Monday, October 16, 2017


I never assume this of myself.  I suspect.  I suppose.  I consider the possibility.  But I never assume this.

Case in point, Sunday at the TPASC.  Shooting basketballs, dribbling, minding my own business.  Little kid walks up to me.  8-11 years old.

"Hey, do you want to play with us?  We don't have a ball."

"Why can't you just get a ball from the desk?"

"The desk wouldn't give us one."

"Why not?"

The kid shrugged.  I was pretty tired, having been there for nearly two hours already.

"Sure kid.  Here you go."

The kid was confused.  "You don't want to play?  Come and play."  The other kids behind him agreed.

I wouldn't get any better playing little kids.  "Nah, go on.  I'll just be over here."  The kids took the ball and started taking turns chucking.

Now you see what happened there.  No of course you missed it, so did I.

I'm sitting there for 10 minutes and the kids haven't even made teams as yet.  There arguing, gossiping, laughing at each missed shot.  And I'm sitting there patiently, like an idiot, watching.  Watching the profound absence of urgency.  Watching the lack of enthusiasm to play, the listlessness.

And above all, watching the absolute absence of skill, both athletic and technical, in playing basketball.

They couldn't do anything.  They couldn't shoot, they couldn't pass.  They couldn't cut, they couldn't defend.  I don't think they knew what a screen was.

Near as I could tell, their understanding of basketball seem to be that the aim was simply to throw the ball in the direction of the net at the first opportunity that presented itself.

I watched for another few minutes at their antics before strolling onto the court.

"Guys, let run threes.  I gotta leave in a few minutes."

They looked surprised, shocked almost at the notion that anyone was paying attention to them or that people play basketball on basketball courts.

The teams were made and I made sure to take the runts of the litter, the ones that got laughed at the most.  The oldest kid was on the other side, a young buck, no more than sixteen.  He was fast.  But that was all he was.

They didn't really have a shot.  I hit the wide open ones given to me, hit the kid with the first step just as a reminder and the rest was just set-up for my teammates.  Our opponents were becoming more and more snippy, more and more critical of one another as the game goes on, as the points started raining down from kids that, to their mind, shouldn't be winning.

My guys weren't good but you don't have to be good when an old man tells you you have a green light.  They knew that they'd get the ball, they knew that they'd get a shot.  That knowledge does a lot for anyone's shooting percentage.

Three games later, the runts were three and 0 and I had to bounce.  I daps them up and tell them good game and make my way out.  The runts are bigging themselves up for their performance; the vanquished are playing it off.

I took one last look at them as I went to the showers shaking my head.  Something was up.  Something scratching the back of my mind that I couldn't figure.  What was it though?

I'm a grown up, I thought to myself.

My father taught me to play ball, but he didn't do it because he was my father.  He did it because he was a grown up.  He did it because he had something that I didn't and had it to give.

He did it because he was someone greater than me.

I was greater than those kids.  But not taking that responsibility seriously - not addressing it consciously - those kids will continue sucking at ball.  Is that good for the world?  Me minding my business and allowing - if not outright encouraging - kids bad at basketball to continue being bad at basketball?

Had I taken up the challenge - had I allowed myself the opportunity to look at myself honestly and be generous in my superiority - I could have taught them a thing or two.  They could have appreciated it.  They could have gotten better and taken it more seriously.  They could take ball into their heart and it could make their lives better going forward.

But I didn't do any of that.  I made the assumption that small children should be wholly free to determine their own destiny.  Where would I be if that were true?  If my father didn't assume that he was better at basketball than me, and that he had something worth teaching, would I know basketball at all?  Or would one of the greatest blessings in my life be invisble to me?

I can see that it stems both from my selfish desire not to be bothered reinforced by my genuine respect for people finding their own paths.  I honestly do believe that anyone deserving of help has to first get over themselves enough to ask for it in the first place.

But kids have to be taught.  They have to be.  And that will always require grown-ups acknowledging that kids have to be taught...and then acknowledging that if grown-ups don't do the teaching, no one will.


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