You can tell high school basketball is winding down by all the people who are wound up about it.
For those of you who don’t know what a “high school basketball” is, the basics are simple. Two teams try to put a round ball in a net, and that’s pretty much it.
However, it’s serious business. People spend their entire lives hating each other because of high school basketball.
I become aware of this animosity when I met my roommates during the first day of college . They were a good group of guys from various places across the state — Moab, Emery and Fillmore.
“So where you from Dave?” the guy from Emery said.
“We HATE Ryan Cuff!”
It took me a second to put it together. I thought maybe Cuff had run over all of their dogs on purpose, stolen their girlfriends or was responsible for the whole New Coke debacle.
Then it came to me, — Cuff was one of the best high school players to ever hit the pine at Richfield High School. They had all watched Cuff dominate their older brothers on the court.
“Um, I’m sorry?” I didn’t know what exactly I was apologizing for. I may have grown up half a block away from Cuff, but it really wasn’t my fault that he’d crushed all of these guys’ ability to have school pride.
However, had I not showed contrition, they would have lynched me right then and there.
There are guys who shot actual bullets at each other during wars that harbor less resentment than certain high school basketball rivals.
“Hey, I know you were trying to shoot me down over Sicily, but I was trying to bomb your hometown, so no hard feelings,” said a former B-17 pilot.
“Kein. Alles ist vergeben [No. All is forgiven],” said the former Luftwaffe pilot.
Compare that with, “Hey, remember when we beat you at state in 1978?”
“You son of a … I’m gonna kill you!”
One of the best things about high school basketball is the unpredictability of it. I remember once watching the top girls’ team in the state fall apart during the tournament. Was someone sick? Was there an injury? Perhaps the coach had announced before the game that he was going to go to prison because the FBI had caught on to his insider trading?
According to gossip, which is at least as reliable as Facebook posts, one of the girls had been caught kissing a teammate’s boyfriend.
It caused a civil war on the team, and the girls refused to pass the ball to each other. As it turns out even the best team can’t win games when no one passes the ball.
It’s fun to cover these games night after night — from the barnburners to the blowouts. You know a game is over when they put in the fifth string, including the girl with the tragic under-bite, the exchange student from the country where basketball is illegal and the one on crutches.
“How dare you? That girl’s country is being held back by American imperialism,” Triggered Smith might say. “They would have basketball by now if not for Trump. You’re worse than Hitler!”
Actually, I fully expect someone to be angry with me over this column. I’m poking fun at one of the most treasured past times in rural communities — hating people who live eight miles away because of how good they play with an orange ball.
Now that I’ve had some time to think about it, I’m not sorry at all that the Wildcats and Ryan Cuff beat your school more than a quarter century ago.
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