I often find myself reminiscing over the past more and more. I suppose as one gets older some of those old memories will always dredge up from time to time. It is amazing how much clarity one can get from a memory though. A few days ago, I watched an episode of The Goldbergs and it told a story of how Adam Goldberg tried to play hockey, mainly to find some bonding material with his father. In the episode there is a part where he glides down the ice moving the puck like a pro just to stick in his own teams goal. What is eerie is watching this episode was like reliving a moment of my past. To make matters more odd the script for that episode was written by a guy named Chris Bishop in the credits. Okay, man that made it even more eerie. So I decided perhaps I should write down what happened to me and then compare the two stories for fun (no I do not think I am secretly writing scripts).
Well, here goes. Let me set the record straight. I played for 2 years in elementary school at basketball. This is after I failed miserably at baseball (due to my lack of practicing) , though I did manage to make someones dad go home with a busted mouth due to a foul ball, that was about the only time I did anything other then kick dirt up in right field and just about wet my pants when Dick Miller our coach showed me how a baseball could not make it through a catchers mask by tossing the ball repeatedly at the masks grill while I was wearing the mask.
My father would try when he had the time to play basketball with me in our backyard. The utility company had come through and bush hogged down the thicket we had in the backyard and my father had put up a basketball goal for me. He worked at a minimum of 6 days a week, sometimes 12 hour days sometimes 8. So to say he was tired was an understatement, yet when we spent time together I do not ever recall him showing any signs of fatigue. He told me to keep practicing and I could possibly try out for the basketball team in the fall. So practice I did. The problem was the goal was built on the dirt and mud (and clay this is brown county were talking about here) Not gravel which could sometimes if it was not packed right sending a basketball flying a random direction, or concrete, good old uneven, mole hole, craw dad hole, bumpy Brown County, Indiana mud.
After the ball bouncing back and hitting me in the balls the face and the stomach several times due to the random nature of the ground. I quickly resolved myself to not attempting to dribble and just shooting. After all, if I rubbed my socks, then rubbed my shorts on the hip area then bounced the ball 3 times, I was going to hit anything from the free throw line (5 imaginary bucks if you can tell me where I got that idea from, no father you cannot play) so I spent most of my summer playing horse and trying to hit 3 pointers like Larry Bird. When I complained to my father, his response was “Well why don't you practice dribbling in the garage on the concrete.” Looking back on it of course, that was a completely reasonable idea. But as with most kids, it wasn't what I had in mind because I couldn't shoot and dribble, so I just belly ached more and practiced less.
By the time basketball season came around, I think just about every kid who could joined up. Indiana University had this player, that had lit all of our imaginations on fire, so many kids wanted to play to be more like him. Michael Jordan was flying through the air and Larry Bird was hitting 3 pointers from anywhere. I was gonna be legendary just like them. And maybe just maybe, that girl with the blue eyes would notice me finally! I of course had not figured out girls at all really, but I knew that when I talked with this unnamed girl in class I got butterflies in my stomach. I was not sure what that meant but I knew that something told me it was a good thing. So it was time to get out there and win games for Sprunica Elementary!
So ya, I was, how should I put this, pretty much not designed for doing anything other then playing the role of road block. I was not fast, I was not very dexterous (I still could not dribble the ball worth a crap) The only thing that I had going for me was all the chores had made me a little bit bulkier then some of the other kids and that was not by very much either. Needless to say I spent more time on the bench then I did playing but the coach to his credit did try to work us all in. So lets fast forward a bit. Our school had done well enough to play in the first round of elementary school play offs and we were facing a school by the name of Zionsville. My dad actually had gotten the day off and rode up with us and with him in the crowd I was going to be unstoppable. I kept begging the coach to let me in let me in, my dad was here I was gonna do awesome. It went to the half and had spent exactly 1 minute 45 seconds in the game towards the end of the first half. The coach told me that I would get to start on the second half. I was ecstatic! We were playing at Zionsville, and I had decided there was no way I not gonna make a basket.
As fate would have it, my eagerness and frankly lack of experience, I had forgotten we switched sides at the half, and what was our opponents goal was now ours. So when the ball was tipped I just about knocked a kid out to get a hold of it. Then it began, my ascent to glory. I had the ball, Ben Nickels was looking at me to pass it to him, but no way was I gonna do that. Nope, I never got the ball, (because I sucked) I was going all the way. I dribbled rather terribly, ( I was so bad I rarely got the ball even in practice) down the court. The goal was WIDE OPEN. No one was blocking me, probably because of how awesome I was looking dribbling down the court. Why was Ben and Heath shaking their heads no at me, ah hell they were just jealous, this was my moment. Down I went bang, bang the ball bouncing off the floor, I could take a shot from here, no wait I will do a lay up, just so I look extra cool making it look so easy.
Up the ball traveled like a comet traveling through the air, my path to glory and triumph flying through the sky. I hear the sound of the ball smacking against the back board and ever so gently touching the rim before gliding like silk through the hoop. Elated I turned around, why were my teammates looking at me like a dumb ass.....why was my dad grimacing and shaking his head gently, I mean his son had just popped one in like a boss. Then as the ref was waving his hands to express no point, I knew what I had done.
Now to be fair, no one really spoke about it, It was not agonizing minutes of self disgust and jeering from the crowd. A few snickers, and that was that. My dad did not tease me when I got in the bus after the game, but I think he knew it had really bothered me, so he was quiet on the matter. After that I pretty much came to the conclusion that basketball was not for me. My dreams of being carried on the shoulders of my team, the blue eyed girl seeing how awesome I was went down with the swish of a shot going in the wrong teams goal. Looking back on it, It is funny to me, and I definitely see where things could have gone much worse for me.
If parents wish to use this tale as a “see how not practicing and giving 100% can make a negative impact, please go ahead. Truth be told, even as I kid it did not take long for my father's words to echo back at me. If I wanted it so badly, I should have tried. Every dream still require action to make it happen. When I took my son out the throw the ball back and forth, I saw his irritation at not being instantly great at wearing a mitt and tossing a baseball, and it gave me a serious case of Deja Vu. Much like my father, I tried to be patient, and tell him hey no one is great right off the bat, you have to work for it. I let him know while I would never force him to play a sport, or engage in something he had no desire to do as a extra curricular activity, if he started something he WOULD see it through to the end of the season. Through soccer, Lego Club, and some other more intellectual activities we have stuck to that.
Much like my father, I also enforce the idea that as long as you try and give it your all, that is all I require to be proud as hell of you. I don't need the winning shot to reaffirm my own manhood, I don't need him to be #1, I just need him to take pride in his attempt and give it as much effort as he can muster and whatever the results I will be proud of him. I think perhaps if I had realized my dad was doing that with me the whole time, which he was, I would have possibly given a bit more effort. There is no telling of course now. But it did give me an important lesson I have carried with me my entire life. Anything worth doing is worth doing well, because at the end of the day, your work effort, your sweat is what is going to be representative of who you are to everyone who views your completed task. So rub your kids head, let he or she know that something they did that day no matter how simple made you proud. You would be surprised how that will echo through their lives and carry them forward. It did for me. It also gave me a funny life story to relate that can be a lesson for others growing up.