The Final Four is done. I picked the two final teams in my bracket and also picked the winner as Kentucky rolled over Kansas. I loved picking correctly. I love basketball. I played basketball in high school because I was tall. Extremely tall and incredibly skinny in those days. Coach Swanson was my coach. He taught me important life lessons. He taught me how to run a 'suicide drill' which was running and touching all the lines on the basketball court from baseline to baseline in a particular pattern. If you could do it in less than two minutes you could go take a shower, but the fastest guy on the team took two minutes and seven seconds to run one so after we ran five of the drills coach would tell us we could take a shower if we could run it is two minutes and ten seconds, but by that time we were exhausted so it would take even the fast little point guards two minutes and twenty seconds. So it went until coach grew tired of watching us or the fast guys beat the time. Eventually coach would send the remnant to the showers. He used to tells us to run until he got tired of looking at us. I was always part of the ‘last to shower’ remnant.
Coach Swanson was the nice coach. I was 6'8" tall and only weighed 160 pounds in those days. He once told me to guard the other team's center and the guy weighed over 300 pounds. He was making lots of baskets against me and Coach Swanson called a timeout and told me to lean on the guy and push him away from the basket. I looked coach square in the eye and said, "I have been pushing him. Then he pushes me back and I'm standing out at half court. What would you like me to use to push him? His is like two of me." Coach laughed so hard he couldn't give us any more instructions.
Coach Altop was my other basketball coach. He also taught biology and he got me sent home when he asked the class how to tell the sex of a chromosome and I raised my hand and said, "Pull down its genes?" and it got a big laugh from my classmates, but I got sent to see Mr. Buckner who called my parents and I was suspended for a day which was not good although I think my parents really enjoyed the joke. Mom still tells me the only reason she didn't kill me in those days was because I was funny when I was naughty so she would be laughing too hard to backhand me into the next week.
Coach Altop was kind of mean and now days he would be arrested for meanness, but in those days he was just considered a good motivator. He invented the 'pink panty drill' in which you practiced a three on two fast break scoring drill. If the three offensive players didn't score on the two defenders then all three had to wear women's pink underwear for the rest of practice. Nobody ever wore them because they made sure to put the ball in the basket. My teammates let me down once and we were going to have to wear the panties, but I simply refused. Coach told me if I didn't wear the pink panties I was off the team. I told him okay and headed for the door. He called after me to 'man up' which seemed a bit odd in light of the whole panties thing, but I told him, "Fine, but we get one more chance and if we score we don't have to wear them." He agreed to the deal, but insisted that he and coach Swanson would be the two defenders. I huddled with my teammates and told them to give me the ball no matter what. They were happy to pass it to me and I grabbed it and drove hard into coach Altop and knocked him down and put the ball in the basket and avoided the wearing of women's undergarments. Coach complained that I had traveled and fouled him so I borrowed one of his phrases and said, "You call that little tap a foul?" so he backed off and practice went on. Still, I think I showered with the remnant of the remnant that night.
I was not a very good player, although I once scored 17 points and got 17 rebounds in a junior varsity game. I also held the record for the most blocked shots in a game for a while. After my dad died I couldn't play anymore. I had to go to work so basketball seasons were over for me. Coach Lindsey at Grand Canyon College asked me to try out for the Antelopes. He offered me a scholarship, but it didn't cover everything and I would still have to work to help take care of Mom and my siblings so I declined the offer. I loved basketball and I truly missed it. Years later my wife had to remind me to stop trying to live vicariously through my sons by making them go out for basketball. It was a good warning and I had to repent. My love for the game has never gone away. I have coached (no pink panty drills) and refereed and kept the clock and the score book and even was the announcer for high school games back in the day. "Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to tonight's game between East High and your Phoenix Christian Cougars!" I would yell into the microphone and the cheerleaders would go crazy and the band would play and the crowd would roar and then I would lead the national anthem and introduce the players and just have a bunch of fun during the game.
I coached girls basketball for a while. One of the moms was very prim and proper and told me she was trying to teach her daughter to be ladylike and that I was trying to teach her to chin the ball and use her elbows against her opponent and that those two goals seemed incongruous. She wanted to take her daughter off the team, but I told her to wait until at least after the first game the next day since her daughter ought not miss out on playing in a game after having worked so hard in practice. The mom came to the game and by the end of it we had to go over to the mom and tell her to stop going all she lion and yelling at her daughter to elbow the opposing center since it reflected badly on the school. So much for ladylike...
In the early days of planting a church in Tucson, I found out a bunch of guys were playing basketball on a backyard court at some guy's house that Tom knew. I got invited to join them and I became known as Rev. Rod. We decided to join a city league so Dan and Jimmy went to sign us up and they had to come up with a name for the team, so they wrote Rev. Rod and the Choirboys on the form. I still have my Choirboys t-shirt.
Now days I mostly just watch the game. I love watching somebody set a good back screen or snag a nice weak side rebound. I like it when the underdog prevails because the coach figures out how to negate the other team's advantage. I love when someone is being overplayed and makes a great back cut to the hoop. I love remembering what it was like when I scored all those points and snagged all the boards and coach called me up to the varsity after the JV game and I got to suit up with them. After Dad died, coach Altop made sure I got a varsity letter even though I was no longer on the team and thus didn't deserve one. He told me from the lectern at the sports banquet that I earned it because I had worked hard and never gave up and because I was now working hard to help my family which was all about character and that he wanted that kind of character rewarded. My teammates gave me a big ovation and it felt pretty good.
Yeah, I am a basketball fan.