Not jumping to conclusions

Kevin Cowherd

April 17, 1992|By Kevin Cowherd

An experiment was conducted recently to test the theory that white men can't jump.

The experiment was conducted on a playground basketball court. The subject was a white, 40-year-old newspaperman of average height. The object was to see if the newspaperman could dunk the ball.

What follows are the results of that experiment:

Attempt No. 1 -- Standing at half-court and cradling the ball loosely in both hands, subject lumbers toward basket.

Achieving what one onlooker describes as "the docking speed of the Queen Mary," subject plants left foot at foul line and leaps. Total airborne time: one-tenth of a second.

Vertical lift is measured at two inches. Dunk is missed by 15 feet.

A trio of nearby elementary school children snicker at subject, who warns he will have to "kick some butt" if their behavior continues.

Elementary school hoodlums reply: "Oh, yeah? Let's go right now!" Subject replies that he would relish whipping their little behinds but is in the middle of an important experiment and cannot be distracted.

Subject also reports rising feelings of anxiety and tension.

Attempt No. 2 -- Subject decides to try gripping ball in one hand, a la Michael Jordan. Racing toward basket, subject stumbles and bangs head violently into basket's metal support pole before falling in a heap on the ground.

Subject reports seeing many colors. A passer-by asks if someone has called 911.

Vertical lift is measured at zero inches. Dunk is missed by 17 feet.

Tiny bits of asphalt are now imbedded in subject's hands and knees, raising disturbing possibility of trip to the emergency room and medical treatment involving tweezers and powerful magnifying glass.

Attempt No. 3 -- Subject wonders aloud: "Maybe it's my shoes . . . " This touches off spirited debate among subject's support team over merits of Nike, Reebok and Converse footwear.

Junior high thugs shooting at other basket yell: "Man, it ain't your shoes!" and break into gales of hysterical laughter.

Taking a graduated 30-degree angle toward the basket, subject leaps and attempts difficult "tomahawk" dunk. Ball slams against rim, ricochet's into subject's face. Subject is knocked cold for several minutes.

Vertical lift is measured at four inches. Dunk is missed by seven feet.

Regaining consciousness, subject's mood has improved considerably.

"Man, I was up there!" subject tells support team.

Hooligans at other basket hoot: "Yeah, you were real close!" and high-five each other.

Attempt No. 4 -- Subject determines he needs longer run at basket, decides to take off from parking lot. After a sprint of some 75 yards, subject arrives at basket too exhausted to jump.

Vertical lift is not measured. After crumpling into a fetal position and gasping for air, subject wanders off to water fountain.

Budding criminals at other basket ask if repeated dunk attempts are being filmed for "one of those hidden video shows on TV."

Attempt No. 5 -- Frustration beginning to show now. Mimicking move popularized by Karl "The Mailman" Malone, subject cups ball between heel of hand and wrist and races toward basket.

Leaping into the air, subject watches with alarm as ball squirts out of hand and rolls into nearby storm drain.

Vertical lift is measured at two inches. Dunk is missed by 10 feet.

At other basket, probable members of San Quentin class of '97 guffaw loudly.

Attempt No. 6 -- In an effort to improve aerodynamics, subject races toward basket, leaps against metal support pole and tries to boost himself up toward rim. Plan goes awry when subject's foot slips off pole. Loud popping noise leads to alarming discovery that subject's knee now has all the consistency of yogurt. Subject makes a mental note to schedule arthroscopic surgery.

Vertical lift is measured at three inches. Dunk is missed by nine feet.

Attempt No. 7 -- Enlisting the aid of a small trampoline, subject races toward basket, leaps onto trampoline and begins terrifying upside-down journey toward rim. Ball heads in the direction of Atlantic Ocean. Wildly banging both ankles against hoop, subject endures dizzying head-over-heels descent and crashes hard to the asphalt.

Vertical lift is measured at 12 feet. Dunk is missed by eight feet.

Facing three months in neck brace and potentially habit-forming daily doses of Darvon, subject decides to go home.

Results of the experiment are inconclusive.

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