Print and Go Back ESPN.com: TrueHoop [Print without images]

Thursday, April 24, 2008
Kenny Mayne Has Written a Book


Kenny Mayne is famous for a number of things, including his work at ESPN, but one of the things he has not been famous for is writing books.

Until now.

He just wrote a book, called An Incomplete and Innaccurate History of Sport. When I first got a copy in the mail, I thought to myself -- why are they sending me this book? It has nothing whatsoever to do with basketball.

As I thumbed through it, I found that I was wrong. There are, in fact, two short chapters about basketball.

I also found that, the whole thing was kind of like Greg Oden's Fro-Hawk: Glad as you might be that it's not yours, there's no denying it's entertaining. Honestly, the book is hard to put down, even though it's hard-cover and fairly heavy.

The publishers were nice enough to let me re-print a brief basketball chapter here on TrueHoop. It's about basketball in Seattle in the 1970s, and  includes a rare "dog poop on the basketball court" anecdote:

Basketball: For Those Who Didn't Get Enough in the Previous Chapter

Some readers love basketball so much they yearn for more stories about the game, even stories written from the perspective of a guy who spent his youth playing hide-and-seek while Wilt Chamberlain was out on the floor dunking on Bob Rule. Those readers will love the fact that I mistakenly wrote a second basketball chapter. Or, if they hated the last chapter, the part about them loving this chapter won't be true. Readers who don't like basketball as much as those who love it can skip to the next chapter. Readers who neither love nor hate basketball can go on with what they were doing. Readers who just want words and don't care what the subject matter is can keep reading.

In basketball the Seattle Sonics have won one world championship. There are people from other countries who wonder how we call it a "world championship when the only teams in competition for the title are from North America. When the Sonics won their title in 1979 there wasn't even one team from Canada. Nevertheless, it sounds way cooler to say "We are world champions than it does to say "We are North American champions although there aren't any Canadian teams in the league yet.

When the Sonics were in the playoffs the season before their North American Championship Although There Aren't Any Canadian Teams in the League Yet season I was attending junior college in Wenatchee, Washington. If I'm not mistaken, my college team won a league title the year before. They showed lots of class not calling it a North American title.

My friends Shawn Doran and the late Warren Thomas and I went to the Seattle Coliseum to support the team that would one day be North American champions. We bought three tickets from a scalper. One was directly behind the Portland Trail Blazers' bench. I mean you could reach out and snap Bill Walton's headband if you wanted to see how he felt about that. The other two seats were distant viewing. We did odd-man scissors, paper, rock to see who got to see Bill Walton's headband and who got to see the game from a thousand feet away. I won, or lost, depending on how you rate a seat that pretty much has you in the Blazers' huddle, but also with a view blocked by seven-foot-tall bench players.

Now that I know I duplicated my efforts with two basketball chapters, it's worth pointing out that (a) I did not use the first quarter to scout out better seats, because to be any closer would mean I was in the game, and as stated, I had no jumper, and (b) Shawn and I did not play hide-and-seek at halftime. I don't know if Shawn and Warren did.

All I know is, the next year the Sonics won the whole thing. By that time, I was attending UNLV. I watched the title game from a hotel lounge. This earned me great bragging rights. Not the part about the hotel lounge--anyone could go to those. The part about Seattle having won and me being from Seattle. When I did the bragging I did not bother to mention that I'm not really from Seattle. To do so I would have had to shout, "The Sonics are world champions or at least North American champions and I am from Kent, Washington!

As exciting as it was to see Gus, D.J., Fred, Jack Sikma, and John Johnson help my city (can't believe Kent didn't get the franchise) win a North American championship, I knew the sport was also the root cause of one of my athletic low points.

The year was 1969. I was nine. At ten minutes to six on, I think, a Tuesday, Brian Foltz (much older, at age ten) called and said, "Can you get up to the school right away? We're two players short for the game!

I now knew what it was like for a high-priced free agent to field the call from a professional ball club. A team was in need and I was the salvation. Not only that but a veteran player, a ten-yearold, had personally reached out to me. He must have told the head coach how he'd seen me on the playground and how I had just the right skills to push this team to the top. That, and the game started in less than ten minutes. That, and they were in such a need for top-flight players, they entrusted me to bring anyone with me.

I called Jeff Whidden. He lived two doors down. We lived, if sprinting, forty-five seconds from Star Lake Elementary. We met at the top of his driveway and ran to our school.

We were athletes.

We were warmly received. Of course we were. The team had just four players, and the league rules required that six be on site to avoid a forfeit. So what if we weren't the correct age (ten)? So what if our parents hadn't signed the parental permission slip? Years ahead of Magic and the Lakers it was: show time!

There was one problem.

Jeff had arrived wearing hiking boots, not basketball shoes. And one more problem: on the bottom of Jeff 's hiking boots was dog poop. There was just one more problem: on the gym floor now there was smeared dog poop.

The game was held up for ten minutes while Jeff and I got paper towels and wiped the floor clean.

I don't remember who won. I do remember seeing the scorebook after the game and telling the coach proudly how "I didn't foul anyone! The coach told me, "That means you didn't try very hard.

What an insult. I had personally prevented the team from suffering a humiliating forfeit, helped distribute the ball to the real scorers, and stayed out of foul trouble (can't have that with only six players, particularly when one of them has dog poop on his hiking boots), and I was being mocked for not trying hard enough?

This wasn't nearly as bad as having struck out off the tee in Really Lesser Little League (see "Baseball), but the incident stayed with me for years. In fact, here it is, this year, in my coaster.