…Hoop Dreams

Double click to see a larger version of the image
Double click to see a larger version of the image

My first great love in sports was baseball.  Football?  Nah.  Basketball?  Didn’t hear much about it living on the farm in Iowa as a kid.  But baseball?  You bet!  Mickey Mantle – my baseball hero!  It was probably the first sport I ever played, and then, when I got into junior high, I got into football and basketball…especially basketball.  I became a Los Angeles Lakers fan in the days of Jerry West and Elgin Baylor.  Elgin Baylor became my new sports hero…and I wanted to be just like him: 6’5″ and 225 pounds.  Alas…’twas not to be.

But, when I saw the subject of today’s photo (which I took this past Saturday), I have to say I may have a new basketball sports hero.  I don’t know if it is a guy or girl, what their name is, how tall they were or if they had a jump shot or not, but just look at this picture.  The basketball hoop is hanging on a tree…and there is no backboard.  Think about that for a moment…no backboard!  Have you ever tried to play hoops without a backboard?  Think about layups, or bank shots.  Do you realize how hard it would be to make shots like those in the absence of a backboard?  The difficulty of the game would go up exponentially!  Have you ever tried to make a bank shot off of a rounded, rough backboard in the shape of a tree?

I don’t know if whoever used this hoop was any good or not.  But I suspect that they learned to shoot really well because you’d have to try to make every shot as a swish!  I wonder how far they got.  Guess I’ll never know.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1700, English pranksters began popularizing the annual tradition of April Fools’ Day by playing practical jokes on each other.

Although the day, also called All Fools’ Day, has been celebrated for several centuries by different cultures, its exact origins remain a mystery. Some historians speculate that April Fools’ Day dates back to 1582, when France switched from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar, as called for by the Council of Trent in 1563. People who were slow to get the news or failed to recognize that the start of the new year had moved to January 1 and continued to celebrate it during the last week of March through April 1 became the butt of jokes and hoaxes. These included having paper fish placed on their backs and being referred to as “poisson d’avril” (April fish), said to symbolize a young, easily caught fish and a gullible person.

Historians have also linked April Fools’ Day to ancient festivals such as Hilaria, which was celebrated in Rome at the end of March and involved people dressing up in disguises. There’s also speculation that April Fools’ Day was tied to the vernal equinox, or first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere, when Mother Nature fooled people with changing, unpredictable weather.

April Fools’ Day spread throughout Britain during the 18th century. In Scotland, the tradition became a two-day event, starting with “hunting the gowk,” in which people were sent on phony errands (gowk is a word for cuckoo bird, a symbol for fool) and followed by Tailie Day, which involved pranks played on people’s derrieres, such as pinning fake tails or “kick me” signs on them.

In modern times, people have gone to great lengths to create elaborate April Fools’ Day hoaxes. Newspapers, radio and TV stations and Web sites have participated in the April 1 tradition of reporting outrageous fictional claims that have fooled their audiences. In 1957, the BBC reported that Swiss farmers were experiencing a record spaghetti crop and showed footage of people harvesting noodles from trees; numerous viewers were fooled. In 1985, Sports Illustrated tricked many of its readers when it ran a made-up article about a rookie pitcher named Sidd Finch who could throw a fastball over 168 miles per hour. In 1996, Taco Bell, the fast-food restaurant chain, duped people when it announced it had agreed to purchase Philadelphia’s Liberty Bell and intended to rename it the Taco Liberty Bell. In 1998, after Burger King advertised a “Left-Handed Whopper,” scores of clueless customers requested the fake sandwich.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  The jump from the Golden Gate Bridge is 250 feet. Trauma from the jump is dramatic and can cause ripped blood vessels, demolished central nervous systems, and a transected spinal cord. While a few have died from drowning and one from a shark attack, most die from the impact of the body on the water. Only 1% who jump survive…and that’s no April Fool’s joke!

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