storytelling Miss Annie

fairytales Janet and Tam Lin

endings LaLlorona

technique The Lute Player

beauty Pretty Maid Ibronka

truth The Condiment Basketball Game

meaning Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, or Morgiana the Clever

meaning Chien Nang

The Condiment Basketball Game

As told by Mary Grace Ketner
San Antonio, Texas


Now, you might be looking at me and saying to yourself "I bet that woman knows a lot about Basketball!" You might be thinking "I'll bet she played basketball in high school." Well, if you grew up in Texas, then you know that that old half-court game girls played at Tivy High School in 1964 bears no resemblance to anything we watch on TV today!

Or you might think I'd have learned about basketball by watching the boys play, but I was in the band, in the drum section; I played cymbals. We always had to tap-tap, ching-ching along with the cheerleaders as they said "V-V-V for Victory; R-R-R for horses!" or whatever it was they were saying, and in between cheers, why, I had to flirt with Bobby Rector, the snare drummer.

I didn't learn hardly anything about basketball until our son turned seven years old and I took him down to register to play basketball at the CYO, the Catholic Youth Organization. But since then, I've learned a lot.

Now some of basketball is just like a culture, you know? And I tried to speed up that part of my education by always-whenever we went to a game-I always sat close to this new immigrant family for whom basketball was already part of their culture. They had just moved to this country from Illinois.

And the other part, I just learned the old fashioned way: by asking questions.

Like on that first day, I asked the coach "Can my son have jersey number 19 like Joe Montana?" Well, actually, he just turned around and walked away, but I kept on asking until I learned the answer, which surprised me. See, in CYO basketball, they don't even have a number 19. And there's a reason for that. See, whenever a kid does something wrong, the referee needs to signal his number to the scorekeeper, and he does that with hand signals, and he can only use one hand. Referees have rules, too, and one of them is they can only use one hand. So, see, like you can flash "15," one-five; or you can flash "55," (five-five); but you cannot flash "19!" Not with one hand. Can't do it!

Now, I have to admit that it was sometimes suggested around our dinner table that certain referees had certain physical or mental challenges or birth anomolies, but having more than five fingers on one hand never was one of them. And lately, I have seen professional players on TV with numbers requiring more than five digits, and I tell you, I am just waiting to see a close-up of one of those professional referees' hands!

Now, when I first walked into a CYO gymnasium, I had another question: "What are all those different-colored lines on the court?" And that's not as hard as it sounds. You see, not all those lines are for basketball. Some of them are for volleyball; some of them are for shuffleboard; some of them are for Bingo... Yeah, Bingo; you know, so the Knights of Columbus will know where to put the tables for Wednesday night.

Anyway, the basketball lines are the lines closest to the cold, tile walls that go around the CYO gym. Sometimes they are less than the length of a human foot away from those walls. Okay, so say those lines are maroon? Then all the maroon lines are basketball lines, and you can forget the rest. Just follow those lines along the wall, turn the corner and right under the basket is a big rectangle called "the paint." Only it's not painted. Except for the blocks, which are painted. Only they're not three-dimensional like blocks are supposed to be. They're there for the posts to stand on; post, that's one of those players who doesn't move as fast as the other ones; are you still with me?

Anyway, the next question I had was: How do you score? Okay, you score by throwing the ball into the goal, which is worth two points, except when it's worth 1 or 3. And you can do that in any of several ways: There's the jump shot, the hook, the lay-up, and the act of faith, which is particularly popular in CYO.

Now, say your team scores, then the other team has a turn to get the ball, but you can get it back. You can, you can get it back by intercepting a pass, tying it up, getting it on the rebound, or stealing it.

Oh, that reminds me. During CYO games, all ten of the commandments are suspended.

Okay, stealing it, that's clear; intercepting a pass, that's just like football; getting it on the rebound... Okay, say the other team shoots the ball and misses and it hits the boards which are usually glass unless they're in someone's driveway in which case they're that pressed wood that swells when it rains, okay, if you catch it first, it is your ball and you can do whatever you want to with it. You can pass it to another player, you can dribble it down the court, whatever you want.

