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Feeling awful for the boys’ bad, bad weekend

With March Madness in full bloom — and my Houston Cougars riding high into the Sweet Sixteen — I thought back to the year 2003 and of my friends down at the Y. I think I should call roll here, so these boys can enter into infamy along with me: I proudly introduce you to Alan Daniel, Louie McClung, David Knolls, Jim Pendergraph, Tim Gerald, Kirk Kilgore, Roger Miller, Ron Pauley, Johnny Watkins, Steven Gooden, Jan Gay, Gill Holliday, and Matt, whose wife doesn’t know he plays ball in the noontime league — along with the names you’re about to read.

Ah, it was quite a battle, a heated debacle down in LaGrange of epic proportions, the battle between the cagers of the South and a stray hooper from Texas. It was a bunch of has-beens up against a few used-to-be’s – and, of course, me.  You noted that slight separation, I’m sure.

The report you’re about to read was from our last game of the day; so, my good buddy and designated trash-talker Steve Sauter seized the moment: “The loser of this game will have a bad, bad weekend!” He kind of fell in love with his own quote, so every time his team would score he’d holler across to me, “Coach, looks like you’re headed for a bad weekend.”

A minute later his teammate Kerry Franks hit an unlikely fadeaway from the corner and hollered out to my team as he ran down court, “Fellas, you’d better stay indoors this weekend, not lookin’ good for ya!”

Right after that, the infamous Luke Hill hit a shot from downtown and offered this contribution, “Nah, Coach, don’t thank ya oughta drive back to Texas this weekend, could be an awfully bad time for travel.”

You get the picture.

Despite all the trash talking, the game turned out to be close anyway, because — as I learned a long time ago — ‘trash talking don’t score points.’  The score see-sawed back and forth until my team — which consisted of good guys like the aforementioned 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.

Of course, knowing we needed a three-pointer is like putting a piece of raw meat in front of a Doberman. We got the ball, and I spotted up a good ways behind that Texas three-point line, which, everybody knows, is further back than the normal Georgia three-point line. Southpaw Ken Carter saw me and tossed a cross-court pass over the defense.  Now at this point of the story versions you hear may begin to branch out like the ol’ Chattahoochee itself.

Carter threw me that pass, and I caught it, got my feet set, whirled the ball in my hands until the seams were right in line with the tips of my fingers, squared up, eyed the basket, and began to put in motion the shot that — before the day was done — would be heard ‘round the world, or at least around LaGrangeville.

But the shot was not without resistance. Just as I began whirling the ball in my hand, Professor William Paschal — a Biology professor at LaGrange College and an awfully nice guy — came flying out at me, his 6’4” frame stretched out like a mad grizzly.

“Sorry, Professor,” I said in the middle of my shooting motion, “Class is fixin’ to begin!”

My trash-talking buddy Steve Sauter came flying out at me, too, both hands raised high to contest the shot.  Sauter’s in the insurance business. So as that thundering shot left my hand, I couldn’t help but say, “Sorry, Stevie boy, you’re ‘bout to be behind on your premiums.”

The ball arched high like a rainbow stretching over the tops of those tall pines after one of those big Georgia rains.  It sailed with the precision of the space shuttle and came down as smoothly as a gymnast on a perfect landing.

All the professor and my favorite trash-talking friend could do was stand and watch, then shake their heads glumly.

Nothing. But. Net.

Nada.

But I must say, in hindsight, that as I drove back to Texas soon thereafter, I could not help but look back into my rearview mirror and feel a little sorry. All those boys down at the Y who ended up on the wrong side of the scoreboard are my friends.

And, as such, I think it only right that I should offer them all my best wishes. And I sincerely hope they enjoy that really, really bad weekend. ~ September 27, 2003