Dear Family and Friends:
I hate February. Thank goodness it is a short one. It’s not because of the cold, and the days are certainly gaining momentum compared to January. But once the Super bowl is over there is nothing, really nothing... but basketball. I must be the only non-basketball loving Hoosier in the state of Indiana. Basketball makes me nervous. The score changes every ten or so seconds (you really only have to watch the final two minutes of a game anyway). Give me a good football game any day. They call it a game of inches, but it usually takes several minutes for a team to march down the field to score. And give me baseball, the ultimate game of strategy where, if you can stay awake in between pitches and spitting, you really see some great stuff. Basketball is so fast you hardly have time to eat three or four hotdogs and drink a few cups of beer and you’re out of there. It’s uncivilized.
I've found that it is impossible to escape from basketball here. I don't go to games or even watch them on TV, but I do go occasionally to the local YMCA to walk on the track. At the Y, the track surrounds two basketball courts so I am constantly watching those games as I walk.
One morning I watched what must have been a vacation camp for young kids. They were dividing up into teams with several high school age leaders. I'm a camp person so I see things through programmatic and group dynamic eyes. That morning on one of my loops around the court I saw a small boy, maybe ten years old, leave the group crying. He went and sat by the wall alone. I wondered if anyone noticed that he was gone from the group. Next loop I see one of the high school boys sitting next to him. From the little I was able to overhear I gathered that the leader was telling the boy that he was not going to make him play, but that he was going to take care of him. I loved that message. I wanted to give that high-schooler a hug. One or two loops later the ten year old is playing basketball and it is quite obvious that he has no idea how to play the game. Last loop around the track and the Hollywood ending to the story; I see the boy take a shot and, my goodness, the ball goes through the basket. I don't care much for the game, but that kid's smile, well, I‘d say it was worth a March of madness. It stays with me.
Last week I find myself looping the courts once again. This time I see a group of Asian boys playing b-ball. It was easy to notice that one of the kids was quite a bit smaller than all the others. He must have been a younger brother that tagged along. But the older boys included him in the game and even occasionally passed him the ball. That boy also was all smiles. I watched him play on each loop of my loops around the court. He didn't make any baskets but was happy nonetheless. I thought, “He’s at quite a disadvantage because he's so much younger and shorter than the others.” Later I noticed that the boy had no right hand. He played with his left hand and the stub of his right arm. I hardly noticed it. The other boys paid no mind. The kids just played.
Maybe basketball isn't so bad after all.