ON HAND: Being a basketball widow

This originally appeared in The Tactile Mind Weekly in Trudy’s ON HAND column.

We’re well into basketball season, and I’ve become a basketball widow for the ninth year. Randy, my partner, is the head coach of the Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf boys varsity team, and I try to go to as many games as I can.

There’s almost nothing more American than attending high school games. The athletic talents the young fellows at MSAD have are just amazing, and I’ve seen some of them grow from little boys into young men. Each game I go to–whether the team loses or wins–makes me go home feeling uplifted and inspired. The moments of disappointment and joy hold wonderful life lessons for me.

Case in point: I was at an invitational tournament over the weekend at Pillsbury College in Owatonna, Minnesota, a Baptist college. The boys were playing a team that was expected to win. The game started out 0-7, MSAD down. The referees made some unfair calls, and many of us protested, saying among ourselves ‘hate deaf, favor hearing!’–the age-old gripe from deaf fans. It probably wasn’t true, of course, but it made us feel better saying things like that; it was our duty as fans.

After a few baskets, MSAD suddenly hit a three-pointer and managed to climb its way into the lead. The game ended at 59-44, in favor of MSAD. In addition to the excitement and loud roars from the MSAD crowd throughout the game, the other team was so frustrated at one moment that one of its own players, #20, walked up to #33 and grabbed his chest, spewing anger. The coach called a time-out, and #20 started spewing at everyone so much that the coach had to literally and physically push him down into his seat. This, of course, thrilled the crowd, and some people said, “Good, teach #20 a lesson!” While this was hardly mature behavior on the crowd’s part, it was all in the name of the game. But the lesson I took from this incident: no matter what we do, it has an effect on others. #20’s angry outbursts definitely lowered the morale of the opposing team, and I’m sure, embarrassed the team.

Even the hearing fans in attendance for other schools were cheering for MSAD. Was it because MSAD has a great team? Or was it because they wanted to root for the underdogs? Or because they wanted to see “deaf” succeed? I wondered, but didn’t care, as long as we could shout and clap all we wanted. Ultimately, the boys came in second at the tournament, as did the MSAD girls.

Watching these kids play a competitive game in a small town in the middle of Minnesota–now, that’s my idea of good, clean fun.

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