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The Birth of BasketballPosted Sunday, June 8, 2008, at 3:23 PM
Basketball is a peculiar game. Five half-naked men (or women) compete against another set of five half-naked men (or women) in a monumental effort to toss a round ball through a hoop, called a basket, more times than their opponents in a prescribed period of time.
Men play basketball to get some exercise and show off. A handful of them are good enough to make a very lucrative living at it.
Women play basketball so they can have a place to shriek continuously without directing it at a husband or boyfriend. Blind people attending a women's basketball game might mistakenly assume they are in a large room where cats are being electrocuted.
Basketball season is almost over. Only the pros, the Lakers and Celtics, are still slipping into jock straps and dribbling with their hands.
In 1891, a fellow named James Naismith was instructed to create a game at his YMCA School in Springfield, Mass., to occupy his students between football and baseball season.
Apparently not blessed with great genius, Naismith hung peach baskets from the ceiling, got a soccer ball and told his students to shoot the ball into the baskets.
Since there were 18 people in his class, he divided them into two teams of nine.
Naismith called it basketball and made a list of five rules.
1 - There must be a large, light ball handled with the hands
2 - No running with the ball
3 - No one is restricted from getting the ball
4 - No personal contact
5 - The goal shall be horizontal and elevated
One of Naismith's 18 students was a fellow named Ray Kaighn. In 1893, Kaighn was hired by Hamline University in St. Paul, Minn., and soon became physical education director.
Apparently blessed with even less genius than Naismith, Kaighn introduced basketball to his students in the basement of Hamline's Science Hall where he hung peach baskets, with no backboards, from the 9-foot ceiling.
On Saturday, February 9, 1895, a group from another college, the University of Minnesota School of Agriculture, entered the basement of the Hamline Science Hall to participate in the first ever basketball game between two colleges.
Nine against nine, they battled it out.
When it was all over, Hamline lost 9-3.
In 117 years, the game has changed a bit. Five players to a side has taken some of the human clutter out of play and most basketball courts now have ceilings exceeding the 9-foot level, which is a pretty good idea since the standard basket is now 10 feet high.
The only other sports that are more strange than basketball are golf, where a relatively sane human being tries to swat a tiny white ball with a club into a small hole several hundred yards away, and naked skydiving.
Quote of the Day -- I may be insane, but I'm not crazy.
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Bret Burquest is a former award-winning columnist for The News (2001-2007) and author of four novels. He has lived in Minneapolis, Los Angeles, Miami, Atlanta, Kansas City, Memphis and the middle of the Arizona desert. After a life of blood, sweat and tears in big cities, he has finally found peace in northern Arkansas where he grows tomatoes, watches sunsets and occasionally shares the Secrets of the Universe (and beyond) with the rest of the world.