The gym glowed, surrounded by cars parked along the streets and lined up in rows inside the elementary school yard. Intermittent cheers erupted from inside. Referees sounded their whistles. I recalled enjoying the crowded basketball games as a student decades ago, and watching as spectators turned away due to capacity peered into the gym through the windows outside. 30 minutes late, I hoped there wouldn’t be any problems getting in.
Inside, I spotted a former teacher working the refreshment room. I bubbled over with a warm hug. “This is my husband Dean. Dean, this is my English teacher.”
She grinned, “Freshman year and Senior honors English!”
As soon as we parted to watch the game, I scolded myself for the basic conversation. I should have told her I majored in English. I should have told her she’s one of the reasons I love literature. I should have thanked her for hemming my uniform skirt and altering my cheerleading uniform! I vowed to follow-up with a card.
We squeezed our way into some bleacher seats. A grandfather next to me berated the referees. High school girls behind us screamed for the opposing team. I told Dean, “We’re in the wrong section. We’ll move at half time.”
He laughed, “This is awesome!” The high energy was infectious. The high school band played on stage. The cheerleaders looked direction-less. Dean quipped, “Who invited the varsity football team?” Referring to the frumpy cheerleaders.
“Poor things,” I agreed, “they suck.” The students did more cheering than the cheerleaders.
Mid-way into the third quarter, our team was up by twenty points. I started to feel bad for the opposing team. I have a problem. I secretly root for the underdog even when it’s my team that’s playing. As our winning team held onto the ball to run the clock, I screamed in defiance, “Play the game! Take it to the basket and play the game, damnit!” The home crowd looked at me–one of their own–in surprise.
One more win until the state championship game Saturday March 24th in Sacramento.