I’ve never been a big fan of sports.
It’s not that I have anything against sports. I see their value. I see they can bring people together for entertainment or activity. I know there’s nothing inherently wrong with them.
What I don’t get are the rules. Or the cheers. Or the chants. Or the stats. Or the players. This pretty much applies to every sport I’ve encountered. I might know the rules well enough to follow who’s winning, but that’s about it. I’m a regular attendee at football games, but only because it’s one of those things everyone does. I usually end up asking a lot of questions, cheering for the wrong team or giving up altogether.
So, when my friends dragged me to a recent basketball game, I was apprehensive. My only experience with basketball was seeing a friend’s game my freshman year of high school. Other than that, nothing. When you’re just a little taller than 5 feet, basketball isn’t one of those sports you like to focus on. It’s about as out of reach as everything in the kitchen cabinets.
But they promised to guide me through it and answer all of my questions without making too much fun of me. So I trusted them, letting them lead me in blindly, accepting everything they said as truth. I was determined to use my first basketball game as a learning experience.
I should’ve known it wouldn’t be that easy.
The very first term I learned was “end zone.” This came from a trusted friend who promised to put up with all my obnoxious questions and teach me the rules. The “end zone,” he told me, was the entire painted section around the basket. This was where most of the action happened. As I observed the court, it seemed pretty legit to me. I mean, it was the area at the end, right in front of where you’d be to make a basket, and it definitely was where all the action was happening.
The next term was “check.” This, he said, was the act of throwing an arm or elbow in the face of a member of the opposing team in an effort to block them. It seemed a bit obscure for my taste, but I still went along with it. I mean, if you “checked” to make sure no one was going to take the ball from you when you had it or when you were trying to receive it, I guess it would make sense. Similarly, when multiple people on the court were “checking” each other, it was called a “checkmate.” This made sense too, because it was just a lot of people “checking.”
I didn’t start questioning anything until I saw an impressive basket made in the “end zone.” It was called a “grand slam” because the player had gone right up to the basket to make the shot, and he looked pretty cool doing it. I learned if it was impressive-looking enough, it was called a “grand slam.” But I thought this was a bit iffy, especially because my very, very limited knowledge of basketball (and childhood viewings of “Space Jam”) told me it was called a “slam dunk.”
Still, I figured grand slam was just another term for “slam dunk.” They both had “slam” in the name, so maybe it was a particular classification of a slam dunk. A very impressive slam dunk was called a grand slam, I decided.
It wasn’t until the last lesson I realized how badly I’d been tricked. Because I knew for a fact to score a point, a basket had to be made. My friend, on the other hand, was trying to convince me it was called a “touchdown.” I told him that didn’t seem right. I was sure it was called a basket, but he insisted. I asked another friend, and she agreed with him. I then asked one more friend, and her reaction told me I had spent the past hour looking like a complete and utter idiot. Apparently, she was not in on the joke.
I don’t know at what point in the night my friends had decided to turn my first basketball game into a night for me to make a fool of myself, but I do know they were only moderately successful.
Apparently, it was their goal to get me screaming about a “checkmate” in the middle of the game, forever mortifying me and ruining any appreciation I could ever have for the sport.
I don’t know how much I actually learned about basketball that night, but I did learn one thing: Always do your research before a game. A little research (and “Space Jam”) will keep you from being that girl who shouts football plays during a college basketball game.
—Bree Lutjens is a public relations freshman.