As I watch March Madness, I begin having basketball flashbacks myself. I reminisce of long socks with blue stripes that stretch out to my knees and basketball shorts that don’t look like Capri pants. Not Daisy Duke shorts … actual shorts. John Stockton style. I recall the Aquanet hairspray in the locker room and the chicks lacing up the L.A. Gear. I was short, but awesome. However, I wasn’t always awesome … I had my moments. Watching the Madness on TV today, I couldn’t help but remember my very first basketball game … I couldn’t help but laugh.
Picture it: Junior High School. We were the Tigers.
We played some team with white jerseys. I was one of the jeans and t-shirt wearing tomboy chicks, who told kids in her class that she had made the “varsity” team. There’s just one team in junior high. You’re either on it or you’re not. I decided to call it varsity, it sounded impressive.
I had just started learning my Magic Johnson–James Worthy moves when the first game of the season was scheduled. I had told a couple of friends from Mr. Berger’s history class that I was on “varsity” and that they should come check out the game. They were in the presence of a baller in the making, they didn’t want to miss that. It would be the first game of the season.
So the Mr. Berger crew, with their Pee-Chee folders, Jansport backpacks and classic white Nikes with the red swoosh, stopped by to watch the event unfold. We had the warm-up music blasting as we came running through the gym commencing our practice drills. People were here to see my team kick ass. They were here to see me too.
As the refs whistle blew we took to the court. Excited, but nervous at the same time. Massive turnovers, three-seconds violation, bad shot selections, three-seconds violation, too many passes in one sequence, three-seconds violation, and then not enough passes in the other. Classic dribbling skills that needed improvement were being showcased. In addition, aggressive play helped three players from each team earn two fouls each by the end of the first quarter. I guess we were a little nervous, but soon we got the hang of it.
We went on a 10-1 run, they’d go on a 8-2 run. We’d dominate the boards, they’d get aggressive and start swinging elbows. They hit one long from dowwwwntowwwn. We’d drive through traffic, make the lay-up, and get a foul.
Just as the second quarter was winding down our coach reminded us that we wanted to finish the half strong. Go out with confidence … have momentum that would drive us through to the third quarter and possibly a win. But just when we thought all the silly nerves were behind us … it happened. I did it and I couldn’t take it back.
About ten seconds left. We had a play. Two-points. Just make a quick basket for two points. The other team decided to defend the in-bounds pass. We came closer to our teammate so that she could pass the ball to us. It was crowded on the opponent’s side. Chicks are aggressive when they’re on the court, so I kept fighting for position, so that someone would pass me the ball.
Pass comes in, my teammate is trapped. She’s fighting off opponents’ attempts to clutch for the ball.
Five seconds. The ball comes loose.
Four seconds. We scramble, battling for possession.
Three seconds. I get a hold of the ball.
Two seconds. I hear my teammates scream SHOOT IT! SHOOT IT!
One second. I shoot. I score. AHHHHHHH! I’m getting high fives from only two of my teammates.
I look up at my coach, he’s shaking his head. I look at the boys basketball team who came over to watch us, they have their hands across their face in disbelief. I look at Mr. Berger’s crew, they’re laughing.
The other team is smiling.
Apparently, I forgot where I was and scored two points for the other team. They went into the locker room with momentum, energy, and my two points.
I couldn’t believe it. I was mortified.
But nevertheless, I got pats on the back from my teammates while the coach gave me the speech. I got the point. He knew I felt bad, so he didn’t press the issue.
I didn’t feel like coming out the second half, but hey it happens … so I took a deep breath, drank some Gatorade and walked onto the court. I heard a little teasing, but it simmered down as I scored more points, this time in the right basket. We ended up winning that game.
Madness, I tell you. Junior High March Madness.
I still talk to one of the Berger crew. Just one. He actually became one of my best friends, a brother. I’ve known him longer than any other friend and he remembers the story too. It cracks him up. Although, you hear him tell it now, twenty-something years later, and apparently in his version it’s become the championship game between two basketball powerhouses. And I made the winning-buzzer-beater basket for the other team.
He’s funny. He doesn’t let me forget memories like that … he cracks me up. Ahhhh that’s what friends are for … to remind you of your long socks with blue stripes, L.A. Gears and Aquanet. Because sometimes as a mom, when you’re an adult with all kinds of stress and responsibilities and drama, you need to be reminded that you weren’t always a grown-up … you were a bad-ass baller in the making.