Snow Basketball or "My Moment of Colossal Failure"

I had planned to post this story while I was at residency, but time seemed to move at warp speed towards the end and I never quite got back to this story. It is a good story and one of the pivotal moments for me during the residency because I think that there was something profound in the colossal failure that occurred on this wintry Sunday eve in January. 

We do a lot of sitting during the residency. The lectures or seminars can start as early as 8:30 A.M. and end with student readings in the evening ending as late as 9:30 P.M. So, when one sees an opportunity to move around, one takes it. My friend Heidi and I decided to take advantage of a night time game of basketball. Outdoors. In the snow. 

A week into the residency, Alan Cumyn organized a basketball game. He said that he started the tradition during his first year at VCFA when a group of students saw him playing in the courtyard. I guess things evolve (or devolve) as they tend to do at the college, and basketball turned into the game of HORSE which then spiraled into some weird form of it in which the participants must come up with some activity (like sing show tunes) before tossing the ball into the basket. If you got the ball in the basket, then the next team had to the exact same (probably embarrassing) activity.
Now, I could go into the rules of HORSE. It has something to do with if you get the ball in and the next person does, they get an “H” or maybe it was the other way around. It seemed that the rules themselves didn’t matter for this particular game, so none of them stuck. I’ll try to pay more attention in July. 

It had been basically snowing nonstop for a few days, so the basketball court was covered in snow. Thick, crunchy snow – the kind where one might need snow shoes to walk on. Which none of us had. (Some of us from the southern parts of the U.S. didn’t even have winter boots.) So, we kicked some of the snow around and made ourselves a cushy cold surface to play on.

About nine of us came out on this cool winter’s eve, including Tobin Anderson, who was at the college as a guest lecturer. Not letting his inappropriate footwear stop him, Tobin joined in the fun. Alan gave everyone numbers like a good teacher so no one was left out and I was on Tobin’s team with another girl whose name I have forgotten. 

Now, as I said, part of the game was to do some weird activity before a member of the team would aim for the net. I was actually doing okay for a girl who hadn’t played basketball for, uhm, probably since I worked at an afterschool kids program in my early 20s. So, lets just say it had been a long while. I actually got the ball in the basket twice! I was pretty pleased with myself.  

During the final round, Tobin thought that it would be hilarious if we were to all take off our winter clothes and roll around in the snow. (Did I mention that I was in a short brown skirt and tights? No, I didn’t come prepared for this game…who is prepared for Snow Basketball?) My other team mate didn’t have a problem with this and Tobin was worse off than I was in terms of inappropriate winter garb, so, I nodded in agreement. 

“You’ve been the most successful,” he says to me, “You’ll throw the ball in the net.”


I started giggling nervously, “Are you sure?” I replied. 

But they were already taking off their winter coats. So, I, pulled off my thick puffy winter coat, hat and scarf and rolled around in the cold snow. I was freezing and laughing and completely out of control. I stood up to throw the ball, but I was laughing so hard, that I stopped myself and stepped back. 

Everyone was laughing at this point. I bent my knees and looked straight at the basket trying to keep a straight face. And aimed. The ball soared right around the rim of the net…and fell off onto the snow. At this point we were all laughing so hard and I just wanted to get my coat back on that the fact that I completely missed the basket just seemed to make complete sense. Alan walked over to me and said drying something about a heroic display of martyrdom. 

It felt so good to laugh and be ridiculous and completely suck at something. I pondered later about the things that our faculty advisor will ask us to do. Sometimes, it maybe something that we’ve done a few times and then, somehow “drop the ball,” and other times it will be something that we’ve never done before and still fail. 

But, that it is okay, because, eventually, we will get the ball in the net every time.

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About Melanie J. Fishbane

MAUD, my YA novel based on the teen life of author L.M. Montgomery will be published by Penguin Random House on April 25, 2017. I hold an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Here I talk about my writing process, things I love, and creative people who inspire me.
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4 Responses to Snow Basketball or "My Moment of Colossal Failure"

  1. Sheryl says:

    LOL! We're just supposed to trust the process and hope it doesn't bring us frostbite.

  2. Heidi says:

    I "dropped the ball" before we even left the residency! But I gotta say, it was a learning experience that's for sure.Thanks for the reminder that failure is part of the growing process. And so is fear. I felt a bit apprehensive about playing snow basketball, but in the end I'm so glad I tried it, we tried it. I will even do it again. And again. Especially if you play, as that was the hardest I had laughed at the residency.

  3. cool. Now I'm sorry I didn't go play! Great post!

  4. Indeed ladies. Indeed! @Sheryl you are totally right. No one wants frostbite, but it is a risk we must take. @Heidi, I'm sure that the only ball that you dropped was a basketball. You rock. It was definitely the hardest I laughed as well.@Stephanie, You can play next time. And thanks for the compliment.

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