Sports column: The football, the shoe and the basketball

Published 4:00 am Sunday, December 24, 2023

“The football came first,” St. Aloysius athletic director Bubba Nettles said with a sigh that was a mixture of bemusement and astonishment. “Then the shoe. I don’t know how the basketball got up there.”

And thus began the tale of how a football, a basketball and a shoe came to be stranded 30 feet above the floor in St. Al’s gym, perfectly perched atop an air vent and providing an intriguing mystery while a varsity basketball game zipped along below them.

The three items started their day as they normally do. The football and basketball were in a closet, the shoe on a middle schooler’s foot. They stayed that way until gym class, when the football was pulled out.

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“Some seventh-grader threw it up there,” Nettles said.

It wasn’t clear whether it was an accident or an attempt to throw it over or onto the air vent. If it was the latter, the student did an excellent job. The smaller rectangular vent that extends outward from a larger circular one provided a ledge that allowed the football to settle.

In a desperate attempt to dislodge the football, the student took off their shoe and seemingly made another perfect throw. The Nike tennis shoe, with its laces still tied in a neat bow, landed with its sole flat on the same ledge as the football.

Now there was not only a football and a shoe stranded on a ledge, there was a seventh-grader with one shoe wandering the halls of St. Aloysius.

“Thankfully, there was a girl in the class who had an extra pair of shoes in her locker,” Nettles said with a chuckle. “That’s parenthood. You send your kid to school with a pair of shoes and they come home with a different pair.”

The basketball was still a mystery. It was likely another desperate attempt to bring the football and shoe home, but it joined them in a sporting goods party atop the air vent. Unlike its friends, who were just sitting on the ledge, it was clearly wedged between the two vents and a support cable.

“Just a day in the life at St. Aloysius,” Nettles laughed.

Nettles added that the items might become semi-permanent fixtures. They’re too high to reach with a ladder.

“We’re going to have to bring a lift in here, and after I had to get on one of those to put those senior banners up I’m not in a hurry to do it again,” he said.

So they’ll remain, a few new school mascots and a strange monument to a gym class gone awry, while somewhere a middle school student hops along with one shoe and hopes for a new pair for Christmas.

Ernest Bowker is the sports editor of The Vicksburg Post. He can be reached at

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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