Most people who have only known me as an adult find it hard to imagine me as a basketball player. At 5’1″ I’m not exactly the stature associated with the most prolific basketball players. But so what if I was the smallest one on the court? I was zippy, good at defense and I could drain a three.
When I was a freshman in high school, I made the junior varsity team. I loved every minute of it. I knew I didn’t have a serious future in basketball, but my goal in high school was to seize every opportunity I possibly could – from athletics to theater to student government. I was addicted to extra-curriculars. (My need to be involved in as many projects as possible today is probably rooted in this addiction I developed in high school.) Perhaps it was my height that led me to develop such a competitive streak.
Toward the end of the season, the JV and varsity teams took a trip to Columbia, Missouri for an annual exhibition game against the Hickman High School Kewpies. That’s right. The hardcore, intimidating mascot meant to strike fear into the hearts of the competition is, in fact, an adorable circa 1900s celluloid doll.
As the visiting school, we didn’t have many fans in the stands. So it was up to the JV team to cheer the varsity team to victory and vice versa. I can’t remember which team won because they were such close games.
Ok, fine. Hickman handed us our asses wrapped in brown paper packages and tied with red ribbons. It was a bloodbath. But, come on. These were straight up, corn-fed farmgirls with nothing to do every night but practice lay-ups in the hoop attached to the side of the barn.
Our only solace was found in obnoxiously jeering the other teams and their herd of obnoxious male teenage fans. I attended an all-girls school, so we weren’t exactly used to having boys taunt us – much less while being spanked on the court. Admittedly, our cheers were weak in comparison.
Rosati-Kain girls: “We’ve got spirit, yes we do! We’ve got spirit, how ’bout you?!”
Hickman boys: “You suck!”
Rosati-Kain girls: “Go, team, go!” Clap, stomp, clap.
Hickman boys: “Seriously, your team sucks! Go home! You’re terrible!”
There was also some profanity thrown our way, but as the Catholic school, our coach told us to keep it classy.
This went back and forth for some time until finally we came up with something cleverer. They may have been a bunch of Amazon women on the court, but their mascot was an adorable little plastic baby. How could we not make fun of that? And so we shouted…
“Whaaat’s a KEEW–PIEE?!” Clap, stomp, clap, stomp stomp. “Whaaat’s a KEEW–PIEE?!” Clap, stomp, clap, stomp stomp.
We repeated this several times, pleased with ourselves for pointing out what babies they were. We danced around on the bleachers and laughed at our own joke.
Then they responded.
“Nuumberr THIRR–TYY!” Clap, stomp, clap, stomp stomp. “Nuumberr THIRR–TYY!” Clap, stomp, clap, stomp stomp.
It took me a moment before I realized what they meant.
Wait a second. I’m number thirty. Why would they — ohhhhh….
Did I mention that I had a very short haircut back then? In order to keep my bangs from getting in my eyes during basketball games, I used to pull it back in a ponytail holder on the top of my head.
Before I knew it, my teammates, my coach and even my own parents were laughing at me.
To this day, I can’t look at the shining, bright-eyed face of a kewpie doll without feeling a tinge of humiliation.