The Mennonites were particularly unruly that evening. The teenaged sons and daughters of staid, conservative farmers spilled noisily off the bus and filed into the visiting student section of the noisy gymnasium dressed in various shades of black.
The air inside was thick and sweaty, filled with the sounds of loudly talking people, squeaking soles and the solid “thump, thump, thump, sprong, thump” of basketballs being dribbled and shot. It was an early season game between the local suburban high school and the big Mennonite school from a few miles away. Although the teams considered themselves to be light-years apart, they were in fact almost identical: pale, gangly white farm boys with bad haircuts; both rosters sporting common regional names like Hess, Herr, Stoltzfus and Groff.
• • •
The public address system welcomed the crowd, spoke of good sportsmanship and reminded them that no acts of rude behavior from spectators would be tolerated. The players were introduced, a local girl sang the National Anthem and the referee blew his whistle for the game to begin.
Filled this evening with members of the highly successful football team, the student section of the local high school was especially boisterous. They rode every mistake by the visitors unmercifully with good humored ribbing and broke into a variety of spontaneous vocal, sing-song cheers: “Aaairr baalll”, or “ You shoot lii-iike a gir-irl.” The Mennonites tried to reply but their cheers lacked the same cohesive edge.
At the far end of the gymnasium, a large, jolly cop stood against the wall representing the evening’s first line of defense against terrorist attack, armed robbery and/or student uprising. It was unlikely that he would be needed. He was dreaming of jelly donuts and counting the minutes until he could go home to his dinner and his family.
The game proceeded and the lead see-sawed back and forth, changing hands repeatedly as the teams traded baskets. Suddenly a home town player was knocked to the floor with a great commotion but no foul was called on the Mennonites. The home team was outraged. “Bull-shit! Bull-shit! Bull-shit!” The local students cheered in unison.
Oh oh. A line had been crossed. Decorum had been violated. The “S” word had been chanted in public. The air was rank with unsportsmanlike conduct.
All eyes fell upon the fat cop leaning against the wall.
He stirred a bit, unsure of exactly how to react. And then hitching up his belt, with great authority he ambled slowly over to the student section to have a word.
“Oh-Oh!”, “Oh-Oh!”, cheered the Mennonites.
The cop leaned over and said a few words to the students in the first row of the student section and then wandered back to hold up the wall.
“Na-na-na-na-NA-NA” screamed the Mennonites in glee.
• • •
The first half finished with the home team on top by only three points. It was still anyone’s game. After a ten minute half-time of trips to the restroom, hot dogs with mustard and “I’m-gonna-go-say-hi-real-quick-to-Phil-and-Judy”’s, the game, and the cheers, continued.
The Mennonites were up by a point. Their smallest, but fastest, player took a pass and drove furiously toward the net. Two opponents stepped in front of him and there was a terrible collision. Bodies sprawled and the little guy was sent to the floor. Arms and legs flew in every direction and the ball flew out of bounds.
“Foul!” the Mennonites charged.
“Charging!” the locals complained.
“CHARGE!” screamed the referee as he ran to the Scorer’s table, pointing animatedly at the offending Mennonite player.
“The Mennonite student section leapt to its feet declaring: “HORSE SHIT!”, “HORSE SHIT!” “Horses….”
And the line, again, was crossed.
All eyes turned to the cop. He had been caught unaware.
“Huh?” his expression said. “What?” his body said.
“BUST ‘EM”, “BUST ‘em” demanded the locals.
The cop seemed unprepared. He had missed the call and he had missed the play. All he knew was that the clock said: “00.03.21” and within a half hour the parking lot would be empty and he would be heading home. The crowd was looking at him expectantly.
He at first considered pleading ignorance, but the echoes of the offending call still echoed in his head. He had no choice. A tiny smile broke over his face.
“ WHOAAAA! YOU’RRRE INNNN-N TROUB-EL!!!!!!!!!” the locals laughed and screamed at the visitors.
The cop shook his head, chuckled to himself and headed off across the gym to uphold the law and do his duty.