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This subculture manifests itself in many different ways with various motives. Some go for the hearty competition and to consume salty popcorn. Some go to passionately root for their school’s team and when the referees make the wrong call, throw salty popcorn. Some go to relive the glory days through their kids. Some go to show off what a good coach they are from the bleachers. Whatever the reason, the eclectic mix creates a crowd of stereotypes that any sports fan can relate to. One thing can be sure, passion and pride are central to February high school basketball in Arkansas.
For my wife and I, this kind of basketball is a part of our story. We both played high school basketball in White County. Our respective schools were a part of the same conference, so twice a year our schools played one another. Through all the years of playing, not once did she and I ever meet or talk. It was when she was a senior playing at my school, where I had already graduated, that I finally paid attention. What I saw made me wonder what in the heck was wrong with me for not noticing her all the previous years. She went from a defensive slide into a back pedal and then accelerated and broke back down in her defensive stance forcing a walk by the opponent, which caught my attention. I thought to myself, “Wow! This girl has got it goin’ on.” From that day on, love blossomed.
Dating turned into marriage while in college. Married in college turned into married graduates which turned into married coaches coaching at the same school. Then life happened and we had kids. We no longer coach, but the local basketball arenas still serve as a venue for our wonderfully romantic dates.
As we watch the various teams pour out on the floor, it is always an apprehensive moment. For so many of the games, a loss means you go home and you’re done. There are no second chances and for the seniors, there is no next year. High school basketball, for so many, is the only opportunity to play.
At the moment when the buzzer sounds and that final shot seals the victory, the losing team faces the reality that this was the epitome. Many walk away from these tournaments let down, yet still proud. On the flip side, for the team that sealed the victory, they have fed the beast of fanaticism within their fan base. It infectiously spreads throughout the town. People begin to put paint on their faces, girls braid their hair really funky adorned with school colors, and the student section becomes one big orchestrated response team to all the happenings during the games. It is a time of excitement with a lot to see, so of course, it has become something around which my wife and I can romance.
Tournament time has rolled around again here in Arkansas, so go get your window chalk, grab some cash to buy you some popcorn, and prepare for the roller coaster of emotions. There are champions in the making and trophies to be won. Find a tournament near you by visiting the following website: Arkansas Activities Association.
Also, if you happen to see a young couple in love debating the best approach in late game strategies (do you stall or do you keep attacking the basket?), just ignore them. They are not scouts and they are not over-zealous fans. They are living happily ever after.
All basketball photos are used with permission from Sue Davis Photography.
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