donkey basketball

I broke my cardinal rule last week and actually asked my husband to take me to a basketball game – and not just any basketball game, this was a donkey basketball game. I had often heard of them, but had never seen one. The donkeys – from Circle A Donkey Ball Company in Henry, Tenn. and local riders – under the sponsorship of BJ’s Dream Team Relay for Life – played at the old Mount Holly High School gymnasium to raise funds for the American Cancer Society.

The donkeys started out the evening in fine form. Deceptively, docile they trailed behind the manager to the center court. The donkey knew the rules were all designed for them: “No time-outs except for the most dire emergency, you can hold the ball 15 seconds, no boundaries, no kicking, hitting or hurting the donkeys, players must keep control of their donkey at all times and to score a point or toss a ball, players must be riding their donkey.”

The donkey had heard it all before. They waited to be assigned a player. The biggest guys ambled over to the tallest donkeys, the smaller women lined up beside the smaller burros. At each quarter, players switched places.
It really did not matter who rode the cream, tan and spotted donkeys, the equine entertainers all reacted the same way at the sounding of the whistle. They bucked, they kicked, they dropped their heads and with a mere flick of muscle dumped their riders. My husband and I joined the roar of laughter of the sell-out crowd.

Astonished, experienced athletes found themselves unable to toss a ball, hit a basket or stay on the unmoving donkeys. My coaching skills emerged full-blown, “one of you guys from each team needs to stay under the basket and wait for someone to throw you a ball.”

They didn’t listen. One big dude grabbed the halter on his furry brown donkey and plowed from one end of the court to the other. He had tried riding. His critter would have none of it – he put his head down and bucked. After a couple rounds of trying to ride, the player determined to play ball, even if he did have to drag around a few hundred pounds of donkey flesh to make a basket.

We quickly recognized the experienced ball handlers on the court. Even perched a-top a moving donkey, balls tossed their way danced across their finger tips and landed in their competent hand – the other hand had to hold the halter.

The animal handlers quickly assessed the reality of their situation and adjusted. After landing on the floor instead of scoring a basket a couple times, one man, leaned back, grinned and gripped with his knees. That little donkey could kick and object all it wanted and the guy stuck like glue to its hind quarters or gracefully stepped off, grabbed the halter and hopped back up. At one point he had a wide-open position under the basket. A team member threw the ball. He caught it and jerked the halter to align the donkey with the basket, the donkey flicked its ear and ignored him. With the other team surging down the court, riding and dragging their donkeys behind them, the player appraised the situation, turned sideways, sat backwards on the creature and made a perfect shot. Before the evening ended, it was obvious that as long as the donkey did not have to move, it did not care if its player did a break dance on its back to align himself to catch a ball or make a basket.

According to the score board at the end of the game, one team won 22 to 20. But in reality, after an evening of no rules, delightful donkeys, determined players and lots of laughs, the American Cancer Society won hooves down.