Our search for the elusive spirit of Hoopfest came to an abrupt halt when Carol Randall reached into her bag and pulled out the Dry Idea.
“Deodorant?” she offered.
To her teammates, that is. Not that a few of us spectators shouldn’t have taken her up on it.
This happened a few feet from center court, where the spirit of Hoopfest is usually drowned out by disc jockeys. We’ll concede, however, that it was the loudspeaker which alerted us to a game moving into sudden-death overtime because time had expired with the score tied at … 6.
Moments later, a team called Hoopla emerged a 7-6 winner over the Hot Flashes, who are to Hoopfest’s Female 35-44 division what the Greeks and Romans are to Greco-Roman wrestling.
“We recruited all the teams playing in our division,” Nancy Fike said, “and we’re still going to finish last.”
And she said it without the slightest hint of distress.
Hoopfest puts on many faces, from the glee of an 8-year-old when his most improbable heave snakes through the net to the menacing glowers of the open division bangers.
But perhaps no face reveals more of Hoopfest than the expression Fike wore when she looked at teammate Gail Stevenson after the sudden-death ordeal and marveled, “How can your hair look good?”
Good question. After all, this year the Hot Flashes were playing in Hoopfest’s steamy kitchen along Spokane Falls Boulevard.
“Last year, they put us in front of Nordstrom,” reported Randall. “Melody went in after one game and bought makeup and deodorant.”
“I drank lattes,” Melody Coombs added. “I didn’t realize they’d make you want to puke after playing.”
Obviously, Hoopfest 1994 was a learning experience. Other than neighborhood games - they live on a South Hill cul-de-sac where driveway baskets are the unifying architectural theme - with their young sons and daughters, these women have never played.
But whatever nuances they may have picked up in friendly slaughters at the hands of women half their age, mostly the Hot Flashes learned it would be more fun in 1995 if they got to play somebody who remembered Corvairs and The Box Tops.
Somebody their own age - which, they revealed, is over 40, but not the paper’s business just how far over.
“We walked onto the court last year and there were four girls who were 23 years old,” Fike remembered. “I walked up to one and said, ‘I could be your mother.’ And she said, ‘We were hoping for a team like you.”’
The Flashes weren’t going to get any younger, so the women of Hoopfest were going to have to get older.
“So Carol had a big party and we invited all these people and twisted their arms,” said Coombs. “A lot of people said no at first, but we eventually would find somebody who wanted to play.”
Actually, they found three teams - Hoopla, Old N Slow and Too Tall. Strangers fill out the eight-team bracket, but the moldier, the merrier.
Still, the game hasn’t become any easier. Life may begin at 40, but basketball careers don’t.
“We all took four Advil before we came downtown today,” Randall said. “So we’ll all need liver transplants when this is over.
“Hey, it’s better than scrubbing floors. I haven’t made dinner in a week. My husband’s lost 7 pounds.”
And he hasn’t played a game.
If you’re looking for rim-warping jams and deltoidrupturing pump fakes, you can find them a few courts west on Spokane Falls.
Take in a Hot Flashes game and you’ll find the essence of this kinder, gentler Hoopfest. Trash talk is when they tell their husbands to take out the garbage.
“Would ‘dammit’ be trash talk?” wondered Randall.
“How about, ‘You wear a skirt?”’ Coombs said. “Actually, you know what we were going to put on…”
“Melody, no!” scolded Fike. “Don’t tell this story.”
“We’ve told enough stories,” someone said.
Then they were off, back to their cul-de-sac to rest up for their final game today.
“Put this in,” Coombs suggested, “that we never felt this bad other than childbirth.”
Perhaps, but they may never have felt this good either - other than at childbirth, of course.
, DataTimes MEMO: You can contact John Blanchette by voice mail at 459-5577, extension 5509.