Ashton Played Basketball in McKale!
Posted on December 30, 2011
This week Ashton was afforded an awesome opportunity I would have killed for as a kid. He recently played in a youth basketball league through USA Youth Sports that ended in early December. The head of the league called us Tuesday and asked if Ashton would be interested n playing an exhibition game with some other kids during halftime of the U of A women’s game. When I asked him if he’d want to play or not, he jumped at the opportunity by saying “eh, ok”.
Now this was going to be a new experience all around as none of us had ever been to a U of A women’s basketball game. I’ve been to my share of men’s games and I had no clue how this would stack up. I am not going to lie, the rest of this blog may or may not play off some women’s sports stereotypes, namely that the women, while each and every one them being more than capable to humiliate me on the court (in basketball, arm-wrestling, battleship…you name it), are less athletic than the men and the sport isn’t as popular. Of course, my second notion that the women’s sport is less popular than the men isn’t so much a “stereotype” as it is a “fact”, as supported by an article I found on Bloomberg.com (http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-04-01/women-s-basketball-teams-operate-in-red-as-salaries-break-college-budgets.html). A few key nuggets: there are virtually no women’s college teams supporting their own programs with revenue, partially because there is very little television market and the games sell fewer tickets at cheaper prices than men’s games. Thank you Title IX for the resulting increase in tuition!
We bought our tickets for $4 from the USA Youth coordinator. Alyson’s was free as she was less than 3 years old. The first difference I noticed (besides the affordability of the ticket and the fact that there was apparently enough room to allow 2 year olds in for free) was the ticket said “General Admission” with no seat designations. When we walked into the arena, we saw a plethora of available seats and several large blue drapes blocking off a large portion of the arena’s normally available seats. This led to a very comfy, inside-a-giant-shower-curtain feel. It took everything I had to avoid belting out my traditional shower song “Don’t Stop Believin’”. We walked right down to the front and scored some very nice seats. I’ve often heard people with nice seats at the men’s games remark that it is surprising to see how tall the men really are. Well, from our seats, we could see how normal-sized the ladies were. Except of course the 6’5” center.
We sat through most of the first half anxious to watch Ashton. Then, with only a few minutes left, the USA coordinator asked if I wouldn’t mind coaching one of the two teams. Thinking I couldn’t do any worse than Kevin O’Neil, I agreed to it.
With about 4 minutes to go in the half, our coaches and players migrated to the court to prepare for the game. A U of A coordinator was there to give us instructions. The first thing she said was how surprised she was at the crowd we must have brought out. I was skeptical at first as there were not too many kids at all and Ashton had the largest contingent of supporters with 6 people. However, as I thought about it I realized when you are dealing with the size of crowds normally expected at the women’s game, an additional 17 people makes a striking difference. My hunch is the crowd was a result of the U of A team’s newfound non-ineptitude (eptitude perhaps?). They are 11-1 and off to one of their best starts ever.
I knew two of the kids on the team from the last basketball season I coached (one of them also because he is my son). However, I did not know the two other players I was given. As our four were going to be playing a team of five, I was hoping we had a few diamonds in the rough. I immediately set about assessing my team’s talent. My son Ashton is a smart player and a good defender. The other kid from our team is a good shooter and unaware of the meaning of the word “pass”. So I asked the other two kids how long they had played basketball. Their answer: zero. Apparently they were some kids from the flag football teams who were recruited to fill out the roster. Well, at least there wouldn’t be thousand of people watching them try the game for the first time. And the coach from the other team turned out to be a football coach. I knew that was our advantage.
Just before the 1st half of the ladies’ game came to an end, the USA leader gave the kids a little speech wherein he told them it was an honor to play on the U of A floor. A sentiment I agreed with completely. He told them to go out and touch the “A” at center court when they ran out. Which the kids dutifully did. Some of them doing it multiple times….during the game.
The game itself went really well and Ashton had a great time. He even made a flew highlight-worthy plays which are shown in the video below.
I was very happy that the crowd was so into the game (this is possibly because they couldn’t tell a difference in size and talent between the actual game and our exhibition…hey-o!). They cheered on the kids as they made baskets and good plays. I think the kids were so pumped that they didn’t even notice. After the game, the kids were each given a keychain (for all of their keys of course) and went back to their seats for the rest of the game.
As my family isn’t too into sports, we decided to leave discretely after half time and get some ice cream. It turned out being pretty hard to be discrete as our departure meant half of the arena’s attendance was leaving at once. We enjoyed our ice cream and, incidentally were able to see just as many slam-dunks as if we were to have stayed for the duration of the game.