The Blue Team in the Waterford Men’s Basketball League has an advantage few teams in organized sports can match.
They have a basketball babies pint-sized fan club that takes up the front row of the bleachers at Waterford District High School on Sunday nights.
Accompanied by their mothers, the babies enjoy the basketball equivalent of a tailgate party complete with drinks and snacks while their fathers go for a win. Likely the quietest fans in the world, the basketball babies never jump out of their seats to gesture, cheer or boo.
Not once has a basketball baby uttered a disappearing word about an official’s call. Although one did require a change of diapers after a much-disputed whistle.
“I’m not really sure how much they get out of watching the game,” team captain Henry Wall, a Norfolk County businessman, said with a chuckle. “Most of the time, they seem transfixed, watching the ball go from one end of the court to the other.
“But yeah, it sure is nice to have them there.”
At 33, Wall is the oldest player on the team while the youngest is 20.
“I’ve known everyone on the team for years and everyone, except me, is related in some way,” Wall said. “I went to Delhi District while everyone else went to Valley Heights.”
The fathers have been playing together in the Waterford league for a few years.
The women have always been in the bleachers cheering on their husbands. Now, they’re accompanied by their babies.
“It just sort of happened that we all started having kids and families at the same time,” Wall said. “We still like to play basketball, we’ve still got that competitive urge and so when we play, everyone is involved.
“We’re all really grateful for the support we get from our wives and our children.”
Basketball, like any other sport, has it’s ugly moments.
Just over two weeks ago, an alleged assault took place during a game between two other teams in the same league and police are investigating.
But the babies are just one example of how the game can deliver great moments that have nothing to do with the score.
Long distance three pointers, gravity-defying dunks and well-oiled team play are all part of the game. But the game can also deliver fine examples of respect and sportsmanship.
Respect for the game was much in evidence recently when an under-10 Brantford CYO girls’ team lost a youth tournament championship game by one point.
“That was a gold medal game,” one of the Brantford team’s coaches said while shaking the hands of the officials following the game.
“That was a lot of fun.”
A few years ago a Brantford CYO boy’s team showed the kind of class everyone involved in sports ought to emulate.
Leading 20-0, the entire Brantford team rose from their bench and cheered when their opponents finally scored a basket.
The game also has a way of delivering lighter moments.
“Hey ref, I thought you said you couldn’t hear,” a player in a men’s adult league game said after being assessed a technical foul for naughty language.
“I can’t,” this official replied. “But I can read lips at a thousand paces and I know what you said.
“The technical foul stands.”
(Vincent Ball is a hard of hearing Brantford Expositor reporter and an official with the Brant Norfolk Basketball Officials’ Association).