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Handing Off the Ball at Midcourt? Seriously?

17 Apr

by Roger White

Among my earliest memories of watching sporting events live and in person are yellowed images of a musty gymnasium with rickety wooden bleachers. You know, an old-world gym, built in the 1930s or ’40s, with the rounded roof, many windows long painted shut, and those ghastly caged halide lights bright enough to cause welder’s burn on your corneas. It was the mid-1960s, and I was a little kid, watching my oldest sister play junior high basketball. I’m not exactly sure how young I was, but I do remember that I was small enough to easily crawl under, in, and around all the tiny crevices in the bleachers to find hidden treasure—loose change, dropped candy, and the occasional dollar bill or two. It was a blast.

Early life lesson: Lollipops stuck to the floor are not good to eat.

What little I recall of the actual games was that, in those days, girls basketball differed radically from boys basketball. Girls’ teams had to divide themselves into frontcourt and backcourt squads, and crossing the midcourt line was prohibited. It was the oddest thing, especially looking back now, to see a girl running full speed on a breakaway only to come to a screeching halt at midcourt to pass the ball off to her teammate. But no one really gave it a second thought then. To paraphrase Mr. Hornsby, that’s just the way it was.

I have to tell you that growing up with two older sisters gave me enough insight to realize the ridiculous premise behind this Victorian-style rule. Conventional wisdom in those days was that the female constitution was much more delicate than that of the male of the species, so what competition our dainty girls were allowed to participate in was softened and slowed for their protection.

Horse patties.

A childhood spent variously trying to keep up with, fend off, outfight, outrace, outbite, outkick, run from, and savagely battle for bathroom rights against two merciless sisters taught me, often painfully, that girls are just as tenacious, spirited, and competitive as boys. Except their nails are longer.

It came as no surprise to me, then, when Billie Jean King beat the chauvinistic socks off of one Bobby Riggs in the “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match in 1973. Remember that? It was for $100,000, winner take all. (And one hundred grand was beaucoup money in ’73.) Yes, Riggs was in his 50s, and sure, he hammed up the dominant male role to the hilt, and indeed, King was in her prime, but the action on the court spoke for itself. King blasted Riggs, 6-4, 6-3, 6-3, using the crafty old guy’s defensive tactics against him. And if you thought Riggs tanked the match, think again. Not many people are aware that Riggs played another “Battle of the Sexes” match four months before the one against King—and he defeated Margaret Court, one of the top women players of the time, 6-2, 6-1.

Not long after this was when Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova began their decades-long rivalry. As big a fan as I was of guys like Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe, I genuinely anticipated watching Chrissy and Martina go at it as much as any men’s match. To my great surprise and delight, it was about this time, in the early 1980s, that I happened upon Navratilova in, of all places, the University of Texas at Arlington gym. She lived in the area at the time and worked out with the UTA women’s basketball team to keep up her stamina. I was a UTA student, and I jogged in and around that old gym a lot. Martina walked by me once to get a drink of water, and there was not an ounce of fat on her body. She looked as if composed of granite. I blurted something about being a huge fan, and she smiled uneasily at me. Another crazed fan, great, I’m sure she was thinking.

Anyway, what got me thinking about how our society has long viewed women’s sports—you know, with that second-class air of inferiority—were two recent developments. A phenomenon named Brittney and my youngest daughter, Jamie. If you were unaware, the Baylor University women’s basketball team went 40-0 this year. Think about that. Forty wins, no losses. No college team—men’s or women’s—has ever done that. And anchoring that amazing team was one Brittney Griner, the six-foot-eight-inch dunking machine from Houston. Did you watch this team play? Lordy, I was more juiced to watch the women’s playoffs than the men’s this year. Incredible stuff. And it wasn’t all Griner, either. When teams figured out how to shut her down (by double- and triple-teaming her), the Bears’ outside shooters, such as Odyssey Sims, nailed them from long range.

And, oh, my daughter Jamie. It has been one of those dad things this year, I suppose, getting to watch my youngest run the half-mile. Sorry, they call it the 800 meters now. I was a trackster (Truman Administration, I believe) long ago, and it thrills me to watch a chip off the old block stride along that track. She asked me to run with her around the neighborhood, and after a couple of blocks of grunting and panting, I instructed Jay to go on ahead of me. Bad knee or something.

Handing off the ball at midcourt, indeed.

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

If I Said You Had a Beautiful Body . . .

13 Oct

by Roger White 

I read in the newspaper the other day that Austin-Bergstrom International Airport will soon be one of only 30 or so airports in the country to be blessed with the latest and greatest version of the full-body security scanner.

Are we special or what?

Apparently responding to travelers’ complaints that the scanners currently in use are, now let me find the exact wording so I get this right—hang on a minute, here it is—“too invasive because TSA officials behind curtains could see contours of genitalia,” your friendly TSA folks have devised the so-called millimeter wave machine. Before I get to the new-fangled millimeter wave machine, why do you suppose the TSA people needed to be behind curtains to view our genitalia? Are they too embarrassed to view our genitalia right out in public? If I know that somebody is scanning the contours of my genitalia, by golly, I want that person out in the open. To think that someone is gawking at my boys behind a curtain is a bit too lurpy for me. In fact, in all fairness we should be able to view the contours of the TSA person’s genitalia at the same time they’re looking at ours. What do ya say? Tit for tat, so to speak.

