thoughts on the occasion of basketball

Last night I attended my first high school event in a number of years, a basketball game. L was part of the half-time festivities for her pomming, so we sat through the first half of said game to see her pom.

The first thing I noticed was how quickly I slipped back into my “anti” high school attitude. Having left the institution some thirty years ago, I figured I was well clear of all the attached emotional, social, and personal turmoil that those years represent. Not so. All of that crap is still with me, having been merely submerged under thirty years of other crap.

(These are feelings, mind, not realities.)

Anyway, we sat through the obligatory observances. The ritual reading of the players’ names, the standing for the national anthem. I stand in respect, sans the “hand on heart” gesture, which I believe to be a military salute. But it was a weird moment when the announcer asked us to remain standing for the school fight song. What? Why? The spectacle then continued with all the pomp of a Roman coliseum exhibition of burning Christians, lions, or gladiators.  The band played, the cheerleaders did their routine, the crowd sang.

This is a perfectly ordinary experience of mid-western basketball, rendered creepy for me by the woman sitting next to me. She knew all the words to the song. She followed the cheering gestures in her seat. Didn’t miss a beat. I’m wondering how it’s possible to remember this kind of thing for twenty-five years? That is some truly impressive indoctrination. I’m reminded of the Catholic “seven year” boast and the citizens’ acculturation to the Russian state. Maybe I’m overstating it, but she seemed so proud of herself, saying “Yep, I’ve still got it!”

At this point M asked me a question about some part of the proceedings, but I told her “I don’t know. I never understood high school.” Which is so very true. I don’t get the joining and fellowship, the blind admiration for athletic achievement, the raising of game events to legendary status. I don’t get the “WE” that comes as instant identification with the local sporting heroes. But what I understand least of all is how grown adults of some four or five decades can have achieved so little as to recall these things as the greatest days of their lives. For many, sadly, that was the pinnacle. For this little part of the world, sporting events have a superior status to religious ones.

The Church of the Sacred Hoop? Our Lady of Perpetual Gridiron? Saints and Martyrs of Sport?

Nope. Just don’t get it.

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