Basketball Diaries: Instructor takes two for the team

                                                                                                                       By JERRY H. GILL

Young people today may not realize that those of us who are now old-timers were once young people. 

As such, we often committed many foibles of our own. 

I clearly remember two instances when I was involved in making something of a fool of myself only to have it turn out for the good.

I played basketball all through my youth. When I was in high school, I played on the junior varsity team, and one of our games ended in a tie. 

As the varsity teams were eager to get their game under way, our game was decided by “sudden death.” That meant whichever team scored first would be the winner.

At the beginning of the overtime period, the ball came directly to me, and I panicked. In an unnecessary hurry to score, I stupidly put up a shot from midcourt. It had no chance whatsoever of even reaching the basket. 

However, a guy on the other team also panicked and fouled me. So I went to the foul line with two shots. I made them both, and we won. My teammates actually carried me off the court on their shoulders. Such is life.

Years later, when I was playing for a City League team in Santa Barbara, California. the game was again tied. During the last minute of play, we tried our best to score the winning basket, but we failed. 

With just a few seconds left, the other team’s star player, Lee Smelser, came blasting down the court toward our basket. I had run back to the foul line to try to stop him, but I knew I would never pull it off. 

As he drove past me, headed straight for the hoop, I “flopped,” pretending that I had been fouled.

The City league, being short of funds, only supplied one referee for each game. The ref, who was well behind Smelser, couldn’t clearly see what had happened and called him for the foul. As a result, I got to shoot a free throw, and we won the game. 

Smelser was absolutely beside himself with rage, screaming at the ref and cursing me out. I thought about telling the ref that I had not actually fouled him, but I knew that the ref would not, and could not, base his call on my “confession.” So, we won the game.

Lee never got over that event, and he never forgave me. I have often used this example in my ethics courses.

To be sure, players often do fake having been fouled, and referees often do fall for it. The question is, does a player have the responsibility to “confess” that they were not actually fouled by the other player?

 Likewise, does the offending player have a responsibility to “fess up” by admitting that he had not committed a foul? 

Permit me to share another story, one that started out well but soon went south. When I was in theological school, we had a team that played against other nearby theological schools. 

One night we went to play Princeton Seminary on their court. They had a fellow named George Selleck who had been an All American at Stanford University. The team also had a player named Bartley, who had played at Pennsylvania University. 

We, on the other hand, had two of us who had played small college ball, along with a half-dozen of “also rans” from their college intermural leagues.

When the game started, I dribbled the ball across the middle-line and was met by Selleck. He seemed uninterested and guarded me loosely.

So, I backed up to him, faked left, spun right past him and drove to the hoop. We were ahead 2 to 0. 

Well, it didn’t take George long to wake up. The next time I brought the ball up the court, he was there to meet me at the midcourt line, crouching with his hands in the professional defensive position. 

Well, needless to say, we lost the game, and I never scored another point. 

Jerry H. Gill is an instructor of philosophy and religion for Pima Community College.  

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