ON THE SIDELINES:  Sports are a distraction…and, that’s a good thing 

by Jan 28, 2017SPORTS di-ne-lv-di-yi0 comments





This past Thursday night, I huddled into the Swain County High School gymnasium with about 27,000 other people (or, at least it felt like it) as the Cherokee Braves and Lady Braves took on their arch nemesis – the Maroon Devils.

It was about 158 degrees Fahrenheit where I was standing.  My shoes melted to the floor at one point.  My camera caught fire twice.  The popcorn didn’t even need to go into the popper…it just popped itself in the bag.

Oh, and the game…well, if you weren’t there, you missed a boys game for the ages.

The final minute of the boys game was so loud that people reported hearing it in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Chalk one up in the win column for the Braves and Lady Braves and chalk one up in the tall tales section for this particular column.

Now, I may have exaggerated a little…just a little mind you…on some of the details in this week’s column, but I’m going somewhere factual with it I promise.

You see, for those three or so hours that we all packed ourselves like sardines into that gym, we were all distracted.

Now, many times these days we talk of distractions in a bad light.  We get onto people for texting while driving or for looking at their phone in class or during an important meeting at work.

But, this was a different kind of distraction.

This was a distraction that helped lower blood pressure.  Yep, at an incredibly passionate, high-spirited game such as these, I’ll wager that most people’s blood pressures and overall stress levels were decreased.

This past week was a rough, stressful time for many in the United States.  It was rough for many in Indian Country, and it was a rough, stressful time for members and employees of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.

On the national level, it was the first week of President Trump’s presidency.  Whatever your particular political lean is, there were some surprises during the week for sure.  The decision to go ahead with the Dakota Access Pipeline didn’t come so much as a surprise as a noted source of continued stress and strife for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe including several of my cousins who have been on the frontline of the fight since it started.

Here on the Cherokee Indian Reservation, we saw some EBCI leaders at odds with each other over various issues – again, a source of stress for anyone associated with the Tribe on any level.

This column isn’t to talk about these political issues, but it’s to talk about what many would deem just another stupid basketball game.  But, let me tell you, that stupid basketball game took my mind – and I would bet everyone’s mind that was in that gym – off of all of these sources of stress and strife…it did that for at least those three or so hours.

As I was watching Pooh King and Tori Teesateskie dribble right past their opponents or Jamie Lossiah play her patented brand of peanut-butter defense (sticks right to you), I wasn’t thinking about those issues.  As this old photographer’s eyeballs were trying to keep up with where the ball was as Holden Straughan passed to Sterling Santa Maria to Josiah Lossiah to Isaiah Evans and then over to Tye Mintz, I wasn’t thinking about those issues…I was just trying to keep my eyes from rolling around in my head.

As Cherokee’s fans cheered, and as Swain’s fans cheered, they weren’t thinking about investigations, pipelines, the building of walls, taxes, health care, or anything else except hoping beyond hope that their team could put a little ball into a round hoop.

That might sound like a stupid endeavor, and maybe it is, but it was a much-needed and much-welcomed distraction.