As I’ve said in this space before, I am afraid of pickles.
I simply hate being around them — been that way since I was a kid. I detest looking at them, abhor smelling them, just loathe being in their presence, sort of like how I feel about Florida Gator fans, except pickles rarely wear jean shorts.
I really don’t know how I developed this picklephobia.
Perhaps I was kidnapped by a pickle as a child, or got trapped in a pickle jar (I was rather squirrelly and thin as a youngster).
Again, I can’t recall the experience or instance where pickles became my personal El Guapo. But it’s there -- which naturally leads me to a story about coaching little girls’ basketball.
I was coaching a team of 7-to-9-year-old girls a number of years ago. We were in the midst of a game against our arch-rivals, the Cheetah Girls.
I remember that we were short on personnel that night because of Little Miss Sweetheart pageant rehearsals. We had six players that evening, which meant we only had one reserve. At the end of the first quarter, I told one of the girls who had started that she was going to sit the second quarter.
“Coach Len, can I go get something to drink?,” she asked sweetly.
“Sure,” I replied, then gave the five other girls their second quarter instructions, which consisted of: “See that goal over there? That’s the one we’re shooting at.”
Early in the second quarter, one of our players on the court got hurt — the ball glanced off her leg — and she came to the sideline in tears.
I ushered her gently to the bench and told my one reserve – for the sake of this story, we’ll call her Brittany — to go in for her sobbing teammate.
About a minute later, we were on defense, and I noticed something odd.
All of our players had their hands up — as per my instructions — except for Brittany.
She had one hand up.
Upon closer inspection, I realized why. In her other hand was a pickle, halfway wrapped in a napkin.
Apparently, between quarters, while Brittany went to get a drink, she also stopped by the concession stand and purchased a pickle.
I have either played or coached basketball for over 30 years, but never witnessed this particular dilemma: What to do about a player eating on the court. I had two choices. I could, A. Call a timeout and confiscate the pickle; or B. Let it go and see what happens.
I chose B because: 1. I thought it would be funny; and 2. In order to confiscate the pickle, I would have to touch it (albeit wrapped in a soggy napkin).
After a change of possession, we were on offense, Brittany playing on the wing. She basically stood out there, taking a bite every few seconds, watching the game before her. Then it was back to defense, and this went on for a number of minutes.
While we were on defense, I noticed another oddity. Brittany was in the middle on defense, positioned at the free-throw line. Whenever the opposing team’s point guard would come near her with the ball, instead of penetrating to the basket, she would wince, back away and dribble elsewhere. This happened about four or five times.
I figured out the reason: The pickle. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one with an aversion toward the briny loaf of yuckiness and its malodorous funk. We actually took the lead right before halftime because of our new defensive strategy.
Unfortunately, Brittany finished off her dinner before the start of the third quarter, and, pickleless, we lost by 20.
But it wasn’t the fault of the “Pickle Defense.”
Len Robbins is editor and publisher of the Clinch County News in Homerville. His column appears weekly.