Size makes no difference: hustling towards a championship

March 26, 2014 10:07 am

If the Olympics whetted my appetite for athletics, the Oregon Ducks piqued my interest in basketball.

I learned about basketball during the days of Dick Harter and his “Kamikazes.” Back then, the only thing that really mattered was beating UCLA. The rivalry became so intense that the UCLA coach, Gene Bartow, dubbed the fans that literally rocked the stands of McArthur Court “deranged idiots.” That’s right. The sixth man had Coach Bartow rattled.

The point guard, Mike Drummond, was 5-foot-6 and unfortunately referred to as “Little Mikey Drummond.” I can’t say for sure, but I think Drummond taught me size makes no difference.

I spent many afternoons of my grade school years traveling to Eugene for gymnastics. I had to give up piano lessons and softball to make the time, but by fifth grade, we found a way that I could also play basketball. I, of course, wanted to be a point guard. I wasn’t a great shooter, but I could hustle. 

Frank DeFord did a piece on that word a couple weeks ago comparing and contrasting the good kind of hustle — the kind played out on the basketball court — and the bad kind, played out in financial schemes. I’m positive my mother’s oft-repeated hustle referred to the former.

We moved to Eastern Oregon and I continued to play basketball, but after a couple years of riding the bench, I traded basketball for ski racing — there’s no bench sitting in ski racing, but I didn’t lose my love of the sport. 

“Lakeview is a basketball town.” 

If I heard it once, I heard it 1,000 times. Like the University of Oregon in those days, the Honkers didn’t have much of a football team, but their basketball program was intense and the fan base was over the top.

If basketball was Lakeview’s religion, Honker Court was its temple. No food or drinks were allowed in the stands. No one was allowed to move a muscle except at timeouts and at the quarters. And poor sportsmanlike behavior was not tolerated.

Our principal once threatened the student body that if anyone acted out of line, all future games would be played without an audience.

However, the Lakeview of the 1980s didn’t represent the world as a whole then, nor now. 

Last weekend, I attended the NCAA first and second round tournament in Spokane. (If you want to correct me and say that it was the second and third round because you count the stupid pre-tourney games, fine.) There was plenty of booing and jeering the refs when they made bad calls.

As for hustle? There was plenty of it at the Spokane Arena, from the players to the cheerleaders to the mascots. Here’s to two more weekends of college hoops hustle, from the comfort of the living room sofa.