Thing is, I am not a football person. I went to a high school that made football a religious experience--and hi, anyone who survived a Texas public high school knows about that--and I was a JV and JH cheerleader, marching band, etc, because well, I went to a small school and there really wasn't that much to *do*. And they're relatively short, compared to the college and pro level. You got on your tiny skirt, burned off a lot of energy jumping up and down, you get the good seats on the bus to out of town games, and there are nachos and getting out of last period early. There is no bad in this. Of course, I'm the only cheerleader who also always had a pretty good excuse on why I couldn't wear my uniform to school for the day, becuase showing that much leg freaked me the hell *out* and I was only thirteen. Seriously, I was five foot eight by then; my legs were over half my body height. It was not of the fun.
And we? Had a really, really bad football team. By the time I was in high school, we--really, cannot talk about it.
However, we had a kick-ass marching band, excellent twirlers, a state level qualifiying girls basketball team, and some of the highest school scores in the state for our size, so really, it's not like we weren't good to go.
But. That last minute of the UT-USC game--even though I know how it ends, even though I know that the nineteenth second is the kicker, even knowing how it ends, how everything changes--damn did I lose my breath. I always do at the end, and some of it is generalized connection with my state, but a lot of it is memory.
There was this one basketball game, when I was in junior varsity. It wasn't a huge one, just part of the season, but two of our starters were doing rotation on varsity, and so I'd been moved to start, and our coach was off doing something, so the high school football coach was our coach.
Let me say this again--high school football coach.
A lot of the problem was, I wasn't a starter. I was the one sent in second quarter to relieve the starter, and I usually ended the game.
The game was like any other games at first, except for the first time I had to do the jump for the ball right off the bat, and second, coach read the newspaper through the entire thing. It was the longest four quarters of my life, and I'm counting that last hour before they shot me up when I was in labor with Child, because at least then, someone noticed I was about to crack. He didn't direct us on what our strategies were, and so didn't save us a lot of energy by ordering zoning instead of man-to-man. We kind of tried it on our own, with our point giving him desperate looks that he'd nod at, father-like, and then she'd come up with something that sometimes even worked, and we were falling behind and something in all of us just--snapped.
He kept forgetting to send anyone in to give us a breather, or he'd send them in for like, a clock two minutes and then throw us back in when we'd barely had time to get a drink of water. By the halfpoint, me and two others hadn't been off the floor in a flat hour, no time-outs, and between seven girls on the court at verious times, we'd racked up something along the lines of eleven or twelve fouls.
Half-time, he sent the starters back in, me with this incredulous expression of shock, because my knees were bruised and some girl with a really great manicure had done a serious turn for the catty on my wrist, and I couldn't even feel my toes--and all of us just snapped. You could actually feel the second we came out of oh god is this happening shock and moved into, we have to kill someone and it's probably going to have to be the other team, because our school will take it badly if we kill the football coach. So we kind of drudge out there and stare at each other for a second, because two of us weren't even starters, but by God and every single missed free-throw, if they were going to give us a football coach and not even use the rest of hte second string, everyone who had ever met us was goingn to regret it so much.
I remember flashes of most of it--when I say we went beyond exhausted, so not kidding, and right into manic, where we'd do anything, and I mean up to and including prying the ball out of someone's cold dead hands to get this thing over with. At some point late in the third quarter, my replacement ignored our coach and checked herself in to replace me when I started trying to make shots from the three point line because hey, so what if I was a post and never meant to touch the ball except when tossed to me to make a shot. I was in that place where I wasnt' evne able to stand up straight from the stitch in my side. A couple of others followed her lead, and I was practically bouncing on the bench from incipient hysteria, which was unfortunate, as he didn't take this as a sign of someone about to collapse, but someone refreshed, and I so should have seen that coming.
The last quarter, no one left the court until two of our starters fouled out. By then, the ones coming in just got up and checked in without even glancing at our coach.
I wish I could really get the idea across that never in the history of our JV basketball team had anyone fouled out of a game. We were not that aggressive, no matter how much our coach tried to nail it into us. I could not deliberately go out to cause ruckus and get that ball. But. We totally connected with our inner savages and I knocked people over and tossed myself bodily on someone making a shot and got up to my full height right over them and *scared* them down to get that damn ball. I dribbed the ball and did possibly the first layup from the foul line I've ever accomplished (airborne, whee!) because I really believed that this was the day that if I wasn't allowed to breathe, I also could not possibly miss, and that was true. We tripped them and scratched and played keep away, used elbows and knees in ways unsanctioned by UIL rules, and *ran* after that ball like our lives depended on it, or at least our sanity, and God help you if you got in our way, teammate or opposition, you were fucked. The two that came in to replace in short order picked up our lack of humanity and got themselves a three and two fouls each in under three timer minutes (as opposed to clock minutes) and so we were at a point where the five girls now on the floor were at four fouls, four fouls, three fouls, three fouls, two fouls, and five gets you out, so you can see where this is going. No one on teh bench was foul-less. At our rate, we could conceivably foul the entire team out of the game. It was just that kind of a night.
It was a relatively close game most of the way through, they were a team we had to work to beat when we *had* everyone there and we had our normal coach, but none of us could breathe and most of us were bruised and I couldn't feel anythign below my knees and sweated straight through my uniform and my hair was just *wet*. Our point was grinning so hard I thought her face would crack wide open and I was giggling hysterically when I was knocking people on their asses when I wasn't gasping for breath, and for the first time, I actually saw another team scared of us. Not just scared, like, they might win, but scared like, I think they're trying to kill us right here and right now. I made more shots than I ever had in a single game, all of us did, like the fucking things were laser guided, I ran full-body into someone with the ball and ended up on my ass, and when the buzzer went off for the end of the game, we had no idea what it was for.
We looked at the crowd on their feet yelling so loudly it was almost enough to drown out the sounds of our hearts beating, and our team coming off the benches in slow-motion shock, and our coach putting down his newspaper. I was kneeling on the court and my throat hurt so much that I could barely talk and we were all dripping sweat in the literal sense, my teammates were in various stages of exhaustion all around me, and someone touched my back to get my attention and get me to my feet before I decided to pass out right there, or start seriously cramping up.
Kind of dazed, we all stared up at the scoreboard, blinking to bring it into focus. I don't remember the score, and I have fuck-all memory of who made that last shot or how they did it, and really, that last minute of almost-legal violence is all melded together into a lot of pain that I can live without the memory of.
Four second-stringers and a third-string on the court at the end of the game, two foul-outs, and no coach.
But we won. That crowd was yelling for us.
Come to think, that was a pretty good night.