A love letter to the WORD basketball league

June 26, 2009

Finish out your week with a smile—read this delightful missive from Katherine Arathoon, member of The Elements of Style!

“When I first agreed to join a dodgeball team (don’t worry, it’s just a quick tangent), I thought I was signing up for kickball. ‘Sure, that sounds like fun,’ I said, forking over a hefty enrollment fee, and forgot about it. It was only 2 days before our first game that I remembered that dodgeball is actually two teams actively trying to pelt each other in the face with hard rubber balls. In an instant I was transported back to those terror-filled sessions in my elementary school days, and I called my roommate, Sanam, in a panic, shrieking, “I’ve just remembered what dodgeball is! I don’t want to play any more!” Accustomed to my histrionics, Sanam calmly informed me it was too late to get my fee back and I was damned well going to play. So play I did, and it turned out it was actually pretty fun. Teams were more evenly matched, now that everyone’s pituitary glands have for the most part leveled off, and there was beer after every game. Can’t argue with that!

“So, when the Mediabistro blurb popped up recommending Literary Basketball, I was intrigued. Sure, I’d hated basketball in high school gym, but if a girl like me can learn to tolerate dodgeball, she can do anything. Plus, the challenge of answering ‘literary questions’ in order to qualify was irresistible. I answered the questions, a handful of friends joined in as well, and one short introduction meeting later I was on the white team.

“The name picking began. We were team White, so early options included The Eebees, The Mocha Dicks, Charlotte’s Web of Domination, Great White Taupe, The Invisible Jam, and Midnight’s Children But With Basketball. However, several clear winners emerged from the fray, and after pushing Comma Sutra out of the way with deft aplomb, The Elements Of Style reigned supreme as our name of choice. The Strunks became unofficial team nickname, and ‘Sucks to your ass-mar!’ is our (as yet still unused in battle) team slogan.

“It was during this discussion that our noble team captain, Mark, came up with the brilliant plan of creating team t-shirts and using punctuation symbols instead of numbers on the back. There was a furious scramble to claim interrobang, and a question arose that remains unanswered to this day: does a dollar sign count as a punctuation mark? (In the end, cool factor won out over questionable verisimilitude on that particular issue.)

“So now we were named and marked, and ready for action. By this point I’d had enough fun and nerdiness that I scarcely cared about the looming first game. Sanam–now $anam–explained the basic rules to me on subway ride over, and I figured I was prepared enough.

“Two things I hadn’t anticipated:

“1) Basketball requires a lot of running. Like, a LOT of running. Fortunately we had a good showing of teammates that first game, because there was a steady rotation of subbing-out-before-my-heart-explodes. Some of us were a little hung over from the previous night’s adventures; some of us were just woefully out of shape. Safe to say, by game’s end most of us looked like teammate Mike in this picture.

“2) Despite the dramatic amounts of running, basketball is a lot of fun. Who knew? Much to my surprise, I was enjoying myself. And I was occasionally good at defense, which, for a total beginner, was very pleasing indeed.

“Most of all, my teammates proved to be just as awesome on-court as off; encouraging, hilarious, and in some instances enthusiastically clad in short-shorts. From ampersand to ellipses, from asterisk to exclamation point, I couldn’t ask for a better group. Week after week we have thundered up and down the court with great dexterity, generally taking a triumphant second-place in every game we play, and once even winning!

“(Here are two pictures of me with a few of my most magnificent Strunks, wearing the badass t-shirts that Ben made.)

“So, many, many thanks to WORD for organizing such a lovely literary league that has attracted such perspicacious people; I know where I’ll be doing my Christmas book shopping this year. And the basketball experience as a whole has reminded me not just to try out new things, but to re-visit old things as well. After all, if I find I now like dodgeball and love basketball, who knows: maybe it’s time to take another stab at Trigonometry?

Yours truly,
The Em Dash
(Katherine Arathoon)”

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