Tuesday, February 3, 2015


THE EDGE, or the Benefits of Bribery

Sometimes you just get desperate. I find myself on a Saturday morning at Champion Forest Gym – er, that would be Church, on one of their cavernous basketball courts (expecting the Houston Rockets to come out any minute as the music pounds away and the team introductions boom out). Our team trots onto the court, but all knees must be knocking, as they have been blown out of their first two games and I’m sure they have little confidence that they will fare better this time. Despite giving them another of my usual fiery pre-game pep talks as their assistant coach about how this time it will be different, their eyes have that glazed-over look like they’re just waking up and wondering how they got here.

I have little cash on me, but I will start with one player. My child. Bree is actually a sharp basketball player, who usually serves as point guard due to her dribbling skills and speed, and ability to drive the ball toward the goal. But she, like the others, is aware that her team is continuing its downward spiral that unfortunately lasted throughout the entirety of last season. Hey, don’t judge me! We’re not talking about deflated balls here, Tom Brady, just a little motivational incentive…On her softball team, I found that an occasional bribe worked well with Bree, until the team became so good and consistent that I simply had no need to pay her to perform.

But basketball is different, and this team is comprised of different girls, and this is a fresh morning. $5 per shot made. That’s my deal. When she is on court, I simply call her name out, and when she turns to look, I flash an open hand. She nods her head and goes to work. I do see intensity (and, wait a minute, could that be selfishness as she ignores her teammates’ cries to pass the ball, and stubbornly dribbles to the goal despite having players hanging all over her?). Yes, and look – she has made four points and her team is actually ahead! A few others are also hitting shots. Her teammate Paris is on fire, rebounding, stealing, and flaring across the court like a runaway train. She has made a few points too, and would probably have more if she could learn to actually slow down at the goal and shoot more carefully, with purpose, instead of simply flinging the ball in the direction of the hoop and hoping something happens as she sails by.

Despite our showing, it remains a defensive game, with neither team amassing many points. In fact, when the final buzzer goes off, the score is a mere 10-9. (Not a baseball score either.) Unfortunately, at the last period the opponents pulled ahead, and we are on the short end again. Bree still collects her cash, but at the table following the game, every face looks glum. The girls are dejected – so close, and still they couldn’t pull it off. I admit to one of the parents that I was paying for points. She merely laughed, remarking, “How do you think I got Paris to play so hard?” But despite our underhanded techniques, we still lost. That’s karma for you. (Or maybe the other team was receiving bribe money too.)

This gave me a wonderful idea. Instead of bringing post-game snacks, I will propose that we use the money for a bribe fund. Each family kicks in five bucks (7 x 5 = $35) and if the team wins each girl gets five. If we lose, the money is carried over for next week. Organized bribery. More systematic. Everyone wins. Imagine if we played this closely a game with only two girls bribed – what could happen with all seven? It would be just the edge we need. And with all the losses this year and last – these parents would gladly cough up a mere five dollars for a victory and an injection of pure self-esteem as a bonus.

Just a thought….

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