Tag Archives: basketball

On the importance of faking it

Two of my writing pals (w.p.s) are therapists, and we recently explored the reasons we’re not-writing some of our stories. Primarily because we don’t want to upset people who are still alive. We played with ideas for pseudonyms, or name withheld, as is done for some of the “Readers Write” pieces in The SunThen w.p. 1 shared that a former client had published an article wherein my w.p.’s therapeutic advice was quoted — anonymously. At least it was accurate, she said. Sometimes, she continued, clients credit me with advice I know I wouldn’t have given.

Perhaps all of us have had that experience: someone tells a story wherein we play a role, and their version of the story puts words in our mouths or jitterbugging on our dance moves, words and jitterbugging we either have no recollection of, or that we feel very confident we would neither have spoken nor danced.

I’ve experienced this a couple of times: once with a fellow mother who says I told her daughter (5 y.o., dressed up as a princess and wasn’t she *beautiful!*) it’s inner beauty that counts (sounds like me, have no memory of saying it); another time with a colleague who tells me that at the end of a group meeting where we were expressing gratitudes, I stated that I was grateful for birth control (OK, well, maybe I would have said that, but not at that particular meeting!).

So I’ve had enough opportunities to learn that the truism about not knowing how we’re affecting other people is, in fact, true. But the week before Christmas, I forgot this. My sons were sleeping late that week, and playing video games and raiding the fridge and generally having a Fine Time Of It (well, the 17 y.o. had basketball practice most mornings, but still!), and on this particular morning, I was sweating over the details of boxing up cookies for the relatives. And I wasn’t being very calm or polite or zen-y, I was muttering under my breath and then I was squawking in what I know is an unpleasant-to-hear tone. Perhaps my decibels increased.

Hank guarding some guy

The 17 y.o. (white jersey) guarding some guy.

At which point the 17 y.o. came in from basketball practice, assessed the situation and took a shower before tackling cello practice. After cello, he and his sweetie headed out for their own Xmas fun, driving to see some spectacular lights in Bedford County. Then they went out for a nice dinner and he texted they’d be home by 11. And he was. But his girlfriend, god bless her, had driven him home because when he went to get in his car, he sort of stumbled and he was dizzy and he felt sick.

Turns out he’d taken a shoulder/knee combo to the head in basketball practice. That he didn’t remember it, only remembered sitting on the floor with people around him. That he took himself out of practice for the rest of the practice. That his coach had called him mid-afternoon to see how he was doing. He’s already had two concussions, so he had a pretty good idea that this was, likely, another one. A third one. The one that his doctor and his parents have said will mean he has to stop playing basketball.

But when I’d grumpily, perfunctorily asked, how was practice, he’d said fine. Because he’d already heard me grumping in the kitchen and who wants to deal with a grumpy mother who’s said if you get another concussion you can’t play contact sports anymore? No one wants to deal with a grumpy mama, grumpy anyone. I don’t. But I was so caught up in my own angst about the packages I foreclosed even the remote possibility that he might have mentioned something about his concussion* when he returned from practice. I have now Officially Learned My Lesson. The temporary relief that grumping provides me is not worth its cost: it closes off communication, interaction, engagement, connection. So now, even when I am grumpy I am trying to behave, if not cheerfully, at least neutrally. (Note: I do not always succeed.) And here’s the connection to writing: even when I don’t feel like writing, I am trying to behave as if I’m a writer, because if I don’t, I close off all those same opportunities: communication, interaction, engagement, connection).

15 minutes is all it takesSo I set my timer for fifteen minutes and I uncap my pen, lay out my paper (sometimes I have to light a candle and make tea because some days, when I feel really grumpy, it is HARD to begin writing) and then I hit “start” on the timer and I write. Sometimes I write all the reasons I am not a writer. Sometimes I doodle. Sometimes I draft dialogue or make a list of questions for my piece. Sometimes I bitch and moan about groceries, laundry yadda yadda yadda. And more often than not, I continue after the timer’s ding, finishing the dialogue or thinking about the answers to the questions or looking up a word or, on the really good days, writing all the way through to the end of a piece. Or revising a paragraph or two of a piece in progress. There is much to be said for fake it ’til you make it.

May it be so.

