Strange midgets, these teammates of mine. Why are we so short? Why are they so tall? I recall the coach saying something about “quickness” and “fundamentals” as if these feel-good qualities compensated for all our other deficiencies. Our coach was a believer and I was just a short kid with a basketball.
In my senior season of high school in Livingston, my basketball team finished 4-16, I think, though the latter number could be a generous estimate. The most unified thing our team ever did was collectively quit growing by our junior year. Then we decided to wear knee-high socks every game, presumably to give the impression that maybe sports aren’t about winning or losing – they’re about being small and looking funny.
Enlivened by all these memories of high school sports glory, I’m excited about fall high school sports in the Flathead. I’m a sucker for nostalgia, in all its mutant forms. But honestly, having covered various levels of sports including the Montana Grizzlies for two years, I like high school sports, when egos are only in their earliest blossoming stages and kids hustle not because it looks good on TV but because that’s what they think they’re supposed to do. True, kids’ athletics are taken to excessive extremes at times, but overall they’re healthy.
Despite my size limitations, I managed to garner attention from colleges. I could have gone to college for free and continued trying to throw a ball in a cylinder, but I opted to become a full-time student. I’m glad I made the choice I did, but at the same time I respect those student-athletes who wake up at 5 a.m. to do the first of the day’s workouts before their first class.
In high school, I didn’t play football. Instead I liked to go to games and bet on which one of my football friends would get hurt first. At schools with losing traditions, it’s hard to muster up school spirit. Nevertheless, I went to nearly all the games. It’s not a bad way to spend your Friday night.
I don’t take high school sports too seriously. But I watch them, enjoy them, cheer for them and write about them. They bring parents together at games who would otherwise never meet and do the same for kids. They provide organized forums for adolescent interaction – competition, teamwork and just meeting kids from other parts of the state. And they can be a lot of fun, even for short people.
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