A hoops dream is shattered

Long before I ever had children, I had a vision of my boy being a star basketball player for the Butte High Bulldogs or Butte Central Maroons on his way to a career in professional sports.

Last week, however, I realized that dream probably will never come true for my son, who turned 5 in November. Well, it probably won’t come true in basketball anyway.

It has nothing to do with the boy’s athletic ability. He actually seems to be pretty athletic. In fact, he runs so fast and throws a ball so well, I’d worry he wasn’t mine if it weren’t for the strong resembles. (Yep, he’s a handsome little bugger.)

I realized I don’t have what it takes for my boy to be a basketball player in this day and age. These days, it seems playing in a basketball traveling league for six years is a prerequisite to playing high school ball.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not completely against traveling basketball leagues that seem to alienate and cast final judgment on athletes before they hit puberty.

Basketball traveling leagues, which tend to hurt kids in lower-income families, have done a lot of good for the quality of high school basketball.

They have been particularly good to girls’ basketball. The rise of the Butte High girls’ basketball program, for instance, got a huge assist from girls playing on traveling leagues.

I just don’t want anything to do with them.

I want no part in giving up every weekend to drive all around the region. I really want no part of the basketball moms and dads or the Fantasy Island coaches at the games.

I needed just a half hour sitting in at the Maroon Activities Center during last week’s youth tournament to realize this. Actually, it probably didn’t take that long.

I couldn’t decide which was worse as I watched a game of eighth-grade boys. Was it the moms and dads barking instructions at the players and referees during every single second of action — and inaction? Or was it the 5-foot-6 coach riding the referee like he was Coach K on Saturday night of the Final Four?

It was actually quite the disgusting display on both ends.

Really, though, I think the answer was neither. It was the mother/comedian from Great Falls who apparently doesn’t think much of the Mining City. She was the most annoying part of the game.

After a solid hour of riding the Boyle brother referees, she decided to pop off to anybody who would listen how unhappy she was that her son’s team had to wait about five hours before it played its next game.

“What, you want us to spend our money in Butte?” she said with a laugh, looking around to her fellow basketball moms for reassurance that she was as funny as she thought she was.

Yes, lady, we’re all in on the conspiracy, and we won.

I don’t know about the rest of you Mining City simpletons, but I sure slept peacefully that night knowing that lady had to drop 25 bucks at our McDonalds. I’d like to think she spent even more at our Wal-Mart and Town Pump, too.

Traveling teams are nothing new in the new 365-day athletic world for our children. Even if an athlete doesn’t play three sports, he or she has to dedicate the entire year to sports.

High school players don’t get a summer break any more.

I remember going into my freshman year in high school when the football coach told me he expected me to be at the team’s summer camp.

“Let me get this straight,” I thought. “I have to give up days on the golf course to practice football? And I have to pay for it?

“Uh, no thanks.”

I went golfing instead and, somehow, the NFL got along just fine without me.


The year 2012 saved its best for last.

On the 366th day of the leap year, my personal savior, Phil Emery, freed me from Lovie Hell.

Emery, the new general manager of the Chicago Bears, fired Lovie Smith after nine tormenting seasons as coach of the Chicago Bears.

Lovie went out with a bang. I think the last words I heard him utter as the coach of the Bears were, “Go Pack go.” That he didn’t preface that with an “Eat @#$!! Packers” should be an capital offense in Illinois.

That Lovie put Bears fans in position to root alongside people who find it socially acceptable to put a piece of fake cheese on your head in the first place is reason for firing alone.

Throw in the fact that he lost to Green Bay four times in the calendar year 2011, including the NFC Championship game, and this firing was long overdue.

Lovie’s last game summed up his entire career with the Bears. His Bears had a playoff spot on the line when they visited the lowly Detroit Lions, who would be better served losing for draft positioning.

Yet, if you didn’t know better, you’d think it was the Lions who had everything to play for and the Bears who were booking vacation plans for next weekend.

Playing with the heart of the Tin Man, the Bears won 26-24, and it was painful for Bears fans to watch to the very end. The Bears should have won by 21. They won by two points because of a series of boneheaded, frustrating, emotionless moves. It was a signature Lovie win.

In the end, though, the Packers did the Bears a big favor with their Minnesota flop on Sunday. Had Green Bay won, the Bears would be in the playoffs and we’d be stuck with at least another year of Lovie Ball.

In nine years with the Bears, Lovie went 84-66. That amounts to about 450 hours of watching Lovie’s Bears.

Of those 450 hours, about 448 1/2 were absolute pull-you-hair-out torture.

It was almost as bad as spending five minutes next to that Great Falls mom at an eighth-grade basketball game.

— Sportswriter Bill Foley, who can’t believe it’s been almost nine years since he celebrated the hiring of Lovie Smith, writes a column that appears on ButteSports.com on Tuesdays. twitter.com/Foles74