Still in the Game

bballI’m fourteen years old. Tall and wide for my age, I’ve determined I can play basketball with the big boys or in this case with my older brothers. They let me join their weekly game made up primarily of guys anywhere from 19-21. I am the mascot, the youngest, the kid. However, I play hard and with a chip on my shoulder. I don’t back down from contact or a shot.   Eventually, I gain acceptance and am recognized as a good player.

Basketball has always been my favorite sport to play. It started with little league – Bustleton Bengals Boys Club. I was an all-star a couple of times and one of my teams lost in the championship game. Great times, fun times, young times.  Then came the games with my older brothers that were full of camaraderie and competitiveness though they often included a yelling match between my brothers or another player out of frustration.

As the years have added up, I’ve continued to play basketball sporadically including pick-up and leagues. A scrappy player is the way to describe me – never the tallest, strongest, or most athletic; I was full of wanting to win.

When I moved out to New Jersey, some people from my congregation invited me to play basketball with them. There were a range of people aged from teens to upper forties. I held my own and in fact, was often one of the better players.

Fast forward to this year – 2013. After not playing for about a year and a half, a few guys once again showed interest in starting up a regular Sunday game.  Was I interested? Hell yes!! I could not wait to play again. However, I was nervous. I had not played basketball competitively in a year and a half though I had been working out (http://larrydbernstein.com/trying-to-make-it-a-habit/). Also, the old guys had dropped out. The players left were young enough to be my children (I would have had to be a young father but you get my point).

I wasn’t sure playing was smart. Neither was my wife, children, mother, or friends. However, I was not going to let these obstacles or sanity stop me.

Well, we’ve played two sessions so far. After the first week which was only 2 on 2, when I played on 4 hours of sleep and a funny stomach, I was completely wiped. Not quite Willis Reed limping on the court for the Knicks but impressive for a 40 something marginally athletic English teacher. I played decently. Yesterday, or session number two, was three on three. With more sleep and no stomach ailments, I was looking for and expecting improvement. It did not arrive. My play was mediocre at best, and I got frustrated.

I have come full circle. Once the youngest on the court, I am now the oldest. I watch these early twenty-somethings jump, react, and move in a way that I am not capable of at this point. I am a bit jealous and long for my glory days. Instead, I find way to compensate.

Really, it does not matter. I still love to play, the camaraderie, and competition. Now, if I could just remember how to jump, I might be on to something.

P.S. Enjoy some photos from the game courtesy of my photographer – BR.

Old man in the middle - too tired to smile

Old man in the middle – too tired to smile.

 

I am dribbling and in no rush.  Slow it down - my new motto.

I am dribbling and in no rush. Slow it down – my new motto.

I was going to get that rebound.

I was going to get that rebound.

Surveying the court - hmm who to pass to?

Surveying the court – hmm who to pass to?

Look carefully - my feet are actually off the ground - might have been able to do one of those old Toyota commercials.

Look carefully – my feet are actually off the ground – might have been able to do one of those old Toyota commercials.

Not The Beautiful Sunday I Imagined

Do you see his head?”

“I don’t see his head.”

“Now, do you see his head?”

No, you did not miss the message where I tell you we are expecting. We ain’t!

My family and I were at Bounce U. and SJ, my younger son, had struggled and ultimately made it to the top of a particularly challenging web-climber. Once he got to the top of the web-climber, he struggled over to the slide and came down. I had cringed when I saw him struggling to reach the top of the web-climber. The employee at Bounce U. had to help him and the other kids were growing impatient.

However, when SJ got to the slide, he had a big grin on his face. It was met by the smiles my wife and I had. When he reached the bottom of the slide, he jumped back up, whooped, and ran back over for another turn. As SJ ran by, I felt his head, and he was sweating from his earlier effort. I was thrilled by his determination.

BR and I were in a bouncer together. It had a basketball hoop and different size balls. Instead of shooting, BR and I ended up throwing the balls at each other. Well, we did until I finally tackled BR. We were play fighting and laughing.

My family and I were having a great time. Yet, part of me was sad.

It was a beautiful Sunday morning – sunny, light wind, and 65 degrees. If you inhaled deep enough, you could smell the smells of baseball.  The mowed grass, rawhide baseball, and the wood of a bat.

When I imagined being a father, it was always boys who perpetuated my dream. After all, I am one of 4 boys, and I have 6 nephews and only two nieces.  In fact, when I called my oldest brother to tell him my wife had a boy, he said, “Yeah, I know.”  He figured it was a foregone conclusion.

In my imagination, my son and I were always doing something athletic whether it was baseball, basketball, football, etc. We would toss the ball back and forth and bond at the same time. Maybe, I would coach his little league team or simply offer helpful tips on how to improve. I would fight the urge to be an over involved parent at his games. Either way, I would revel in his success and support him during the more challenging times.

Picture Courtesy of Google.comFather and Son playing baseball.

Picture Courtesy of Google.com
Father and Son playing baseball.

I never even considered that my children would not enjoy playing sports. Neither of my boys is especially athletic or overly interested. Yes, they will periodically, after prodding, play sports. However, they quickly tire of it. When they periodically want to play sports, I am happy to join them. If they ask for instruction, I give it. When they sit inside on a beautiful day or refuse to accept assistance, I try to shut my mouth and bite my lip. I have learned not to push. I’m not a Tiger Dad.

My boys don’t love playing sports, and I have to be okay with that. However, it makes me a little sad. Some might say my reaction is wrong, and they may be right. Yet, I had a vision, and I wish it had come true.