TOURNEY TIME

Sitting on opposite ends of our front room couch, Hubby and I enjoyed togetherness. Flipping pages of old holiday magazines, now and then, I stopped and tore one out. Here’s another I’ll make into a Christmas 2017 envelope.

Perched in his couch corner opposite me, Hubby watched TV basketball –with the sound off.

Live sports are the only good ones. Now and then, I glanced at the screen. However, when the camera switched to a view from some high place, the game caught my full attention.

I saw the entire hardwood floor and all ten players. One team wore white, the other blue. Even after many years away from the game, I knew the teams were both using some kind of zone defense.

Time sped back over 50 years and I walked across a snowy scraped parking lot to Elkhart, Indiana’s large North Side Gym. In the redbrick building, regional high school playoffs took place. We don’t play until tonight, but games are fun to watch.

When I entered that winter afternoon, an ocean of warm air brought waves of smell and sound. Mixed with the odor of hardwood floor polish, a smell of popcorn tickled my nose.

Squeaks of players’ tennis shoes, referee’s whistles and roars of the crowd called me toward the current game. I stepped through a main floor entrance to bleachers.

Players ran down the floor. Alternately, as if the opponents were taking turns, cheerleaders jumped and fans cheered or sometimes hissed.

Whistle in his mouth, a referee in a black and white striped shirt raised his hand.

T-w-e-e-t! The game stopped and he rolled his hands like the “roll ‘em” part of “Pat-a-Cake, Baker’s Man.”

Traveling! He didn’t bounce the ball right when he ran.

A man stood, cupped his mouth and yelled, “Hey Ref! You blind?”

Transfixed by the action, I watched the ref hand the other team the ball out of bounds. A minute later, I heard another whistle. This time, blue player number ten stepped to the free throw line. Other players waited on each side of the keyhole under the hoop.

Blue Number Ten bounced the basketball, eyed the hoop, took a deep breath, crouched a little, and shot. The ball hit the rim and bounced away. Both teams scrambled after it.

I still stood in the entryway and people pressed on all sides. As they pushed past to their bleacher seats, a few said, “Excuse me.” I need to go to my own seat. I checked my ticket for a level two seat, and climbed back stairs toward it.

Perched in my high seat, I beheld the entire floor. While I could not see personal fouls well, I watched teams’ defensive systems and offensive plays.

While the high place gave me an overall view, I loved sitting at floor level for Goshen High’s Redskin games.

Sometimes I saw team members in the school’s hallways. Sitting at the edge of the playing floor, I saw their shoulders shine with perspiration and felt their intensity. Invisibly, I was part of the team.

During close-scoring games, I yelled myself hoarse! Go, Redskins, we’re backin’ you to win!

Growing up in Indiana during 1950s and ‘60s I often heard basketball called “Hoosier Hysteria.” In those years, basketball reached all ages. Bubblegum chewing kids dribbled the ball on sidewalks or streets and grannies wearing bifocals shot hoops in their driveways.

An exception, I never owned a basketball. But, when I was in sixth grade, my folks bought season tickets to home high school games. We sat in Goshen gym’s balcony above the student bleachers.

That year, I learned basic offense and defense plays,

keeping score, and what some referees’ signals meant.

During my high school years when winter’s chill winds began, basketball was the topic in school hallways, The Goshen News and even at the dinner table. “What’s the coach got in mind?” … “Who will make the team?” … “Will we beat Elkhart this year?” … “Maybe we’ll make it to State again!”

As a senior, I had no worry about getting a close seat for our home games. I was in cheer block! We sat on main floor bleachers and seniors occupied the front rows.

In cheer block, seniors sat in front. (Singing school song. (Me: front, far right.)

In cheer block, seniors sat in front. (Singing school song. (Me: front, far right.)

Cheer block focused cheers and yells of 12 rows of 22 girls –a mighty sound!

Block girls wore white gloves to show off our hand motions. When the pep band played, we performed routines like “Willie and the Hand Jive.”

Our shirts were red in front and white in back. At halftime, the cheerleaders led a cheer and certain block girls in the middle bent forward showing the white side of the shirt to form a letter. One letter at the time, the cheer spelled out “G-O-S-H-E-N.”

In this formal photo, the effect of white-in-red is clear.

In this formal photo, the effect of white-in-red is clear.

What are these basketball memories about?

Best known for his book Care of the Soul, Thomas Moore, psychologist and spiritual writer says, “Memory is potent. It makes us who we are. It gives us depth … (and) ties our past to our present ….”

At heart, I am still part of Hoosier Hysteria. Basketball and its associated high school activities pumped spirit into my early life.

Through memory, it still does!

I am blessed.***

Frances Fritzie

Frances Fritzie

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