April 20, 2014 | Rome, Italy | Mist 10°C

Some Flak about Chelsea Burns

By Jacqueline Raphael
Published: 2014-03-21

"Can a preternaturally skilled athlete also be attractive and powerful?" I wrote.
S

itting sturdy on the bleacher, my reporter's notebook on my lap, blue ballpoint pen in hand, I had a bird's eye view of the gym. I could see the black-tape diamonds on the floor, the coaches with their hands jammed in their pockets, all typical for a girls' game. When I turned to scan the stands behind me, I saw a plethora of fans, most of who had never been to a boys' basketball game before. Hell, I saw students who hadn't spent much time on the Roosevelt High School campus before. I saw miles of boys — far more males than females — who spent their nights playing Nintendo. But tonight they were here, staring at the court, smirking and laughing.

I turned back around to see what everyone was looking at... but I already knew, having covered a game or two on my way to The Ram's upper echelons. Just like last season, there was really only one main attraction at the girls' basketball games: Chelsea Burns, Roosevelt High's star forward. At 6 feet 2 inches, she towered above the other players, her golden shoulder-length hair swaying, her white teeth gleaming, her skin lightly tanned. She was our Aphrodite, our powerhouse, poised at the center of the court.

But she was more than a beauty. After the toss-up, she leapt like a leopard across the floor, and in moments she was reaching for the ball, scoring point after point while smiling and rousing her teammates. When the crowd cheered, as the Rams moved closer to the state championship, she jumped up and down on the court waving her arms. She loved her team, she loved winning, and she loved her high school, which loved her back.

When in motion, Chelsea's uniform accented every contour of her long, toned torso. It was more than powerful biceps and shoulders. Hers was an exceptionally well-developed body. As Chelsea leapt into the air to make a shot, her muscles strained against the thin maroon-and-white sleeveless jersey, exposing every angle of her chiseled chest. Her surprisingly large breasts shook, pressing mightily against the silk fabric. Reaching up a head higher than her teammates, even her armpits glowed. I caught sight of her piercing jewelry gleaming against her tan belly. Her maroon shorts flew up, revealing, at one brief angle, some bright red panties. She simply couldn't be contained.

On other players the Ram uniform appeared ordinary, but on Chelsea Burns it looked like lingerie. Her body dominated the court in more ways than one.

I watched the entire game, and not just for my story. This year's winning streak was no different than last year's, when Chelsea Burns joined varsity. I stayed to watch a legend in the making. As I studied her, spellbound, not lifting my pen, the cells in my brain rearranged themselves. I inhaled and breathed in the elixir of Chelsea Burns. Her power, beauty, and talent rushed through me, and flushed, I let it all in completely. If you really watched her, she wasn't a Ram or even a girl or a woman. She was a goddess, a superpower. Watching her, I knew I could write anything in the world that I wanted to. Hell, I could be anyone in the world I wanted to be.

I could have left the game then, but I stayed. I stayed to watch her make boys and men care about girls' basketball, to make cheerleaders seem commonplace, to give teeth to Title IX. It was pathetic seeing every male in the gym feasting his eyes upon her, gawking and gulping, especially when all those good Catholics running this town would never admit it that it was Chelsea, not the team's winning streak or its strategy, they loved. But those fans in the stands didn't take a thing away from Chelsea. She had it all, and if she enjoyed it a little, striding across the court to cheers and screams, you couldn't tell. More power to her. I stayed to make sure I had this right.

•

At 4 p.m. on a Friday, it was miraculous not to see Jason Karlawish, our editor in chief, at his desk in the back of Ms. Singer's art room, the makeshift office for The Ram.

"Caught last night's girls' game," I said to Jason from my desk beside the double sink. He didn't look up from his copy. The room was overly warm due to its humungous industrial-style heating vents. It smelled strongly of rubber cement, and the walls were smudged with charcoal fingerprints.

"Toxic," I said, pointing at Ms. Singer's India-ink-stained fingernails, which she'd been chewing intensely. She quickly pulled her hand away from her mouth and stuck it into her smock pocket.

"You're exactly right, Jennifer," she said. I winced. Was "exactly right" any better than just "right?" Sadly, Ms. Singer, our newspaper "advisor" — and I use that term loosely — didn't care about language. An art teacher, she presided over the design and layout of The Ram, but I never saw her read any copy. After school, while we Ram editors fiercely debated journalistic ethics, she carved fleurs-de-lis around the edges of large bowls.

In his thick Elvis Costello eyeglasses, poring over papers on his desk, Jason saw everything. But he couldn't pick stories to awaken the slumbering masses at Roosevelt High, students dead to all but video games. Jason was out of touch; he was also thin and bird-like in that geeky way that had "teacher's pet" and "debate champion" written all over it. Jason's insistence on emulating William Buckley, combined with the rash of pimples on his tiny face, guaranteed his isolation from his readers, destroying his chances of being a journalist who would cut his teeth on any subject besides... chess matches. As a junior, Jason's coverage of last year's high school chess team represented the most effective journalism humanly possible on the topic. I had to give him that.

"I must say, Chief, this is your worst ever. I cannot believe you missed this story."

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