
He replied, “Are you excited about Friday night?”
You can’t make this stuff up. He really asked me that. I almost asked him, “Did my wife put you up to that?”
“Yes, yes I am,” I told him. How about you?”
“Oh, definitely!” he replied.
To wrap up this ramble, I offer an opinion and a suggestion:
There is no basketball quite like November and December basketball, when hopes are high, teams are starting to gel, and it feels good to come out of the cold and into a warm gym.
More than once this season, make a point of coming out to support your local high school athletes, be it basketball or any other sport. These kids work hard, they have a passion for what they do, and the sight of stands filled with fans is their best reward.