Basketball with a punch
It’s about that time again. The air is slowly being let out of footballs and it won’t be long until basketballs will be bouncing all over the place. The thing I like about football is that it’s a fairly short season. The thing I dislike about basketball is that it seems to go on forever.
I should qualify those statements a little. I’m not referring to high school and college sports, I’m referring to the pros. Eventually there’s an end to the professional football season. Pro basketball just goes on and on and on.
The popular attraction is “exhibition games.” That’s the excuse used to play early on courts the players normally never see. The reason given for having these games is more exposure. The real reason is more money.
I remember watching an exhibition game one night at a friend’s house. He eventually remarked on how physical basketball has become. “It’s like a street fight!” he exclaimed. “The only difference between this and hockey is sticks.”
His observation came right after a couple of players had become involved in a good old-fashioned fist fight. The officials tried to break it up but before long everyone was throwing punches.
“They should make them wear boxing gloves,” he added. Again, I agreed, but his remark started my mind spinning.
Back, a long, long time ago, I really did play basketball with boxing gloves. I guess it was one of the times in my life that I’d just as soon forget. I was a freshman in high school and had tried out for the basketball team. I wasn’t good enough to even make benchwarmer (as was the case with most freshmen and sophomores.)
Ray Patterson, our basketball coach, was continually trying to come up with new methods to teach his players the finer points of the game. Ray was also concentrating on ways to raise money for a hardwood floor for the new gym the school was building.
One night he must have had an epic nightmare because the next morning he came to school smiling. Not only had he dreamed up a new method of teaching his team to move the ball faster, he had also come up with a great money-raising idea.
He announced we were going to present a new game called boxing basketball. The rules were simple. The contest would be played like regular basketball except the players had to wear boxing gloves. A player could hit another player when he had the basketball in his hands. In other words, the object of the game was to get rid of the ball as fast as humanly possible or get punched.
The contest was to be held a couple of weeks later and everyone would be involved. (Even the second-string and those deemed not good enough to make benchwarmers.) Tickets were a quarter for students and a dollar for adults. We each had to beg, borrow or steal a pair of boxing gloves and report for practice the next afternoon.
Things went fairly well during practice sessions. The better players scrimmaged against each other and the not-so-good players did likewise. We had to admit it was a lot more fun than just plain basketball practice. The only problem was that it wasn’t too exciting to watch.
The night of the exhibition game the fans came with great expectations, but lack of action nearly lulled them to sleep. Then Coach Patterson livened things up. He stuck the first team in to play the lowest of the low reserves. It was a real massacre. The varsity boys were so fast they would be waiting for the ball to get to us, then boom!
It didn’t take long for the crowd to get with the program. It was an instant success for everyone – except, of course, for the reserves. The exhibition didn’t last long. They ran out of reserves in no time.
I’ve never heard of boxing basketball since. I’ve also lost track of what happened to Coach Patterson. Maybe he changed sports and became a Golden Gloves coach.
Ed Rood is the former publisher of the Tri-County Times.