OK, it’s Sunday … or it was when I started writing this post. I was in Ames, Iowa, for the Texas-Iowa State game, a contest that seemed like it was in the Cyclones’ hands … until the end, when it wasn’t. It was a big win for the Longhorns, and the kind of loss that I would think will sit like undigested food for the Cyclones until they attempt to take out their frustrations on Nebraska on Wednesday.
Texas snatched away a 55-52 victory, and for more on that, you can go to my ESPN.com blog here.
But for some reason, today was another one of those times when I’ve tried to remember something I’ve been trying to remember for years. Or remember more specifically, that is. Why it popped into my mind again today, I’m not entirely sure. Except that I was in Iowa (a place known for corn stalks, the significance of which I’m about to get to) and it was Sunday (and what I’m trying to remember comes from the Sunday funny pages.)
That’s what we used to call them, and maybe people still do. The Sunday comics, that is. I would read every comic strip in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch Sunday section as a kid, even the ones I thought were depressing to look at and didn’t necessarily fit my idea of the “funny” pages. (Think “Prince Valiant,” which I assume comic aficionados would say was fabulously illustrated … and I’m sure it was. But I’m telling you, to me it was depressing. Still, I read it _ the Sunday paper was too important in those days to not devour _ but only after all the stuff I liked, such as “Peanuts.” However, “Prince Valiant,” ultimately, was unavoidable. Because it took up a lot of space.)
Anyway, sometime in the past few years, I had a flashback memory of a cartoon strip I’d read in the 1970s that featured a girls’ (or maybe women’s) basketball player in a story line. There were a few things about it that had stuck in my cranium: I was pretty sure the character’s name was Stalky (she was tall as a corn stalk, get it?), she was blonde, she was a very good player … and in one game, in front of a big crowd, somebody threw a bottle out on the court, which hit her in the head and put her into a coma.
After more thought, I was pretty sure the comic strip was “Steve Canyon,” created by the famed Milton Caniff. But I couldn’t remember anything much more specific about it. However, I did recall being fascinated to see drawings of a girls’ basketball game (with lots of spectators, no less), because at the time I’d never seen such a game.
The high school in our area didn’t start girls’ basketball until about 1975. And I didn’t actually get the chance to go see a game there until I was in junior high later in the 1970s. I knew there was women’s basketball at the Summer Olympics in 1976. But back then, I had neither heard nor seen anything about Immaculata, or any of the other early women’s college hoops powers.
However, I was a sports wacko in general, and anything that had to do with girls or women in sports – even fictional _ was sure to catch my attention. Both because it instinctively mattered to me and because it was rare. It’s hard to accurately convey to anybody around 30 or younger how LITTLE information/media coverage about girls or women in sports there was in the 1970s (or before then, of course). But if you’re 40 or older, you know exactly what I’m talking about. (The 30-somethings fall in between.)
So anyway when I read this comic-strip plot decades ago – and again, I can’t pinpoint exactly when it was, but I’d guess somewhere between 1972-76 _ it obviously made an impact. Let’s put it this way: It’s the only plot line I can remember in the slightest from any of the strips I didn’t like but still looked at, including “Prince Valiant,” “Steve Canyon,” “Steve Roper and Mike Nomad,” etc.
The other thing I remember was being skeptical that Stalky’s injury was that bad. My mom was a nurse, and I think we had a conversation that went something like this.
I asked her if getting hit in the head with an empty bottle could really put you into a coma.
“Sure! It could kill you!” she said, then immediately leaped, as mothers tend to do, to a panicky conclusion. “Why? Did you hit someone in the head with a bottle?”
“You didn’t hit your sister in the head with a bottle, did you?”
“Then who do you know who got hit in the head with a bottle?”
Nobody, I quickly explained, it’s just something I read in the comics. But even after my mother’s confirmation of the possibility of Stalky’s predicament, I still thought the injury was way over-dramatized, and it annoyed me.
I wasn’t exactly medical-school material, but I still had my opinion. It just seemed to me that this was an averaged-sized, empty bottle that came flying out of the crowd and was tossed from quite a distance. I figured that could leave you with a big knot on your head and maybe knock you unconscious … but not put you into a full-fledged coma.
Later , I think Stalky came out of her coma. But she had amnesia, couldn’t walk and had to re-learn how to do everything. And I was mad that her basketball career was portrayed as being finished.
So … over the years at various times I searched the Internet to see if I could find any references to this plot line. The best thing I have located to make me think I am not crazy or making this all up in my head is one Internet site that showed several of “Steve Canyon’s” friends and enemies … and among them was a female character named Stalky Schweisenberger.
But is it the same Stalky I remember? The basketball player? Was this all really in “Steve Canyon?’ I keep thinking it has to be, but …
Does any of this ring any bells with anyone else?