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Pitch and Play
Alexander Wolff
March 13, 2006
SI senior writer Alexander Wolff has founded an ABA team, the Vermont Frost Heaves (Dec. 19, 2005), which begins play in November. Last weekend he made a play for funding--as well as a little playing time.
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March 13, 2006

Pitch And Play

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SI senior writer Alexander Wolff has founded an ABA team, the Vermont Frost Heaves (Dec. 19, 2005), which begins play in November. Last weekend he made a play for funding--as well as a little playing time.

IF SKIING and basketball share anything besides a season, it's their status in my life as mutually exclusive pursuits, for I've always been too engrossed in hoops to learn the ropes of the slopes. Yet last Friday, at Vermont's Bolton Valley Resort, two local venture capital firms hosted an event called Peak Pitch, in which entrepreneurs shared a chairlift with prospective investors in green ski bibs and spent the ride up the hill trying to wheedle money out of them. News from Turin that Bode Miller had sprained an ankle playing hoops seemed to augur nothing good for another convergence of the two sports, but the Frost Heaves have too much at stake for their boss (me) to let a mogul come between him and, well, a mogul. Chaperoned by my ski instructor, Tim, I survived five runs, even if no investors asked me for wiring instructions.

Two days later I took advantage of the ABA rule that allows the home team to suit up anyone it chooses. For their home finale against the Harlem Strong Dogs, the Maryland Nighthawks decided to dress both Gheorghe Muresan, the 7'7" former Washington Bullet, and 6-foot me. I quickly realized that the end of a pro bench features a subculture of its own. At one point Gheorghe was speaking Romanian to some guy in a brown leather jacket who had taken the seat next to him.

After being snapped out of my Billy Crystal movie reverie, I played the final two minutes of the Nighthawks' 126-120 victory. That the 15-footer I sank came a full beat after the horn didn't trouble my teammates, who dealt me heartfelt digits, or the dozen kids who asked for my autograph. The ABA is a jubilee of feel-good fund-raising, wacky promotions and kids. At halftime one boy approached Randy ( White Chocolate) Gill on our bench to ask for a handshake. The league's three-point champion begged off because, in loosey-goosey ABA fashion, he had tucked into some nachos and didn't want to soil the fan's hand. "No problem," the boy replied, still wide-eyed. "It would be your cheese."

My business plan begins: "Most sports fans can catalog their gripes about pro basketball--remote players, soulless arenas, overpriced tickets. With a stroke the Vermont Frost Heaves will redress all three...." I found myself wishing those green-bibbed skiers from Friday morning had been able to see what I saw on Sunday night.

> For more on the team, check out SI.com/frostheaves and www.vermontfrostheaves.com.

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