April 17, 2017 10:42:34 AM
"Praise the Lord and go Dawgs."
-- MSU Coach Vic Schaefer
I write on the subjects of birds and bees but this week I thought I'd infringe on sports editor Adam Minichino's area -- basketball. Something I know little or nothing about.
Last week I had a chance encounter with Dominique Dillingham, defensive specialist for the Mississippi State University Girls' 2017 Final Four Team. She was walking down a hallway, as was I, when she flashed that famous smile of hers. I congratulated her and thanked her for all the enjoyment she had provided for Sam and me during her years at MSU. I didn't ask her to autograph my arm or anything, I just spoke the truth.
The winter after Sam retired and winter fishing was limited I was a little concern our recreational time might be spent sitting on the couch in front of the TV. So I suggested we start going to the girls' basketball games. The tickets were cheap and the scheduled times worked out well for us. After a season, we decided to get season tickets and continued going to the games. At first, we didn't look for our assigned seats but sat anywhere we wanted, usually down front behind the goal.
It was there I started watching the girls' faces and expressions. I found more enjoyment in watching them than the mechanics of the game. While some were stoic, most were not. They make a play, they shoot a ball, they get called for a foul. They look back at their coach for direction, for affirmation, maybe even forgiveness; then back in the game. Watch them long enough and you began to feel you know their personalities. You begin to claim them, like they're yours. They succeed, you succeed, they hurt, you hurt.
They get a bad call and Sam's riled up, "That was not a flagrant foul! It's was not! They are nuts! I saw it, Dom didn't foul the girl, she didn't."
A week later Sam's still muttering, "It was not a flagrant foul."
There's a lot of pressure, I remind Sam. "Much of the whole country is watching. They're not much more than teenagers you know."
As I watched the girls play it made me want to play basketball, even though I'm old enough to get senior citizen discounts at the picture show. I wondered why I didn't play in school; then I remembered I had no aptitude for the sport. So I considered what it takes and the role of athletics in the players' lives.
Athletes have to be physically and mentally strong, coordinated and committed. They have to be team players and have enormous discipline and self-control. They have to accept being in close quarters with other players, getting knocked down and taking a hit, and not come up swinging. I would be particularly bad at that part. These girls have to tolerate unfairness and still be fair.
That said, I'm proud of this team being second in the nation, but I'm proudest of who they are and who they are becoming.
Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.
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