Sports Gravy

"With the sole exception of a rusty barbed-wire fence, no playing surface may be more frustrating than a dusty gym floor. Lint build-up takes away traction faster than bald tires on black ice, making the court more suitable for a gliding hockey player than the controlled cuts of a basketball game. But any player will tell you, playing on a clean gym floor - so clean you can see your reflection - is priceless. The squeak of court shoes on hardwood is perhaps the signature sound of basketball. Cheers of an over-hyped crowd and the shrill squeal of a referee's whistle are associated with any multitude of sports. But if basketball history was accompanied by a unique anthem, it would sound a lot like shoe rubber gripping lacquered wood. Throughout the game's history, from Chuck Taylor to Kobe Bryant, drives through the lane and lightning-quick crossovers have been serenaded by the sounds of the star's signature shoes. It's the sound of defensive footwork drills and running 10 sets of lines at the end of practice. An anonymous rec-league player tripping over his shoelaces for a traveling violation at the YMCA makes the same sound as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar pivoting in the paint for a hook shot at the Forum.While skating rinks have Zamboni drivers and baseball diamonds have grounds keepers, the Federal Way High School gymnasium has senior Casey Wishoff, expert dust mopper. Wishoff wields a dust broom with the style and grace most reserve for ballroom dancing. He doesn't have a nickname, but he volunteered that Mr. Clean seemed the most appropriate. It's just like mowing the lawn, Wishoff said about his refined sweeping technique. There's not much to it. Like mowing the lawn, but without the green-stained tennis shoes at the end of a job. Or the lawn spiders.It's quiet work and Wishoff is a quiet man. He doesn't wear a letterman's jacket, but he stands at attention at all home games, broom at the ready. During timeouts Wishoff edges around the 3-point line, working inward at a brisk pace. His work quickly turns into arching concentric half-moons of cleanliness. At halftime he does the whole floor.Then he quietly edges off the court, emptying his collection of stray hairs and dust bunnies underneath the bleachers.The teams break from their timeout huddles and the fans return their attention to the court. Federal Way senior guard January Chay spits on the floor and scuffs the soles of her shoes through it. First the left, then the right. As each sole digs in with traction, it makes the signature squeak. In a dark corner of the gym, Wishoff smiles. "

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