Jacksonville Police Chief Reece Daniel conceded that the local fire department won a coveted basketball game because of better training.
“They have Oprah to watch, meals to make and a basketball goal they can practice on,” he joked. “Plus, getting out of those recliners is a pretty tough deal, so I don’t blame them — they deserved to win.”
Police officers squared off against firefighters Saturday night in a game of donkey basketball on the Jacksonville College campus.
The evening held three matches: First responders played first, then Jacksonville College faculty took on the students, and the winner of each game battled a final round — all on the backs of ornery donkeys. Ticket sales benefitted scholarships for local students to attend the college.
The game started with a token of good will when the firefighters presented a box of donuts to the police officers.
“They were trying to bait us, but when they won, I told them to ‘feed their winning team a lot of those so they would lose the next round,’” Daniel said.
The police had an advantage on the scoreboard for selling the most advance tickets to the event.
Fire Chief Paul White said the officers earned one point on their own, while the firefighters put five points on the board.
Cheerleaders dressed in funky clown costumes kept the crowd energized as the battle blazed on.
The game was difficult. Participants had to pass and shoot the ball from the donkeys’ backs, but they could walk, drag or sweet-talk the animals without the ball.
“Those donkeys are well-trained, and they made it as tough on the players as they could,” Daniel said. “They had donkeys that would buck, some that would kick and some that would lie down. The whole point is not to allow it to become a real basketball game, and the donkeys were real good at that.”
The students beat the faculty, and the two winning teams — firefighters and students — squared off for one more round.
White said he ragged on the police, but the students played the dirtiest.
“The students — they cheated like the crazy — but it didn’t matter, we still won,” White said.
The chiefs were happy to participate if it helped someone pay for an education.
Kaley Dean, Jacksonville College dean of students, said, after expenses, $1,500 was raised, and the college was determining how much to match and how many would benefit.
“The main reason we wanted to do this was to get involved with the community,” she said. “Even in Jacksonville, a lot or people don’t know Jacksonville College exists, and we’ve been here since 1899.”
Mrs. Dean said the college anticipates a rematch next year.