I went to a small rural high school during a brief period in which we, the youth of my home town, were virtually untainted by any sort of natural talent or ambition. The roster of things the school did not do and did not have during my high school days is, I have since realized, kind of striking. No Drama, no Debate, and no language aside from first-year Spanish (the second-year Spanish class I took to meet college admissions criteria was really a study hall). One year we did not field a football team. One year there was no student government. The band went in and out of commission. The track team consisted of four people one year, and the National Honor Society was down to a single person.
Against this backdrop of progressive ferment, I played on the school basketball team. Well, the JV team. My father was the coach. He is an optimistic but realistic man, and he was an experienced basketball coach in late 1983 when he surveyed his team roster and set our goal for the season: “We will try to score every quarter.”
How did we do? Well, I happen to have the official team scorebook from the 1983-84 season here at hand, so I can tell you.
For various reasons, I will use aliases for all of the schools we played that year.
Game 1 (home): Hometown 29, Ontario 45. Michael5000: no points.
Game 2 (away): Hometown 49, Pittsfield 74. A tough loss on the road to a much smaller neighboring school district. We will not put up anywhere near so many points again. Michael 5000: no points.
Game 3 (home): Hometown 37, Pittsfield 57. Hometown fails to make good its home court advantage. Michael5000: 2 points.
Michael5000: 2 points (tied for team high).
Game 5 (home): League play begins. Hometown 29, Corinth 90. Michael5000: no points.
Game 6 (away): Hometown 36, Sellwood 77. Hometown does not score in first quarter. Every Sellwood player scores, as their starting five sits out second and fourth quarters. Michael5000: 4 points.
Game 7 (home): Hometown 33, Bradley 98. Hometown seems to struggle in this game with Michael5000 not on the game roster.
Game 8 (away): Hometown 26, Riverside 91. Michael5000 back in action: no points.
Game 9 (home): Hometown 27, Middle Creek 66. Michael5000: 6 points (lifetime high (tie)).
Game 10 (away): Hometown 21, Granite Hill 48. Michael5000: no points.
Game 11 (home): Hometown 24, Sellwood 69. A big comeback after Game 6. This time, Hometown scores in all four quarters. Two Sellwood players fail to score! Michael5000: 3 points.
Game 12 (away): Hometown 24, Corinth 77. Michael5000: 2 points.
Game 13 (away): Hometown 30, Bradley 91. Hometown does not score during first quarter in the notoriously abusive Bradley High School gym. Michael5000: no points.
Game 14 (away): Hometown 33, Middle Creek 79. Michael5000: 6 points (lifetime high (tie)).
Game 15 (home): Hometown 34, Riverside 48. A triumph. The first game of the season with a margin less than 20, this is an astonishing improvement over Game 8. I suspect the fix was in. Michael5000: 4 points.
Game 16 (away): Hometown 37, Granite Hill 51. Hometown hangs within 14 in its best game of the season! I suspect that this was a more or less real result, as Granite Hill was legendarily awful in those days. Michael5000: 1 point.
Game 17 (away): Hometown 28, Corinth 91. With Michael5000 not on the game roster, Hometown fails to bring down traditional rival in season closer.
One of my personal limitations is, I think, that I generally don’t go into organized group activities expecting them to go well. I sometimes wonder if my high school basketball experience did me much good there. Interestingly, and a bit inexplicably from this distance, I went out for basketball again the following year. We did a little better. I think we won a game. I didn’t play in that one, though, because I was sick. But still.
Final note: I was recruited as a basketball player by Eastern Oregon State College. No, really. I still have the letter. My father, reasonably enough, had me write them a note explaining that there must be some mistake.