On basketball players with good hands

asnow@newsobserver.comMay 17, 2014 

Area basketball fans celebrated or sighed in disappointment as high school basketball stars across the nation recently chose the colleges of their choice.

That Duke landed four McDonald’s All-Americans is not good news for archrivals N.C. State and Carolina.

As I read descriptions of some of the stars’ sterling qualities, I noticed that none is said to have “good hands.”

I first heard that term years ago at The Raleigh Times, when one of our sports writers was describing a prominent high school basketball’s prospects to someone on the phone.

“He has great hands,” our man was saying. “Does well in math and science. Speaks three or four languages and four African dialects, but just can’t communicate in English. How he’ll get around the SAT stuff I don’t know. But he can really run and jump. And, as I said, he really has good hands.”

It was not until later that I learned that “good hands” in sportswriter lingo are soft, flexible hands that can latch on to a basketball without dropping it and can heave it through a hoop on a gymnasium backboard from half-court.

Unique indeed

The “Jeopardy” quiz show on ABC11 is a “must” on our TV menu. We were especially pleased to turn it on recently and find longtime friend Bob Kochersberger, NCSU journalism professor, as one of the three contestants.

When no one correctly identified the man who in Roman history said his wife had to be above suspicion, I said to my wife, “Bob hasn’t been reading my column. I did a piece about Caesar’s wife only last week.”

Bob was exonerated when he explained in an N&O interview that the program was filmed months ago.

When it came time for the contestants to describe something unique about themselves, I hoped Bob would spring on Alex Trebekand the audience the same shocker he threw at me when he interviewed for a job as an editorial writer on The Raleigh Times.

“I’ll bet I’m different from any other prospect you’ve interviewed,” he said.

“How’s that?” I asked, my curiosity piqued.

“I’ve twice impregnated a priest,” he replied.

Amused by my expression of astonishment, he explained that Janet, his wife and mother of his two children, is an Episcopal priest and former chaplain at St. Mary’s College.

Good neighbors

After checking the bluebird house, my wife reported the demise of five baby bluebirds.

I had worried that the eggs laid during the April cold snap would freeze. But they did not. Five little fluffs of life were doing fine and were within a week or so of leaving the nest when they died.

Since the female and primary caretaker has failed to show up at our feeders recently, we suspect she met with tragedy.

Two neighborhood cats are the chief suspects. A calico and a black and white one have been hanging around our feeding station.

Cat owners need to know that the same law in Raleigh against allowing dogs to run free also applies to cats. The animal’s owner is subject to a first offense fine of $50, followed by fines of $100 and $150 for second and third violations. A fourth offense earns the owner a date with a judge.

I don’t dislike cats. I just don’t like them when they’re dining on bluebirds.

Poet Robert Frost’s neighbor said good fences make good neighbors. People who prevent their dogs from peeing on other people’s pansies and geraniums and who prevent their cats from camping out under their neighbors’ bird feeders also make good neighbors.

Food for thought

Wallace Finlator, responding to the recent column on soft voices, treats us to this witticism of Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.: “The sound of a kiss is not as loud as that of a cannon, but its echo lasts a great deal longer.”

Snow: 919-836-5636 or

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