As you may have heard, some doofus recently tried to hit Sarah Palin with a tomato (see here). Apparently his aim wasn’t very good, and he hit a couple of cops rather than his intended target. When I first read this story, my first reaction was to think that it would be the perfect excuse for a post with a picture of Palin in it. But this is far too serious a blog for nonsense like that, so I’ll just recount another event which the tomato thrower reminded me of.

When I was in college, I would occasionally go to home basketball games. During halftime they would pick a student’s name out of a hat and let him/her try to win some scholarship money. The student had to make a layup, a free throw, and a half-court shot in order to win the prize. If they didn’t make the layup and free throw, they could still try to make the half-court shot for a thousand bucks or so.

At one of the games I attended, they student chosen obviously hadn’t handled a basketball very often judging by the awkward way he dribbled it. Maybe he entered his name on a lark or just really needed tuition money. Whatever his reasons, he obviously didn’t have a problem risking possible humiliation in front of a few thousand people. So I have to give him credit for that at least.

As I said, he didn’t seem too adept at dribbling, attempt at a layup suffered greatly as he dribbled practically right up under the goal. This made his shot almost impossible, and he missed it pretty handily. Given that he bricked the opening shot, there wasn’t any point in trying the free throw. He should have simply gone to half-court and tried for the thousand dollars. But he made his way to the free throw line anyway and promptly missed that shot as well.

By this point, I was pretty embarrassed for the guy and wanted the whole ordeal to be over with as quickly as possible. And while I love a good underdog story as much as the next guy, I didn’t really expect him to pull any kind of miraculous shot out of thin air. So I watched and waited for him to throw the inevitable airball on his last attempt.

He apparently decided that the distance necessitated a quarterback toss. I never really liked that approach since you don’t have a whole lot of control over the ball when you let it go, but I wasn’t the guy on the court so that didn’t really matter. He leaned back and prepared to let the ball fly but pulled back at the last second. On his second try the ball successfully left his hand and began it’s arc across the court.

I said I wasn’t expecting a miracle shot, but I also wasn’t expecting him to miss as spectacularly as he did. He had obviously been worried that his shot would fall short of the goal, so he had put quite a bit behind the throw. However, he hadn’t put enough control on it, so as everyone in the stands watched, the balled sailed very wide to the left. It missed the rim, the basket and the backboard by a mile.

Now missing all three shots as badly as he did would be embarrassing enough. Unfortunately for our shooter though, his shot didn’t miss everything. The university apparently had a policy that allowed disabled spectators to watch the games from spots along the wall behind the basket. And one such spectator had been unlucky enough to pick a spot right in the path of the contestant’s Hail Mary shot.

Normally the crowd would give the students a hand as they left the court whether they had made any of their shots or not. But on this night there was dead silence as the poor guy made his way back into the stands. I suppose it was understandable. It’s pretty hard to clap for a guy that had just beaned a guy in a wheelchair.