Bart Mendoza 5 a.m., Dec. 8
It was Monday when I was accosted by the mom crew at my kid’s school. They were standing near the picnic benches in their yoga pants and mesh hoodies. The short one with the thighs that could split my body in half asked if I had plans Thursday night. I hesitated. She swooped in “We need moms for the mother daughter basketball game. We are short a couple of players. Sally has a back injury and Kris had knee surgery. We are doing it for the kids.” There was no getting out of this one. I buckled under the pressure. The next day I saw Emily, my car pool partner, wincingly agree to play as well.
When Thursday rolled around I put on my tennis shoes, grabbed a water bottle, and headed out for what I imagined would be a humiliating night. My family is not a sports family. We are outdoorsy people. We like to spend our weekends hiking Cowles Mountain, exploring the trails near our home, heading up the coast of California on camping adventures, or loading up the truck with our kids surf boards for the beach. We are athletic but not sporty. When it comes to team sports we are a mess. My husband and I are the parents hiding in the back row of the bleachers as our kids’ day dream on the court or field while their teammates sweat it out.
Upon arriving at the school I joined my fellow moms to practice shooting hoops. I was alarmed when after 15 minutes of attempting a basket I had yet to make a single one. Spectators began arriving. My friends David and Grace took a courtside seat and began heckling us through fits of laughter “slam dunk it Siobhan.” David shouted. I was starting to sweat.
When the game began Emily and I cowered in our seats hoping to go unnoticed. She was called in first since her daughter was on the opposing team. When she got the ball it looked promising, only she headed in the direction of the wrong basket. I laughed so hard I nearly cried. Then I was called in. I was told to guard a lanky 6th grader who was about my size. I was surprised to find that this 11 year-old was quicker than me. I stumbled around the court not sure where to go. My teammates kept passing me the ball and I would hurl it in the direction of the basket. It never came close to going in. Collectively the moms would groan. I could hear David chuckling. I was a disaster out there.
By the fourth quarter most of the moms were breathing heavily, there were ice packs, and complaints of sore limbs. One of them was limping. Emily and I were once again put into the game. She got the ball and made a basket, a beautiful, nicely executed, swishing one. I was impressed. Not wanting to be one upped I stole the ball from a pig-tailed 8-year-old. I dribbled it down the court and chucked the ball towards the basket. It didn’t even come close to getting in.
Despite being against elementary school children, the moms were determined to win. We mercilessly fouled 10 year-olds. We stole the ball and used our height to tower over them. In the end we won.
After the game Little Sophie, a classmate of my daughters, skipped up to me and said “I saw you miss all the baskets. You need to practice.” Wise words from a four-year-old.
This morning when dropping the kids off for school, I was high fived by three different moms. "Great playing out there," Lindsay’s mom told me. "Liar!" I replied.
Our little school, smack dab in the middle of San Diego, is like a Norman Rockwell painting. Nearly half of the moms sport Minnesota or Wisconsin style accents and use phrases like Okie dokie then, and alrighty. That’s what I love about it. I know nearly every preschool-eighth grade student by name. It is so small that the day after our mother daughter b-ball game everyone knew that Emily almost scored a point for the kid’s team and that I can't shoot to save my life.
I am looking forward to the mockery my husband makes of himself at the father-son basketball game next month. This time I will be the one heckling from the sidelines.