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  Sep. 26, 2001



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Farmer Pete: From ring to the court
By MATT ROSS -- Lloydminster Meridian Booster

  Proving size is not a requirement to play basketball, the Canadian Half-Pints recently brought their game and their social message to Lloydminster.

 
Farmer stands on a chair to get face to face with referee Dwayne Ellis as teammate Greg Glover looks on during a charity basketball game in Edmonton in September 2001. -- Christine Vanzella, Edmonton Sun files
Now into their 19th year, the Half-Pints combine their basketball skills and skits for general audiences with visits to elementary schools towards passing on the message of "Don't Tease!"

  Of anyone who has endured discrimination, the members of this touring group were easy targets when they were children.

  The average height of this team is four-foot-three as all of the players have some degree of dwarfism.

  While teammates are able to poke fun at themselves about their vertically-challenged personas, their message is serious.

  Farmer Pete, who's been with the team for 11 years, acts as the un-official captain. He became involved with this squad through a professional wrestling connection. While his rasslin' is purely for entertainment, he joined because of the Pints' philosophy.

  "Just because you're different does not give you the right to be teased."

  The Half-Pints are managed by Phil Watson, a former pro wrestler himself, and son of the legendary Whipper Billy Watson.

  Prior to their shows at Lakeland College, the team spent a day at Barr Colony Elementary. The school's principal, Doug Keil, can easily justify how this basketball team fits into the school's curriculum. Because the Pints are a visible minority, their words, he believes, are quite powerful.

  "When we're educating young children, it's also how they treat each other and how they relate with others," Keil said.

  While there are few tangible ways towards measuring the results of the Pints and how their message is received, Pete relayed a tale from years past of two boys who recognized what they were doing to a girl who wore thick glasses and apologized for their taunts.

  Lessons conducted, the Pints performed to two full gymnasium audiences at Lakeland totalling 800 spectators. The opposition comprised of members from The Gate Youth Centre, a drop-in program for teenagers, that was the recipient of a $1,000 cheque presentation by the Half-Pints.

  Nobody is going to mistake this quintet of cagers for a team in the NBA, but they do have game. Four-foot-eight Chris Rutte wasn't shy about launching three-point shots while four-foot-two Bourn Odmark could glide through the key kissing the ball off glass.

  Even Pete had his underhanded set shot working, canning four in a row during the second half.

  "We've changed the paradigm of basketball. You don't have to be six feet to play ball and whatever you put your mind to, you can do it," Pete professed.

  While the team boasts an undefeated streak extending more than ten years and thousands of exhibitions, including this "victory" against the Gate Youth, the Half-Pints are assisted by someone who has a hoops history.

  Randomly chosen from the audience at one of their shows three years ago, Floyd Saunders, at six-foot-four, quickly jumped at the chance to become a Half-Pint, although he exceeds the team's supposed height restriction.

  Having been teased himself during childhood in his native Bahamas, Saunders hopes by his presence, wants to emphasize the idea of unity and brotherhood.

  "I'm here to teach acceptance through this team," Saunders said, who also plays with the Washington Generals, the lovable losers to the Harlem Globetrotters. "If the world can see me working with these guys, then everybody can work together."

 EDITOR'S NOTE For more on the Half-Pints, see their web site.


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