Boys and their Balls

Boys and their Balls

Ok – so the title isn’t totally accurate as “girls and their balls” could be just as meaningful – it just didn’t have the same alliteration or shock value to it and…wait…what the hell am I talking about?

Oh, yeah – sports and kids.

Stay with me, here.

At the end of my well used, daily parked upon driveway, sits an old, lonely basketball goal; it came with the house and sadly I seem to give it the same respect one does with any non-spectacular freebie or backyard bonus – nearly none.  So there it stands, unremarkably towering at the end of my drive as so many old goals over well-used driveways do – obtaining little attention and hovering over our vehicles in elevated abandonment.

This last weekend, my old goal’s abandonment and loneliness found a brief, accidental intermission as the Mac driveway was emptied to make room for a ferocious, family water-balloon battle.

As the dust and water vapor settled over the battlefield of crying children and the remains of many a broken balloon – there I stood, victorious, head held skyward and arms outstretched – in my very best –Jesus Christ Pose.

As I looked to the sky for my glory, I noticed that old goal, then quickly noticed a new found clearing beneath it…and joy overcame me.  There it was – an actual basketball court. The ball nearly manifested itself at the end of my outstretched hand; as my skills and true talents revealed themselves.

It took only a moment of such displayed talent and mastery, for my children to join me in dribbling off of our toes and throwing as many air-balls and bricks at the basket, as we could. Even my wife joined in and to my surprise – outshot us all. (Still a bit sore about that, honestly)

Though I’ve enjoyed many IU, Celtics and Bulls games over the years and did manage to make the 5th-grade boys’ team – I’m (apparently) not a big basketball guy and never really have been. Sure, I wanted to make the basketball team post 5th grade but that was really just for the applauding crowd, the admiration of my peers or maybe the attention of the hot “populars” that usually ate lunch at a different table than I did. I’ve never been able to latch on to the sport, wholeheartedly, because in part, Basketball is a sport where every age of boy or man (and maybe girls too – I’m not sure) get to act like arrogant twats and talk endless, unwarranted, improbable and unprovable smack to each other whilst degrading anyone who is slightly less gifted.

This is against my nature in every way and I’m a lot of things but never a twat.

But there I was, loving every minute of the game, more and more with every shot…and it stayed with me for days.

I left the driveway, clear of cars and shot the next night and a couple more the morning after and the night after that and after that. Did I secretly love basketball? Do I long to be like Mike…or shoot like Steph Curry?

Did I secretly love basketball? Do I long to be like Mike…or shoot like Curry?

No – not at all (save, flying from the free-throw line with my tongue out). So what caught me as I played with my children and noticed that vacant net? What pulled me in and brought me back?

I take a lot of time out to play Transformers with my son and watching Robots in Disguise on Netflix or the original Transformers episodes (from my childhood) that I bought him on Amazon, is always A-OK with me but it’s not quite the same. I regularly play Picnic or Princess dress-up with my daughter and I know it makes her just as happy as it does me but there’s something different, something lasting, in sports…something you never forget.

My children will remember the times that we spent, in imagination or pretend, but the times you spend playing ball of any sort – those moments seem to last a lifetime.

We play sports or continue to enjoy them on some level, our whole lives; they become part of us. We file these sacred memories of learning and playing sports (especially those we share with our loved ones) at the front of the cerebral storage room and stay subconsciously eager to pull them and press play on those beloved moments of yesterday.

Even if you don’t really enjoy sports as coordination might’ve missed you or meaningful competition that involves balls and points, may seem petty and pointless; the joys of playing these sports FOR FUN, with your family and friends, are boundless and the memories they birth – are permanent.

Just this morning, I happened a glance upward as I walked to my car and saw the morning sun break over the outline of the backboard…and in that glow, I saw my father’s face…and it held me there…motionless, in memory.  I could see my father again, trying his best to teach me how to shoot properly but never forgetting to get a good chuckle in as he occasionally, yet gently stuffs my shot back in my face. I remember him shooting 3s that he seemed to never miss or games of HORSE and PIG that he would randomly lose on purpose – just to make me smile. I remember his Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Skyhook. I can still remember seeing how proud he was when he and my mother finally saved up and paved the old gravel drive and put a shiny new, white and orange backboard up at the end of that drive.

My father and I would spend countless hours, every summer, just shooting and playing. Sometimes he’d even ignore his age by joining me and my friends when we’d play 3- on-3. My mother would sit on the back porch and watch us all play ball; warning my father to be careful…but smiling all the while.

[I’m smiling, just typing this out.]

These are some of my fondest memories and though I’m most proud of my artistic talents and the many times my mother and father engaged with me in different artistic ways, as I will my child, I can’t shake what the memory of sports past, have done to my soul.

There’s just something there.

When your father or mother, guides your wrist to move and spin a ball, just so; when the net gives way to the ball as it lands in your father’s hand or the ball smacks into his glove as he looks up and smiles, or maybe just when you walk off the field or court and Momma kisses you and says “good job”.

There’s something there – something permanent, something wonderful, just begging you to share it with your child.

Share it and I’m certain…they’ll keep it with a smile…forever.

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