Okay. Tying it up. That's a little harder to explain. Let's see, now. Okay, say my son is playing post and he gets the ball on the rebound and he takes just an eensy-weensy bit too long deciding what to do with it, and some snot-nosed kid from the other team comes up and puts his grubby hands on the ball, and the referee hasn't been watching, of course, and he doesn't know that it's supposed to be Travis's ball, so he looks at the Poss Light, and-

Oh, the Poss Light. I forgot to tell you about that. The Poss Light is on the scoreboard, and it lights up to show the referee which team gets the ball the next time he forgets who's supposed to have it. UNLESS the parent who is working the scoreboard forgets to change it in which case it lights up for the SAME TEAM which is what happened to my son! He got that ball stolen from him TWICE! Just STOLEN from him!

But anyway, I have forgiven that parent. They moved, and his daughter started playing on my daughter's team, and he started keeping score for our team.

Well, about the time our daughter started playing, our son moved on up into high school and I started learning some of the plays, like the give-and-go, the screen, the pick-and-roll.

The pick-and-roll. Now that's an important one. Here's how it goes. My husband and my son explained it to me one night at the dinner table.

Pick and Roll: Okay. Miracle Whip Salad Dressing is moving downcourt and he's being closely guarded by Pepper Shaker. Ketchup in on the blocks, and Salt Shaker is guarding him. Okay. Miracle Whip is dribbling downcourt headed for the basket, which is the toothpicks. He reaches the paint, and Ketchup jumps out in front of Pepper, cutting him off. Salt comes out to guard Miracle Whip, so Ketchup calls for the ball, which is a dinner roll, and lays it right into the toothpicks.

Pick and Roll!!!

So then Blue Cheese comes over and gives Miracle Whip the High-Five and pats Ketchup on the butt.

Well, now, probably you are wondering if I ever got a chance to test my knowledge of the game, and the answer is yes. When Kate was in 8th grade, her last year in CYO, they decided to have a game with the Moms for a fundraiser.

I was playing post for the Santa Gertrudis Red Heiffers and that Illinois Dad, he was our coach, and we had that other dad keeping score for us. We had these new red uniforms and we were looking really slick! (That was before basketball got those baggy pants, you know?)

We were up against the Mother Theresa Pit Bulls, in a fast-moving game going neck and neck, you know. Every time the Santa Gertrudis Red Heiffers would score, the Mother Theresa Pit Bulls would, too, until near the end of the fourth quarter it was 8 to 8!

They had the ball, and I looked over and I noticed that the Poss Light was on for our team, so I decided to tie up the ball. I reached over and, just when I did I stepped on this woman's foot. I'm said "Excuse me;" I said "I'm sorry!" but the referee called it a foul and he held up 4-2 my number, so she got to make two free shots. She got the first one, so it was 9-8 for the Mother Theresa Pit Bulls, but she missed the second one.

I was headed downcourt, there were just a few seconds left, and I was thinking "What we need is a miracle!"

And when I got to the blocks and turned around, what I saw--well, it was a Miracle!

Coming down the court was a jar of Miracle Whip Salad Dressing, being closely guarded by a pepper shaker!

I knew just what to do. I looked down at my new red uniform, and I could just feel that Ketchup Power surging through my veins. When Miracle Whip reached the paint, I stepped out in front of Pepper and cut her off, Salt rushed over to guard Miracle Whip, and I called out "Dinner Roll!" And laid it right in!

The buzzer went off! Ten to Nine! The Santa Gertrudis Red Heiffers over the Mother Theresa Pit Bulls!

Our coach jumped up off the bench, ran over to Miracle Whip and gave her the High Five, then started heading for me.

I backed up as far as I could against that cold tile wall and extended my hand.

I may be a basketball star, but I have my dignity!


I hope you guessed from the first line that I am very tall, and as for the rest, you can decide just how much is factual. Rest assured, however, that the part about "dignity" is!--Mary Grace

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