* he recovered quickly and we are consulting neurologists about the risks of continuing to play basketball. He is playing now — scoring in the double digits sometimes — and he loves it. We are wrestling with: getting out of bed and walking out the door has inherent risks and if you love an activity deeply, do you stop doing it because of the risk? Do you take up cross-country or golf only to get a concussion when you trip on the trail or an errant ball bounces into you? Or to ruin your knees, hips, shoulders? No easy answers here and curses upon our limited human experience of time and life as a single linear event without the possibility of testing different paths.

Play the game.

Blacksburg-BruinsThe floor is shiny blonde hardwood, with the high school’s mascot painted in royal blue and daffodil yellow — my son calls it gold but it’s daffodil yellow to me — the bleachers are also blue, but not quite the same hue. They’re more of a little-kid-swimming-pool blue. The basketball players’ shoes squeak loudly, not as piercing as the refs’ whistles but on the same high-pitched wavelength.

I’ve arrived late to this first home game, having left my writing group early to speed across our small community on a chilly night, my headlights sparking light from the reflective dividers on the four-lane bypass.  The lady selling tickets at the folding table nods me in. “There’s only two minutes left,” she says, counting the ones into a neat stack, orienting all the bills so that George Washington’s head faces to her left.

The gym is warm compared to the hallway; the court’s boundary line is painted only six feet from the doorway and I take the first seat I can, courtside, near a handful of fellow Bruin parents. The young men are pounding down the floor to the basket, sweat-slicked and panting. The opposing team fouls one of our guys and they both crash to the floor.

I twist my neck to sneak a peek at the score. Our team has lost every game this season save a final consolation game at a tournament. Usually the losses are by 20+ points. I’ll learn after the game that tonight’s opponent won the state championship last year, but I don’t yet know this. All I know is that they have a young man on their team who looks to be at least twelve inches taller than our tallest player. Holy cow! He’s HUGE! We must be lagging.

But the board’s chunky digits read HOME 43, VISITOR 40. Wow. We get a couple more points with the free throws; the other team lollops down the court and scores a three. I’m no sportswriter so long story short: at the final buzzer, the game is tied, 47-47. Overtime.

The tall youth from the other team gets the tipoff, passes it to a teammate. And then the teammate … dribbles. And dribbles. And dribbles.

Dribble is a good word for this team’s strategy of running down the clock. The second definition of dribble in my “very large dictionary” is “to slaver, as a child or an idiot; to drivel.” Definition #3: “To pass one’s time in a trivial fashion.”

Here we have a court full of passion, young men running themselves to their limits, learning how to be an effective team. We have coaches trying strategies, imagining plays, encouraging and demanding in turn. Parents driving kids to practice, bolstering morale, challenging their kids’ assumptions, supporting them. Everyone is putting in overtime in one sense or another.

And the other team stands there. Dribbling. Per the coach’s direction, I’m sure.

Remember, I don’t actually care about sports that much (as in: at all). But my hands started to shake, and my belly went into squirrelly knots. Play the game! You’re on the court! You’re able to run and jump and pass the ball and leap and think and yell and high five and turn on a dime and juke the other guy out: you are playing an exciting game at a level the vast majority of us NEVER did or will do. PLAY!

As the dribbling edged into its third minute, I pulled my little notebook out of my purse and commenced scribbling. From what I can read of those scrawls today, the gist is: here before us we have, essentially, everything one could wish for. Healthy kids, a great facility, an exciting, well-matched game in a safe community — no matter who wins or loses, we’ll most of us go to bed with full bellies in heated homes with hot water for showers. We have every advantage ever known to humanity.

This approach to the game, I jotted in my shaking hand, is the Root of All Evil! Coaches, mentors, adults training our youth to use the loopholes to make nooses for the other guy. Stretching the technicality into a misshapen manifestation of the spirit of the rules. Think the mortgages/securities/financial industries schemes. Take the exception and use it for all it’s worth, screw the context, screw the other guy. Play it as safe as possible. Be comfortable. Don’t risk. Don’t engage in the game.

Sort of like my “safe” writing. Don’t say that, s/he’s still alive. Don’t imagine that, it’d cost too much money. You can’t write about that, you’re too old to count.

basketball_hoop-977This particular basketball game ended with (poetic) justice. In the second overtime (my shaky hands began to sweat profusely), our team scrambled and gained control of the ball after the tipoff. We didn’t stand there dribbling. We took it down the court. We pressed. We jumped. We passed. We rebounded.

We won.