By JJ Greene
“Have you ever even played basketball?!”
Elena took a deep breath, letting out her frustration in a sigh. It wasn’t worth responding to this guy, that much was painfully clear, but still, she had trouble letting it go when so blatantly challenged.
“Trust me, I know a thing or two about the sport. I’m telling you, this coach would be better off switching them to a zone with the way their opponent is—”
“You’re crazy. Those girls would tear right through a zone.”
He rambled on, too rude to care that he’d interrupted her again and too oblivious to notice that Elena was rather annoyed. He was wrong, even if his sidekick next to him didn’t seem to think so. But he was one of those people who couldn’t even imagine being wrong long enough to shut up and learn something.
“Refill?” Joe walked over to them and gestured at Elena’s nearly empty beer glass. When she simply shook her head, letting her exasperation show, Joe grinned.
“This is your fault,” she muttered, as the loudmouth next to her droned on.
Joe just gave a Who-me? look and headed back to the other end of the bar. He knew. He knew exactly how painful it was for Elena to sit there with these two idiots. Half an hour. That’s how long she’d been sitting next to them, trying not to argue about the game on the flatscreen in front of them. Between him and his sidekick, she would have sworn they didn’t know an ounce of basketball. But try telling either of them that.
“You see what I’m saying? That’s how they should be playing this game.” The guy paused, and the unexpected silence caused Elena to turn and look at him. It was a struggle not to roll her eyes when she saw the expectant look on his face. He wants me to agree with him? It would have been easier, maybe even gotten her out of the unwanted conversation, but she couldn’t do it. Not when he was so wrong.
Instead, she downed the last swallow of beer and searched for another topic. She was saved from having to find one when Sidekick jumped into the lop-sided conversation again. “That’s the problem with these women coaches. They’re too conservative.”
Elena bristled and ignored the little voice in her head telling her not to respond. “Women coaches? That’s a bit ridiculous, don’t you think?” If only looks could kill, she thought as she glared at him, she could enjoy her beer and the rest of the game in silence. Instead, she let his patronizing scoff antagonize her even more. “The NCAA coach with the most wins ever, men’s or women’s ball, happens to be a woman. You can’t be suggesting that she’s not good enough.”
Loudmouth chipped back in. “He’s not talking about Pat Summit. He’s talking about the coach of this game.”
“Then he shouldn’t have generalized,” she shot back. “And besides, why are you even watching the Women’s Final Four if you don’t respect the women’s game?”
“I respect them, all right. Girls can play, too. Besides,” Sidekick ginned, and Elena felt just a bit nauseous, “They’re much prettier to look at than the brutes playing in the men’s bracket.”
She shouldn’t have asked. She should have known better. And who uses the word brutes anymore? She wasn’t sure which was worse, men not watching the women’s game at all, or men who watched but talked about the players as if they were porn stars. This time she was smart enough to hold her tongue—barely—and the two men seemed to take her silence as agreement as they proceeded to debate the merits of women’s basketball in general.
“I’m not saying they’re just pretty faces, but that’s a definite plus.” Sidekick was rapidly reducing Elena’s already low opinion of him. At least Loudmouth seemed to actually appreciate the game. Even if he didn’t really know much about it.
Why she didn’t just walk away, she wasn’t sure. No, she mentally corrected herself, that’s not true. I’m too nice to be that rude. And this pub isn’t big enough to disappear. If she hadn’t been waiting for—
“Tom, hey Tom. Check it out.” Sidekick jabbed his friend’s shoulder, pointing toward the door of the small pub. “Isn’t that Amy—?”
“Yeah, it is. Wow. I heard she moved here after retiring from the WNBA, but I’ve never seen her around here before.” Loudmouth—or Tom, apparently—didn’t take his eyes off the woman talking to the hostess, but he did nudge Elena to focus her attention on the new arrival. “See, now? There’s a girl who knows this game. She led her team to two college national titles back in the day, and then three WNBA titles.”
The men fell slack-jawed as their celebrity actually crossed the room toward them. “Holy shit, Tom, she’s coming this way!” Elena locked eyes with the woman, smiling for the first time since she’d made the mistake of sitting down next to these guys.
While Sidekick started drooling, Tom slicked back his thinning hair and tried to play it cool. “This one,” he said quietly to Elena, as if he were imparting precious wisdom, “I bet she could teach you a few things.”
Elena smiled when Amy finally reached her and leaned in to give her a warm kiss hello. After all the stupidity she’d had to listen to, the stunned looks on the two faces next to her were priceless. “She already has.”
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