Our family caught "Jimmermania" in more ways than one.
For us, the new noun not only refers to adoration toward BYU's talented point guard, but love of the game in general — a madness that pervades long before March.
If you don't already know, Montana is a breeding ground for intense girls basketball teams. When we first moved north 12 years ago, we were baffled when local sports news segments led with girls basketball highlights.
That's right. I said led.
We couldn't believe lore of school buses full of traveling basketball players being rolled over by defiant opponents from feisty mining towns — no matter who won the battle in the gym.
Then, we watched the inspiring and gritty Montana PBS documentary "Class C: The Only Game in Town," which follows five small-town girl teams through a rough and tumble season. It educated us on the varied reasons why girls basketball gives lifeblood to small, depressed towns and reservations on Montana's prairies and essential hope to players trying to aspire higher.
Now, we're living it.
Our 13-year-old twins, who grew too long for a gymnast's balance beam, started dribbling — much to my husband's delight. They discovered inner aggression and competitive fierceness as well as the ability to read strategy on a court that leaves me dumbfounded.
My husband volunteered to coach their seventh-grade club team and forged not only strong father/daughter bonds, but a fundamentally sound group of winners who are scrappy and tough against girls sometimes twice their size.
For them, a perfect day is to return bruised and battered from their own game and then watch a recorded BYU matchup where they can learn from the likes of Jackson Emery and Jimmer Fredette.
I'm supportive of Cougar mania, since that's how I was raised.
My dad, a dedicated BYU fan and king of sports trivia, took my brother and me to Provo twice a week to watch Danny Ainge, Devin Durrant and Michael Smith on snowy winter nights. I learned to love the sport, adore the Marriott Center and hate those Jones' Paint and Glass commercials that ran far too frequently during postgame coach's shows.
It was worth our eight-hour drive from Montana last season to watch a double-header of BYU women's basketball in the afternoon and men's basketball in the evening. We enjoyed cheese fries at our favorite Provo hamburger joint in between games — a quality family memory indeed.
We'll make the journey again this season to witness Jimmer and Jackson in their last battle on their home court. I'm eager to watch the game, but even more excited to see my dad flanked on either side by twin granddaughters with similar passions and insight.
The other day, my 9-year-old son (whom my husband wanted to name "Trey" in hopes he could hear an ESPN announcer call "Trey Duce with a trey and a deuce," and well, you get the picture) …
Anyway, my son (with a normal name) rushed into the house after discovering mountain lion tracks in fresh snow across our yard. Our neighbor called to confirm that he'd seen the cougar chasing deer in the adjoining field.
My son and I actually joked, "Well, I guess those deer got jimmered by a cougar."
It was funny in the moment and later surprised me how easily we've added a new word to our personal urban dictionary since basketball season began.
Without a doubt, Jimmer Fredette has made a lasting impression on the basketball world as well as two look-alike 13-year-olds trying to master outside shots and impenetrable drives with the same finesse, strength and justified swagger.
We're cheering for the sport as well as the entertainment and education provided by talented collegiate athletes who will never know all who are inspired by their play.
Stacie Lloyd Duce is a freelance columnist and magazine editor featured regularly in several Montana newspapers and magazines.
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