McCollum's Column: Basketball takes a back seat to the fun and the message

Drum roll. The Toad Suck Lions took a 12-11 lead in the first quarter Saturday night over the Harlem Ambassadors touring team.


Led by former UCA players George and Joe Sitkowski, Greg Vaughn, former Hendrix players Josh Graham, Jesse Ford, Nick Heathscott and former Conway and Ouachita Baptist star Austin Mitchell, the local celebrity team trailed only 15-14 at the end of an eight-minute quarter.

Then, the pace picked up, and the clowning and showcasing began and the Lions lost, 87-62, in the fundraiser at the Hendrix Wellness and Athletic Center.

But this wasn’t about the score or the game, where we witnessed pretty good basketball skills on both sides.

It was about helping people — in this case the blind and visually impaired of Faulkner County through the charity exhibition put on by the Conway Noon Lions Club — whose members were everywhere and seemed to have every detail covered.

It was about some former basketball stars from county teams and colleges getting another chance to feel young again (and learn why they don’t) and some other personalities getting a chance to have fun and kid around.

And it was about the large number of youngsters, who got to laugh, dance, sit on the bench and rub shoulders and kneecaps with former college players who hoped to inspire them.

During a break in the action, one young girl, rather shy, won a pass-and-catch contest among several youngsters with the rules and procedures pretty much slanted and her favor.

The prize was an Ambassadors pennant. She was asked to do a “cool” walk from one foul line to another to claim it from a referee.

Nope. She preferred mother’s arms.

Her mother eventually cooly carried her to claim the prize.

Back down on the floor, as other Ambassadors players went to congratulate her, she ran.

Someday, the girl may have a different perspective on young men chasing her.

But not this night.

The setting was basketball, but we saw a touch of football, a lot of dunks and a some comedy stunts. Yep. Somebody got his pants pulled down while shooting a free throw — a time-tested laugh (especially when the victim is wearing Sponge Bob underwear).

Toadmaster Brian Ratliff played the entire game in his Toad Master outfit.

There was a lot of dancing — by a large group of youngsters invited out of the grandstand at halftime and by Lions coaches Cliff Garrison, Don Dyer and the referees.

There was a rule that an air ball had to be followed by five push-ups from the shooter, sometimes with an Ambassador on his back.

Once, when an Ambassador player shot an air ball, a young girl along the sideline did a push-up.

Two major stipulations to become a player on the Ambassadors’ all-star unit are to be drug-free and have a college degree.

That was emphasized in a short presentation to the young people.

At the conclusion, the youngsters lined tables for autographs.

The young girl who won the pennant?

A short time later, she was eating popcorn and watching more of the antics.

No earth-shattering achievements from this game.

Just a lot of folks having fun — clean fun.

(Sports columnist David McCollum can be reached at 501-505-1235 or or follow him on twitter @dmaclcd)



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