|Me shooting hoops with the guys in Washington, D.C., in 1978.|
One of my high school friends took the above picture of me when we were visiting our friend Emily in Washington, D.C. in 1978.
We were sitting in a park when I saw some guys playing basketball. I went on over and as you can see, shot around for a while. It was fun and they didn't seem to mind.
As I told my kids many years later when we played in our driveway, I coulda been someone if anyone paid attention to girls' basketball back in the day. I was on our high school team, but Miss Benson didn't teach us anything. We had two guards who stayed on one side, two forwards on the other, and rovers, which I always wanted to be, who could cover the whole court. And instead of having uniforms like the boys did, we wore silly pinnies.
There was more caché in being a cheerleader. I practiced one summer for tryouts, a day during which one older girl came over and pressed down hard on my head to get me into a fuller split. I never did make it all the way. Emily and I were thrilled to get our red and white pom-poms and uniforms but soon realized that actually being cheerleaders was anticlimactic. We were told that we performed like dead dogs and kicked off after just a few games.
On the basketball court, I had a decent shot and ease in running around but never learned how to move. When I made it onto the team at Vassar, I mostly warmed the bench.
Still, I kept playing after college, joining a Northampton recreation league team when I moved to Western Massachusetts. When Steeplejacks – sponsored by a restaurant in Sunderland ( no longer there) – disbanded after infighting outweighed fun, I played in Northampton with friends after work at the Transscript-Telegram.
I also went to the Y with my friend Greg Pearson to play basketball with the guys. At home, we had some fun in our driveway, although my unorthodox shot – arms raised overhead instead of one hand guiding – drove Ben and Joe crazy. They promised to put an end to that when they got tall enough to block me, which is what happened.
Play ceased upon the demise of our basketball hoop, which was cemented into the ground. It went crooked after Jim softened it up by backing into it, then I finished the job by backing into it again.
Cut to the present. The scene: The Holyoke Y, again. A group of guys usually plays basketball in the gym before the fitness classes that I take. The other night, as they were getting ready to leave, an urge came over me to see if, after years, I could still shoot.
It's a good thing my kids weren't there because they would have been SO embarrassed. I walked over and asked if I could borrow a basketball to take a few shots.
Well, I could not get my feet off the ground. Each shot was perfectly aimed, and the ball sailed...right under the basket. Probably thinking, "Crazy lady," the owner of the ball took a few shots to demonstrate. No luck.
I returned the ball, which frankly was dead, and went across the gym to where another ball with more air was lying. After a few more tries, I finally made a shot. Victory!
I jogged back to where they were packing up and said, "Hey you didn't see it but I made the shot!"
One of the guys smiled and said he had.
Probably thought, crazy old lady.
But I was happy. After all the serious things I have been through, I can still be a goofball.