Doug Wolter: Bad basketball a spectator sport in Pipestone – The Globe

It used to be that if you were really bad at a sport, you would not advertise it to the world.

This was especially true in middle school or high school because the embarrassment would be exacerbated by laughter and any other insult that might be exposed to you.

But in Pipestone, a far better view has led to something called the “Bad Basketball Association,” where athletically challenged students have turned their basketball skills into an actual league that attracts fans. It has become so popular this winter that the league had its own logo, officials, goalkeeper, cameraman and social media accounts. T-shirts were produced, and $ 325 in extra money from these t-shirt sales was donated to the school’s wellness room.

It turns out that bad basketball is not just something to be laughed at. It’s very entertaining.


The credit goes to Pipestone County Stars sports editor Kevin Kyle for writing an excellent article about the league on the newspaper’s website. The whole idea started, Kevin said, from a personal rivalry between students Nathaniel Jones and Ty Hansen, who met on the field after Jones boasted he could beat his friend in a 1-on-1 game. Hansen won the match 16-4, but the irrepressible Jones kept talking and they played a few more times. Several players were brought in, who became real teams. Student fans would even skip lunch to watch.

In a world where far too many people take themselves too seriously, I think the Bad Basketball Association is just the kind of thing we need. After all, it requires all sorts, and the ability of miserable hoopsters to have fun laughing at themselves – and fellow students’ ability to enjoy their jokes in the spirit of fun – is something that any school can embrace.

The Pipestone area head coach for boys basketball, Todd Tinklenberg, told me that members of his team handle the fights and they get in the spirit.

Sometimes they say to one of the players: ‘You are too good. You have to sit outside for a few minutes, “Tinklenberg said.

Doug Wolter

Doug Wolter

I called Worthington High School varsity basketball coach CJ Nelson, who was a three-sport star (basketball, football, athletics) when he competed at WHS. I asked him if he thought he could “discover” a future college player in such a league, and he postponed thoughtfully.

But he said this: “I think there are enough kids who just enjoy playing. It seems like it’s a bit like an intramural league. I could definitely see something like that work (in Worthington).

Who can say at all how many Worthington kids would be perfect for such a league? There is no doubt that there are many who have just been born to play in a bad basketball league.

“The one way to look at this is the way kids support the high school team,” Nelson added. “The bad basketball players support the good basketball players and one would hope the same thing would happen the other way around. It is still supportive.”

I can relate myself. I did not play organized basketball in high school, but I played in the locals. In my first game, this little kid from Allendorf scored eight points, allowing my name to be part of a list of top scorers on the commons bulletin board. I went to that sheet of paper many times just to see my name and prove to myself that I really got those points.

Looking at today’s high school athletes, it’s a good thing that in the winter there is both basketball and wrestling for potential competitors to choose from. In my time, wrestlers were looked down upon by basketball kids because of how uncoordinated many of them performed on hardwood. But then the wrestlers would challenge the basketball players to six minutes on the mat, and the teasing tended to stop.

If there are banter involved in the Bad Basketball Association, it’s all of the good-natured variety. Popular singer Huey Lewis once sang that “it’s hip to be square”, and it certainly is in Pipestone.

Even a person like CJ Nelson can understand. It’s not like he was great in any sport you know.

“I’ve skated once in my life. I would be a pretty bad hockey player,” he said. “Or if I jumped on the wrestling mat, I would probably get stuck pretty quickly.”

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