April 2018

Monday, April 19, 2010

NL #4: Everything I need to know about auctions I learned from basketball

NL #4: High school basketball prepared me for auctioning. Friday night we attended our annual church auction. I’m competitive by nature, not necessarily a strength in competitive bidding. Some things I learned from playing high school basketball prepared me for auctioning (now a verb):

1) The one with the biggest number wins. Though I didn't win in basketball very often, I do "win" a lot of times in auctions.

2) If I’m not in the game, I can’t steal or score. This was an especially painful lesson as I sat on the bench for most high school games. When we played weak teams in high school, my coach would say, “We gon’ kill a gnat with a sledgehammah.” I loved the expression, but it’s not really practical. In reality, killing a gnat with a sledgehammah often means you spend a lot of energy, damage walls, but miss the gnat. On our basketball team it meant that our strongest players (not me) always played pretty much the whole game. And some gnats got away. A soft tissue is probably more practical in gnat warfare, and in basketball strategy. I finally quit.
 As in basketball, if I’m not in the bidding war, I can’t win. Even though I’m a lovah not a fightah, I love bidding wars. Sometimes, I bid just to start a war. Years ago, Ann left me at the table with the bidding card while she went to socialize. Lewis had donated two beautiful antique chairs that did not fit in our home in terms of color or size, but the chairs were about to go for a pitifully low price. Bid card up. Ann ran across the room, a kind of OJ Simpson through the airports run (before the days of the slow chase), and ripped the bidder number from me. Someone else won those chairs at about four times the original price. I felt like a good person.

3) It’s important to box out for highly coveted items: in basketball, of course, the ball. In auctioning something more like a framed autographed cartoon of WNBA Seattle Storm players Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson. In high school, this was hard for me. I was tall, somewhat willowy (some often mentioned a long stick) and a little off-balance. Once, when I was walking past a table of boys in the school library, the whole table got quiet. Finally, I overheard one say to the others: “That girl ain’t got no butt!” When walking down the street once, some fellow leaned out the car window to holler: “You don’t even make a shadow!” Yes, I was thin, skinny, which meant that I got knocked around under the boards. Since I have my cane now, I’m wider at the silent auction table, I have a weapon, and I have an excuse to write my name and number slowly.

4) Teamwork is important: Once my friend Jerry and I were bidding on a vacation that we intended to take together (with our partners, of course). We were bidding against each other until we finally realized that we were just raising the price for ourselves. I think alcohol was involved. I’m pretty sure. Maybe I would have had a more illustrious basketball career if alcohol had been involved.

5) As in basketball, the last few seconds of an auction can determine the difference between winning and losing. If I start a silent auction bidding war too early, the price just goes way up, so I am learning to enter the fray as a spoiler. I don’t bid for anything I really want until the end of the bidding period. When the auctioneer starts counting down, I take the final five seconds to sign my name. That way I "win."

6) In basketball, I had to learn when to quit. This was a hard lesson for me and not one that I have yet applied to auctioning.

I have been more successful with auctioning that I was with basketball. Evidence is all around our home: four-foot high Appalachian dolls that I call Grandma and Grandpa and that all the older ladies stop to talk to: “Hey girl. How are you?”, a large blown-glass dish that reflects the summer sun onto the den wall in pinks and purples (Ignore the inscription on the back—must have been someone’s wedding gift), photographs and memories of dinners and trips with friends, Grandma and Grandpa. The evidence of my basketball success is here, too: pictures of other people who play.

Of course, in the end it’s always all for a good cause and a good time. That’s what I say. But to be honest, it’s about winning.


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