Watch CBS News

Donkey basketball

CBS News Sunday Morning Correspondent Bill Geist traveled to rural Ohio to report on some unusual basketball games.

This February's NBA All-Star game featured celebrity millionaires and extraordinary athletes. But at the other end of the basketball spectrum — the ass end, no offense — is a group of unheralded hoopsters who play for hay.

Donkeys, or asseletes, if you prefer, play donkey basketball.

Never heard of donkey basketball? Well, it's been a popular fundraising event in small-town America since the depression.

Jack Spicer owns Buckeye Donkey Basketball, which his father started in 1934. He has about 85 donkeys at his farm in Marengo, Ohio, in a player's dormitory and a home for retired players.

"Rebate" is one of the Spicer donkey players. "Rebate was the number one scoring donkey in donkeyball history," says Spicer. "Scored more than 15,000 points. Yeah, he would score and in baseball too. He would play baseball in the summer months."

But Rebate doesn't really look like a superstar. And he doesn't seem to have a big head about his game, though donkeys do have big heads.

The number of donkey basketball companies is dwindling. The sport has no big television deal. Spicer's children don't want to take over. And there's pressure from animal rights activists who berate the sport for being cruel and humiliating.

Oh, it's cruel and humiliating, but not to the animals. It's a pain in the buttocks for the people who try to ride them.

Spicer says the donkey league has four teams. They play about 300 games a year, from Virginia to Wisconsin and down to Oklahoma and Texas.

'They only work 40 minutes a day," says Spicer. "They have more room than I had in coach class coming out here. No doubt. Food looks better too."

Spicer takes another team to Middefield, Ohio, where I participated. I slid off the standing donkey. Would Velcro slacks help?

There's nothing to hold onto. Where's the horn? Where are the stirrups? What's my donkey's name, Greased Lightening? Maybe it's Super-slick.

The tournament consisted of four teams made of a police team, a fire department team and two Amish teams.

There is a little-known fact about this little-known sport. The Amish love donkey basketball. John Weaver is captain of one Amish team.

I"'m sure the parking lot will be full of cars and buggies", he says. "They're probably waiting to see us make fools of ourselves.

The first game pitted the fire department against the police. Chaos reigned. There was some dazzling offense and defense. There were even a few fast breaks. The firefighters won and went to the next round.

Then two highly competitive Amish teams went at it with some highlights worthy of sports television.

Even though I didn't get to play, they let me be a part of the game.

The finals featured the firemen versus John Weaver's Amish team. The Amish not only love donkey basketball, they're really good at it and win handily as a rule.

The Amish say they don't win anything from the tournament, just bragging rights.

They were happy with that. And the donkeys? Well, maybe someday there will be a professional donkey basketball league and television coverage. Maybe a future Nike hoof contract will available.

But for now, these accomplished asseletes seem happy to play for hay because they really like the stuff.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.