April 27, 2009

CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR, LADY:

Donkey Ball Stubbornly Holds On Despite Criticism (KATIE THOMAS, 4/18/09, NY Times)

GOFFSTOWN, N.H. — With her fearsome nickname, unpredictable style of play and two pairs of custom-fit, rubber-soled shoes, the athlete known as Timebomb thundered onto the court at Mountain View Middle School.

But even as the crowd whooped and the loudspeakers shook to the strains of “Who Let the Dogs Out?” before a recent game, other details made it clear that Timebomb — along with her teammates Reckless, Ginger and April Surprise — was no ordinary athlete. She plays for carrots. She has hairy ears. She is not potty-trained.

Timebomb is a donkey, and she and the others arrived at this gym to play a quirky twist on basketball in which humans ride donkeys. Called donkey ball, the pastime has been around since at least the 1930s, kept alive by fewer than a dozen family businesses that truck the donkeys to school gyms across the country in exchange for a cut of ticket revenue.

Company owners say that their donkeys are beloved, spoiled pets, and that their work helps local charities that host the events to raise money. But the practice has drawn criticism from animal-welfare groups that say the donkeys are mistreated, leading some schools to cancel the events. That, along with a handful of lawsuits, has left some operators to wonder how long this peculiar slice of Americana will survive.

“I would ask people to actually go see a donkey basketball game before they jump on the bandwagon of trying to put it down,” said Brenda Amburgey, who owns Circle A Donkey Ball in Henry, Tenn.


Once you go jack, you never turn back.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 27, 2009 6:39 AM
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