CARMICHAELS, PA— Sources confirmed yesterday that that kid in the Carmichaels YMCA youth basketball league, the one who plays for the team in yellow jerseys sponsored by Grimaldi Dental Associates, played another game Tuesday wearing blue jeans.
Reports indicate that this was the 8th consecutive game that 11-year-old Jeremy Burkholder, renowned throughout the league for his unorthodox and presumably uncomfortable basketball attire, has played wearing his No. 9 jersey, a pair of old Spalding basketball sneakers which many speculate were once his older brother's, and the same, worn pair of light-wash Levi Strauss blue jeans.
Sources confirmed that Burkholder's teammates, and those players on the opposing team, all wore traditional basketball shorts.
"The first time Jeremy showed up in jeans, I naturally assumed he was wearing shorts underneath," Burkholder's 10-year-old teammate Colby Oswald said, adding that Burkholder also wears the same jeans to the team's once-a-week practices. "But he didn't take them off for warm-ups or before he got in the game. And he didn't just forget his shorts, either, because at halftime his mom didn't give him shorts to change into."
"We all thought it was against the rules," added Oswald, who later said that though he isn't exactly sure why, he would feel extremely uncomfortable asking Burkholder about his jeans. "I asked my parents after a game once if it was because he's poor and they just shushed me and started looking around."
The overwhelming consensus amongst the league's players is that by even showing up to games wearing jeans, Burkholder is being "weird," "stupid," and "gay." Because players are traditionally dropped off in front of the YMCA, and the walk from the car to the gym is approximately 15 feet, most arrive at the court wearing just their winter coats and basketball shorts. If pants are ever worn, players strongly maintained, they are an athletic garment known as "tear-aways," which are never worn during games, can be removed via buttons running down the length of the pants, and are not made of denim.
Though it is not known for sure whether or not Burkholder prefers jeans, or if Burkholder simply doesn't own shorts, his teammates intimated that it's the latter.
"He smells strange," said teammate Eric Tremba, 12, who admitted he was basing his statement primarily on the fact that Burkholder wears jeans to play basketball. "He's kind of retarded, too. In school he's always really quiet, and during recess he usually just kind of walks around the playground by himself."
Aside from a possibly deprived financial situation or a severe mental handicap,speculation surrounding Burkholder and his lack of shorts continues to increase among the league's players. Some believe that Burkholder has "Russian" or similarly culturally incongrous parents who aren't aware of what basketball shorts are, while others claim that Burkholder's calves and shins were severely burned in a car accident.
Most agree, however, that his odd attire is somehow related to the fact that Burkholder is not a very skilled basketball player.
"I don't think he knows what traveling is," teammate Dale Ross said. "When he gets in the games, he always just kind of stands under the hoop the entire time. So when he shoots the ball it either goes straight up and down, or it bangs the underneath part of the rim."
"Most players who are good wear basketball shorts," Ross added. "Except for Greg [Davis]. He always has the newest [Air] Jordans and wears Nike wrist bands, but he sucks."
Those who know him emphasize that Burkholder's abnormal clothing isn't the 11 year old's only peculiarity. According to his teammates, Burkholder is dropped off at the YMCA games by a bearded man, who many believe is either his father or older brother, driving a rusty pickup truck. The barely glimpsed man does not attend the games, and the truck, which always contains various planks of wood covered by a blue tarp, is not seen again until the game's conclusion. In addition, when Burkholder is late for practices or games, the team's coach never bothers to ask why.
Furthermore, despite an absent brother or father, and despite his limited playing time, Burkholder's cheering section is always the biggest of any player on the team, consisting of various vaguely identical people of both genders ranging in ages from 0 to 90.
"I think his aunts, uncles, and cousins come to the games," said Jason Cuneo, 11, adding that Burkholder may have "like 10 or 15" brothers and sisters. "They are loud, and sometimes the younger ones yell for the coach to put Jeremy in."
Added Cuneo: "Can't they see he's the only one not wearing shorts?"
Though his teammates don't agree with Burkholder's choice of basketball uniform, all have unanimously said that they would rather be on Burkholder's team than the one with the kid who wears Rec Specs, or the one with the weird Jewish kid who plays the entire game wearing "that stupid beanie on his head."