Wednesday, July 23, 2014





Donkey basketball and other odd combinations


August 23. 2013 5:26PM
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The other day I was going through my daily paces with my constant on-the-road-companion, AM talk radio. During a series of commercials, I heard an announcement for a fundraiser that I remember as a favorite of rural schools when I first started teaching in the early 1970s. Frankly, I thought it had become somewhat of an anachronism but maybe the event was merely lying in dormancy for three decades or so and now is ready to spring to life and again become prevalent. And, then again, maybe I just haven’t been paying attention, and it really never went away.The event is donkey basketball. For those of you uninitiated in the unlikely combination, it’s exactly what it sounds like. For the amusement of all willing to plunk down $5 or so for what they perceive as a rollicking time, some people will climb on the backs of real live donkeys and attempt to execute the game introduced as a physical-education diversion by James Naismith at the YMCA International Training School in Springfield, Mass., in 1891.While Dr. Naismith’s game certainly had rules, 13 of them involving things like how many players were on a side (nine) and what the players were aiming for (peach baskets nailed to either end of the gym), it’s hard to imagine he would ever thought to integrate a bunch of jackasses (the animals, not the players) with the other elements of the sport in the interest of either better competition or fun. But, somewhere along the line, someone decided farm animals and basketball was an irresistible combination.And, that’s what got the old wheels spinning about unlikely combos I’d put into the donkey-basketball category.In the world of advertising, I remember an American Express print ad years ago that featured two icons of American sports, both now deceased. The “Don’t-leave-home-without-it” picture paired, in matching white suits, basketball superstar Wilt Chamberlain, at 7’2,” and horseracing giant, Bill Shoemaker, at 4’11,” and it became a Madison Avenue classic in the world of unlikely combos.When it comes to the entertainment industries, one of the most unusual combinations I can recall paired the original crooner, Bing Crosby, and rock star, David Bowie, in a rendition of “The Little Drummer Boy” some years back.As far as celebrity romances, there have been many couplings, most only temporary in a world where very few unions stand the test of time, which have mystified me. The one that still leaves me scratching my head is Julia Roberts looking at singer Lyle Lovett and having skyrockets go off. Surely, the vows must have gone something like, “Will you, Beauty, take this Beast, to be …”In my ongoing love affair with words, I’ve always been fascinated by those with unusual vowel combinations. The old English teacher in me will always love the sound of the word “onomatopoeia,” and I will admit to a dalliance or two with a couple other linguistic vowel anomalies, “Hawaiian” and “aqueous.”In the world of culinary pursuits, I’ve noticed my share of unlikely combinations, ranging from the preferential to the downright mercenary. An old college roommate during my wonderful time at Miami University in Oxford showed his preference when he used to mix mustard, ketchup and mayonnaise and use the mixture as a marmalade on toast before heading off to class every single morning.As far as the mercenary, I also knew a boy who lived in Stanton Hall during my freshman Miami moment who, in Harris Dining Hall, would, if the price was right, eat any combination of food mixed together. While collegiate types have long done things like sell their blood for beer money, I have never seen anyone who would take on such extreme gastronomical challenges for money. How about some gristle, a couple pats of butter, some string beans, a sugar packet, and some pudding mixed together? No problem! If the pot was right, it was down the hatch and headed toward his pot!Sometimes as a bartender, I am called upon to mix up some rather unlikely combinations. My pal Chow French somewhere has decided Southern Comfort and Mountain Dew has a nice aftertaste. But, maybe it’s me missing out on such a libidinous delight!I guess upon further review of unlikely combos, maybe donkeys and basketball isn’t so strange, although I’ll bet you’d have had a hard time convincing Naismith of that!





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