Anyway, this new contraption, according to its handlers, will not show exacting details of your naughty bits, but instead will display a “generic form with arms and legs, similar to a gingerbread man with its arms raised.” And, as we all know, gingerbread men with their arms raised don’t have naughty bits, so this should quell all the hullaballoo and rhubarb about genitalia. And anytime I can use the words “rhubarb” and “genitalia” in the same sentence, I consider it a good day.

According to the article I was reading, if this millimeter wave machine thing sees what it thinks is a potential weapon, it will zero in on the part of the body involved. It will then proceed to destroy that part of the body with a death-ray gun. I’m kidding, of course. That area of the body is then subjected to a pat-down, according to the TSA. Or, as we called it in middle school, the feel-up.

Ya know, we pay darn good money to go to the airport to be leered at and fondled, so I say it’s high time the airport people pony up some perks for the privilege. For example, if these security scanners are so precise and techy, why don’t they employ them for double duty as mole detectors?

“Mr. Davis, step right through. You don’t seem to have any weapons or terrorist liquids on you, but you do seem to have a suspicious-looking freckle below your left nipple. You might want to have that checked out. Next.”

And the little conveyor belt scanner that looks over all your personal items? They could easily fashion that into a buffer and polisher, no? So while your shoes and belt are being irradiated to see if they are concealing a nuclear bomb, they could also be enjoying a nice wax job so that they come out on the other side fresh and supple.  

Last but least, the friendly TSA folks themselves. Now look, I’m as patriotic as the next guy; I know we have to sacrifice for freedom and security; I understand we all must compromise to keep the mighty eagle soaring and to maintain liberty and justice for all and to keep Hank Williams Jr. and Charlie Daniels selling gimmicky records and all that. But, honestly, the whole attitude, TSA folks. That’s gotta go. You’re not on the front lines in Afghanistan. You’re not guarding the president or maintaining a SWAT vigil outside a desperate criminal’s hideout. You’re a half-step up from driving around the Wal-Mart parking lot in the goofy blinking golf cart, okay?

So a little courtesy, please? In fact, why can’t TSA people do some double duty themselves? I mean, we’re in the airport, the alcohol is duty-free here (whatever that means), we’re in an hour-long line. I say we have the TSA folks take drink orders while we wait.

“Please have your identification ready and remove all jewelry. And we’re having a special on top-shelf margaritas for the next half-hour. Thank you.”

That might get me flying again.

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

Who Wears Short Shorts? Apparently Everybody Now.

8 Sep

by Roger White 

 

So while I’m waiting for the pain meds to kick in, let’s talk about dad radar for a bit, shall we? Mind you, dad radar is generally not nearly as potent or vigilant as mom radar. To compare, mom radar is somewhere on the scale of the National Weather Service’s gigantic Doppler Array systems—you know, those things that look like monster ping pong balls perched atop our nation’s tallest mountain ranges—while dad radar would be likened to the handheld jobs used to clock baseball speed or thereabouts. Dad radar works, but not nearly on the same level as mom radar.

That being said, my little detection gun did sound recently when wifey and the girls came back from their Annual School Clothes Shopping Safari at The Mall. I was anxious enough as it was, watching the smoke rise from the wife’s purse, knowing that where there’s smoke, there’s an exhausted MasterCard white hot from all the day’s friction. The anxiety level only increased as my girls, a sophomore and an eighth-grader-going-on-college, began exhibiting their safari trophies.

Note to dads everywhere who have daughters: (1) a blouse is not a shirt, so don’t call it that; (2) same goes with a skirt—it’s not a dress, it’s a skirt; (3) girl clothes and accessories, although by and large much, much tinier than boy clothes and such, are exponentially more expensive—quantity of cloth and/or plastic used to make a girl thing does not equal price of girl thing; and (4) if you have no idea what it is, just say “very nice.”

That’s not the high anxiety part, however. No, this episode began when the girls modeled their new shorts. And when I say “shorts,” never has the word had a more appropriate meaning. The smidgens of clothing I witnessed having a god-awful time trying to do their job were so minuscule that my radar gun melted before it ever had a chance to make a sound.

“They’re volleyball shorts, dad. Everybody’s wearing them.” That was the explanation I got for all the skin. And here’s the weird part: As I stood there, open-mouthed with my dad radar gun melted all over my shoes, the wife just smiled happily and said she liked the color.

The room started to swirl.

“They’re a little, uh, short, aren’t they?” was the best I could muster.

“I think they’re cute.”

“Well, sure, dear, Bettie Page was cute, too, but…”

“Who’s Bettie Page?”

“Never mind. It’s obvious you were never a teenage boy.”

And there’s the rub. Nobody in that room, except for me, had ever been a teenage boy. And I know how teenage boys think. There are only two things on a teenage boy’s mind, I told wifey later, teenage and girls.

