Category Archives: Basketball

We should all be so unlucky

A young woman from my alma mater by the name of Aly Beebe is in her freshman year at Stanford University. She was a basketball superstar in high school, leading St. Joseph to a state championship (which, in California, is seriously difficult – the best high school girls’ team I ever saw never even made it to the finals.) I checked some box scores early in the season this year and found, to my dismay, that she was not getting into games. What I found out eventually is that she is ‘red-shirting’ this season, which means she is on the roster, practices and travels with the team, but does not play in games and (this is the key) does not use up one of her four seasons of eligibility. This made some sense, finally; Stanford is one of the deepest, most talented teams in the world of women’s college basketball and they have an amazing player named Chiney Ogwumike who plays the same position as Aly. (Here  is a good article about Chiney that appears on the sfgate.com site.)

After learning about this situation, I was actually foolish enough to feel sorry for Aly. I really wanted to see her play on the big stage. But the article on Chiney dumped a bucket of reality over my head, metaphorically speaking, and woke me up to the following:

1. Aly (an excellent student) is getting an education at a world-class university (free!) where she has the opportunity to take classes such as those described in the article.

2. She gets a year to adjust to a very different world from a small high school in the suburbs. As a point of comparison, the gym at St. Joe’s is probably smaller than the coach’s offices at Stanford.

3. She practices with and against players like Chiney every day in practice. She learns the plays, the defenses, and the work ethic that she’ll need for next year.

Not a bad deal, I think. I’ll just have to be patient and wait for my chance to see her shine.

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Thrilling turnarounds not reserved for the Super Bowl

Longtime acquaintances may wonder how I, as a San Francisco 49er supporter since 1972, am feeling today in the wake of the Niners losing the Super Bowl yesterday. The response, surprising as it may be to some, is “pretty cheerful, thanks.” I propose a couple of major reasons for this:

1. I was not at all cheerful after the opening kickoff of the second half was returned for a touchdown, making the score 28-6 in favor of the Ravens and making me wonder if the Niners were about to go completely off the rails. They didn’t, of course, taking advantage of a bizarre 34-minute power failure to regroup and turn the game around. They rallied furiously and had the ball inside the Baltimore 10-yard line with four chances to win the game with under two minutes remaining; how can I possibly be anything but thrilled about that? They showed commitment, resilience, and adaptability, all essential qualities for football excellence. Nothing to feel bad about there.

2. I was not as ridiculously invested in this game as I would have been in the “old days”. When the Niners last won the Super Bowl in 1995, I was living in a basement in Davis, California. I was working part-time, drinking heavily when I was wasn’t working, and generally wondering where I was and what I should be doing. I remember feeling that the Niners were the only bright spot in my life. That situation has also turned around dramatically, although it took longer than the second half of yesterday’s game (yes, I hear the jokes about how long that half was, babies born in less time, yes yes). I’ve gotten married, become a parent to four amazing daughters, and come to the Cross. Bad habits take a long time to die (which is why I hate the expression “dropped (something) like a bad habit, its *so* wrong!). My wife will tell you about the early days of our marriage when I would get so stressed watching a Niners game that she would keep the girls out of the room. I have slowly acquired some perspective over the years and gradually made some decisions about what is worth stressing about.

As longtime readers recall, my daughter Liza played basketball on an AAU 13 & under travel team. That team started out as green and inept as you could possibly imagine and eventually worked its way up to qualify for and play at the national tournament at Disney World. They won a lot of games, but my favorite memory comes from the last game in Florida. The girls were trying to protect a slim lead late in the game, but they kept losing players who fouled out. At the end of the last regulation period, they had four girls on the court, led by Liza. They came very close to pulling out the win, but eventually lost the game in overtime. I loved what those girls showed me that game, even the fact that they were sobbing with exhaustion and frustration at the end. (I also love that they were enjoying themselves at Disney World a few hours later.)

These days, I don’t worry as much about who wins; I hope that that my team plays with heart, commitment, and responds well to adversity, as the Niners did yesterday. That seems like a more useful approach to most things in life, to my mind.

Congrats, Katie Menton

When my daughter Liza was eleven, we wanted to find something productive for her to do. One of our friends suggested basketball and directed us to a local AAU club, the Yosemite Badgers. She was about as green as it gets — I remember thinking that she hardly knew which end of the ball to pick up. But they took her in, along with a number of other girls with varying levels of experience, and turned them into a team. They were awful at first, but after a couple of years, they improved enough to get an invitation to the national tournament for their age group. I helped coach that team for a while and I have a lot of fond memories of the girls (and the young women they became).

One of those young women is named Katie Menton and she just finished her career playing for Pepperdine University. She leveraged her talent and a lot of hard work into a dazzling high school career, and then a full scholarship at an expensive, prestigious university. She played well for the Waves and appears in several of the university’s all-time statistical leader lists, but what really makes me happy is that she will graduate this spring and plans to go on to graduate work. She was the last of my “girls” to move on from organized basketball, so I am a little sad, too. It’s been a remarkable ten-year run.