A Sports-phobe Takes on Athletics

January 31, 2013

By Dana Davis

So it’s official.   GHC has a competitive athletics program.  We’re a member of an athletic conference, and we are compiling statistics on team members.  Men’s and women’s basketball ceremoniously launched this fall.  And yours truly, who, in my youth, would have chosen tooth extraction without benefit of Novocain rather than play any team sport, now finds myself as a sports reporter.  Well, sort of.  For years I have assiduously avoided playing, reading about or watching sports.  OK, I did play tennis for a couple of years, but that was more to develop a social life.  My daughter still laughs at my wimpy serve.

So one can imagine my anxiety when I learned that GHC was getting an athletics program at last.  This is something I must cover – in writing.  Big problem.  What’s an rpg?  Does AP style apply to stats?  At a recent game I casually said that the women’s team was burning up the court.  One of the men’s team members who was standing nearby literally guffawed.  What?  Burning up the court is not part of the vernacular?  Therein lies my trepidation over writing about an activity that is entirely alien to me, but passionately followed by sports enthusiasts.  After all, sports has its own designated language, social mores and traditions.

For example, coaches use words like lay-up.  I always thought one laid something down. Or, the anti-flopping rule.  On its surface, that really sounds reasonable.  I mean, who wants to flop around?  Aside from being potentially painful, flopping around the court would just make you look silly.  Or so I thought.  After reading a newspaper account of the rule, however, it sounds like a player isn’t allowed to get out of the way of an elbow or other human projectile – a defensive action most of us would think reasonable to take.  Do sports people feel more like real jocks when they get hurt?  Or how about the National Junior College Athletic Association website, which said, referring to one of its players of the week, “She registered two double-doubles.”  Huh?  Isn’t that a double redundancy?  No wonder sports get their section in the newspaper.  Only people who speak the language get it.  Maybe they also have a secret handshake.

hand slappingAnd what are those hand slaps all about?  Every time one team member leaves the game and returns courtside, the other players each slap his hand.  Maybe it’s a variation of the secret handshake.  And the women’s team and fans often break out in a chant of “D-up” at unexpected moments during the game.  After listening to this insistent call about 100 times, I finally asked the person sitting next to me what on earth they were trying to convey.  Apparently D stands for defense.  I have no clue what the up is about, but then I’ve noticed that people in athletic circles aren’t terribly preoccupied with grammatical syntax.

But here’s the thing.  The Chargers and Lady Chargers are probably the nicest group of young men and women I’ve ever encountered.  They’re unfailingly polite.  They help others when they see the need.  They don’t swagger and strut.  They study hard.  What’s not to like?  Their coaches are great guys.  They take time to explain the game to me, mostly with a straight face.  Of course, I haven’t asked them about the term dribble.  Isn’t that like drooling?  I wouldn’t automatically associate it with bouncing a ball down a wooden floor.  Mystifying.

And so the learning curve goes.  But slowly I’m absorbing the language of gamespeak.  I don’t anticipate visiting bars, dressed in baggy jeans and nursing a draft beer, to bond with men watching huge TV screens that show multiple games played simultaneously.  I don’t even expect to understand what’s happened when a player is fouled.  (Sounds nasty, and potentially malodorous  to me.)  But I think I’ll know that rpg means rebounds per game.  I’ll even know what a rebound is.  That’s progress, isn’t it?

Do you plan to attend a GHC athletic event this year?

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If so, which sport?

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If not, why not?

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