Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Donkey Basketball - A Blast From My Past
I found these pictures recently that brought back a half-forgotten memory. In the mid 1970s when I was young teen, donkey ball was a popular way to raise funds for school, church and civics organizations. I had heard of donkey baseball and thought it sounded like fun, so when I was asked to play a game of donkey basketball, I jumped at the chance. I don't remember what we were raising money for; I just showed up on the appointed day and hopped on a donkey. Tickets had been sold, though, so a merry crowd, anticipating fun, filled the school stadium we were playing in. What a wild, raucous game we played! Donkeys are notorious for their independence. When they don't want to do something, they... don't. I was spending so much time trying to coax my balky beast to go toward my basket rather than the opponents, that I didn't notice the referees encouraging and even rewarding the donkeys for unsportsmanlike conduct such as sudden stops, or bending their heads down so the rider slid off. I enjoyed riding contrary, spirited horses, so I had no trouble staying on my donkey; as for getting him to go where I wanted him to, that was a little trickier.
I admit I thought Donkey sports, which have been around since Depression days, had gone the way of the leisure suit, but I discovered that they are provided still, by small,family owned businesses that train the donkeys and truck them around to fundraisers in small towns across the USA. Despite the concerns of animal rights activists, the donkeys are firmly in charge; the referees keep an eye on things as well. Owners of the donkeys claim there have been no injuries to donkeys although a few humans have had minor injuries. Nowadays the riders have to sign waivers, take a short class, and wear helmets and pads, but still the games are played strictly for laughs. This quirky, charming bit of Americana may not be around much longer. I could find only three companies across the U.S. that still provide these games. What about you? Any Donkey Ball in your past? Or future?