Hopin’ for a bad weekend for the boys down at the Y

Published 6:36 pm Tuesday, July 23, 2019

As you know, I have a lifelong love-affair with basketball. I think when my biographer sits down to put my glad story into a book, he will make sure the cover is orange and made of genuine leather. You caught how I slipped in my “biographer,” which is just my way of showing you that it is better to go through life as an optimist than a realist. The story you are about to read attests to that.

Over the past couple of weeks, my daughter Rach and I have enjoyed watching the NBA free-agency frenzy and are both pleased that our Houston Rockets acquired the high-flying Russell Westbrook, even though it cost my favorite NBA player — Chris Paul — in the process. Rach is probably a more rabid Rockets fan than I am, and she will get worked up pretty fast if you say anything bad about the “Beard” — i.e., James Harden. On his behalf, I will say that I think he got robbed of another MVP this year, as the media went with the golden-boy they call the “Greek Freak” – Giannis Antetokoumpo, from the Bucks. It may surprise you that we are still sharing basketball stories in the middle of July. But “basketball in July” is our version of “Christmas in July,” and you don’t even have to turn on Hallmark to get a taste of it.

Here’s what brought this show to mind this week. Sometimes I scroll through the archives of our LDN columns to see if I can re-write one that catches my fancy. It’s funny how I’ll come across one, and as soon as I skim it, it hollers out for me to pick it, kind of the way somebody’d do when choosing basketball teams down at the Y. Today’s story did just that, and I picked it first-thing. Obviously, with my added dialogue here, we won’t be able to cover this whole story in one sitting; but I hope I can take you as far as having the ball in the air, leaving you hanging to find out whether the game-winning shot ends up as a nothing-but-net moment of joy, or a brick-off-the-rim named Despair.

One more thing before commencing with the account. One advantage of digging into the archives this week is that it gives me a chance to say “hey” to my old “boys-down-at-the-Y” and wish them well.

But if you happen to run into any one of these fellas any time soon, and they tell you a different story than what you are about to hear — then just ring that up to the effects of aging. After all, the following events took place 228 months back, and that’s, certainly, a lot of Geritol ago.

With that, here’s “Hopin’ for a bad weekend for the boys down at the Y,” as we wrote it in June 2000, with a few poetic, editorial changes as needed:

It perplexes me how some guys can’t get a story right, especially when it comes to providing a reliable and accurate account of a basketball game. For years on every visit home, I’ve been dropping in and playing basketball with the businessmen at lunch-time down at what used to be the “Y.”  If you happen up on any of those fellas after reading this, the story they’ll tell you no doubt will be so misconstrued and twisted you won’t be able to recognize it. I’ve learned to be forgiving of them and would ask you to do the same.

The other Friday we were involved in a heated debacle, just a bunch of has-beens up against a few used-to-be’s — and, of course, me. This was our last game of the day, and so my good buddy and designated trash-talker Steve Sauter hollered out, “The loser of this game will have a bad weekend!” He kind of fell in love with that idea, I guess, so every time his team would score he’d holler across to me, “Looks like you’re gonna have a bad weekend, Texas Steve.”

A minute later his teammate Kerry Franks hit an unlikely, eyes-closed shot of his own and hollered out to my team as he ran down court, “Fellas, you’d better stay indoors this weekend ‘cause it’s lookin’ more and more like a bad’un.”

LaGrange College legend Luke Hill followed with one of his patented rainbow shots from downtown, and he offered me this personal piece of friendly advice, “Nah, Coach, don’t think it’d be too good an idea to drive back to Texas this weekend. Could be a bad weekend for travel.”

You get the picture. While these guys may now have limited basketball skills and bad memories, they make up for it with the best Southern humor this side of Jeff Foxworthy.

Despite all the trash talking, the game turned out to be close anyway, because — as I learned a long time ago — trash talking makes for good prose, but it doesn’t put the ball in the basket. The score see-sawed back and forth until my team — which consisted of a few good boys named Ken, Louie, Jan and Alan — was within striking distance, down by only one at 23-22.  We were playing to 25, so all we needed for the win was a three-pointer.

Unfortunately, this is where I have to wake up and come back to July 2019 and postpone our account, because there is far too much trash-talking yet to come. But, rest assured, soon to follow is a potential three-pointer sailing through the air, and, naturally, it leaves the station from the fingertips of your own friend and writer, the coach from Texas whose biographer will tell this tale in living color one day. It is his shot that will ultimately separate the bad weekends from the good ones. Can’t wait to rehearse the ending of this classic tale. Until then, I hope all of the boys down at the Y have a good weekend because next weekend is gonna be bad again for half of ‘em.