“Oh, they’re all wearing them,” she said. “You’re being way overprotective.”

This from the woman who makes the girls walk together to fetch the mail.

I spent the remainder of the evening arguing with the wife, the debate meandering from fashion and hemlines to morals and health class curriculum back around to clothes and the evolution of the school dress code.

“Well, in my day, the assistant principal measured the length of girls’ dresses and shorts with a ruler,” I huffed. “What do they use today, a toothpick?”

“You’re sounding old again, dear.”

“Well I am old, dammit. Why does everyone insist on showing so much skin these days?”

My whole line of reasoning was immediately sunk, however, when I tuned into the ESPN Classic Channel’s broadcast of the 1975 NBA playoffs. I’d conveniently forgotten how disturbingly tight and skimpy the shorts were then; jeez, Rick Barry was showing enough skin to frighten off Hannibal Lecter. I flashed back to my high school sophomore year and my purple crushed-velvet hip huggers. Man. How did I get any circulation?

Ah, well. Guess I need to get a new dad radar gun.

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

 

Oh, No! It’s NAP Time Again

21 Apr

by Roger White

There’s politics, and then there’s politics.

We are all well aware of the tragicomic events being played out on state and national levels, so I need not delve into that arena here. And if did proceed to delve, I would surely lose half of my tiny but faithful readership the minute I began naming the goobers. Besides, they’re all goobers anyway—I don’t care whether your side of the fence is painted red or blue (or purple, for that matter).

As soon we wake up and realize that they are all politicians first and real people second the better off—and less divided—we’ll be. Heck, half of them would change sides in a heartbeat if they thought it would keep them in power, and many of them have done just that.

And still politicians drivel on about protecting liberty and freedom and justice. You don’t hear much about the lobbyists and the earmarks and the free junkets to the Caymans. Today’s media doesn’t help any. Don’t get me started on those guys—that’s about three columns worth of material right there.

Wow. I said I wouldn’t delve, and yet here we are, delving. My apologies. No, the politics I wanted to vent about is the much more localized brand. Painfully so. Of late, I’ve been personally exposed to heavy, harmful doses of two varieties of politics—the adolescent species, which we’ll label Middle School Girl Politics (MSGP); and the local adult species, which we’ll call Neighborhood Association Politics (NAP).

One of them involves childish tantrums, teasing, silent treatments, and cruel power plays designed to crush another’s spirit, and the other is the Middle School Girl Politics.

We’ll take MSGP first, since it’s closer to home. One of my lovely daughters is currently enduring the hellish, three-year sentence known as middle school, and the other daughter just escaped from it. So I know of whence I whine.

I think we all remember middle school—or junior high, for those of you of the “duck and cover” Cold War bomb drills era. I still carry the scars from my hard-time stretch at Pauline G. Hughes Middle School (“The Rock,” we called it). Whenever I hear someone yell, “Hey, skinny!” I immediately reach to protect my schoolbooks and take off running. I’m in my fifties. I still do this.

But at least with boys, you get beat up a few times, and that’s usually it. Girls endure—and inflict—a much more insidious brand of persecution. Friendships are fluid; cliques mix and dissolve like a bad chemistry experiment. Self-esteem gets batted around like a badminton birdie. And just so I can go three-for-three with bad similes, carpool rides among former-friends-turned-rivals become as tense as a caffeine addict playing Jenga. You see, in Jenga, you have to very carefully pull out these wood blocks… Oh, never mind.

Anyway, I have come to understand the term “frenemy” quite well.

A hopeful sign emerged when my daughter and her frenemies immersed themselves in MSGP recently. After trying to wait out the petty games and tearful episodes, the parents of all parties involved sat our little politicians down and set them straight. This isn’t the way to behave, we instructed. This isn’t how adults conduct themselves, and you young ladies are quickly becoming adults, we admonished.

Thank goodness our young ladies haven’t been paying attention to the neighborhood “adults” these days. It’s NAP time, and the local self-important ones are in full stride.

You see, several positions on the neighborhood association board came up for election not long ago, and our tranquil little suburban oasis has melted like quicksilver into Peyton Place. One faction is up in arms because it believes another faction is trying to run all the “childless couples” out of the community. One group is at war with another group because they went about attacking the oak wilt problem all wrong. A certain bloc is convinced there’s a conspiracy afoot to effectively close off the association pool to anyone not affiliated with the neighborhood swim team. One splinter group claims malfeasance on the part of association management in the collection and expenditure of neighborhood funds. When pressed for specifics, these complainants couldn’t come up with any hard evidence; my personal opinion is that they just wanted to use the word “malfeasance” in a public forum.

The public comments section of the web site our neighborhood association maintains currently reads like the transcript of a Jerry Springer show. Congress would be proud. I know that if I informed my daughter of all these shenanigans, she’d surely tell me that this isn’t how adults conduct themselves. Don’t be so sure there, young one. Classic case of “do as I say…”

The good thing is, NAP time will blow over until the next election, so we can all go back to being frenemies again.

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat daschund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.