I may have mentioned I am not a fan of balls (footballs, baseballs, etc.) but I am a fan of my children. At least that’s what I tell people.
Because I raised my two older kids as a single parent, I got away with whispering in their ear that team sports were only for the “weird” kids. And there was no one to tell them otherwise. Not so this time around. Max and Sam have kicked and thrown and run their way from the hospital, in which they were born, all the way to this year’s basketball league champions of the Inverness Park District. All with the overwhelming support of their father.
This is what I get for thinking
I originally thought the basketball thing would be a good idea because the boys would be gone for practices and games. The added bonus was that as their coach, Craig would too. Now, if I give you the impression that I don’t care to spend quality sports time with my family, then I have hit the mark. It’s true. After 28 years of raising kids and another 11 to go, I value the little privacy I have. If I can steal an hour or two to catch up on Rock of Love Bus Tour (with Brett Michaels – no less), I unabashedly take it.
Our community is fairly small so most of the kids on our “Turquoise” basketball team were either classmates or friends, and Roger and Jay, the other two coaches, are neighbors. But, what started out as a friendly instructional league, (think wiping away tears and kissing boo boo’s) turned into an all out gladiator battle complete with a fight to the death. Worse, I wholeheartedly admit that I became part of the mob scene rooting for the lion to tear the limbs from the nine-year old boys on the opposing “Fuchsia” team.
2-4-6-8 Shout! Chew ‘em up and spit ‘em out!
This is somewhat surprising as I usually could give a rat’s fig as to who wins any game. But I think I smelled blood and this stirred some primal instinct, hidden under layers of latte’s and biscotti, that rose to the surface and spurred me on to places I’ve only imagined.
This didn’t happen overnight. During most of the season, I held court with Sue and Liz in the coveted “coaches wives” section, not paying a whole lot of attention. We shouted out the obligatory “atta boy” every now but spent most of the time catching up on the latest gossip. But as the season progressed and the “turquoise” team rose in the ranks, we couldn’t help but be drawn into the web of excitement that surrounded our athletically gifted young boys.
We ran with the exhilaration that our husbands emoted. During the week, emails flew back and forth between the coaches, twenty, thirty, forty, a day, discussing the various pros and cons of the “picks” the boys could set (I have since learned that “pick” is a fancy name for a rehearsed “play”) . To throw off the other team, Jay and Roger cleverly decide to name the picks after animals and more than twice, I would hear Craig saying something like “Let’s do the Capuchin monkey after the Bengal tiger. I really like the monkey.” They would meet at the local watering hole to discuss in-depth, the strengths of the various third-graders who could best execute the orangutan or the snow leopard.
You don’t win the silver, you lose the gold!
Their hard work paid off and the boys finished in second place. But hold on to your hats gang – the best is yet to come. And that would be the playoffs. I am usually morally opposed to any playoffs because I hate them, but not this time. I found myself grilling my exhausted boys at bedtime, pushing them to recite the moluccan cockatoo parrot pick just one more time.
The day of the big game was cold but sunny. Anxiety hung in the air and I found myself snapping at Craig and the boys for no reason other than the joy I felt at their discomfort. The nervous energy exuded from my pores and I cleaned the refrigerator in record time while the cookies baked in the oven. I realized, in my own special way, I was putting on my game face.
I knew we had a good chance at winning the semi-final game, but it was the championship against the dreaded “Taupe” team that had me eating Oreos two at a time. They were good, but it was their coach that really burned my basket balls. All the parents disliked the loud obnoxious dad that had the nerve to scout the other teams, which by the way, is clearly against the rules. When Roger and Craig and Jay went to see teams with none of their sons on them, it was always out of pure love for the game.
Get in there and win, damnit!
The boys easily won their first game due to the fact that the other team’s best player was in the parking lot, vomiting. Liz, Sue and I expressed our sympathies to our friends from the other team whose sons just couldn’t keep up without their star, but silently and gleefully jumped for joy at the good fortune that had fallen our way.
The championship game was a close one. The lead went back and forth but at half-time we found ourselves down by eight points – unacceptable by any stretch of the imagination. Liz and I decided that this wouldn’t be the case if we were coaching and we criticized our husband’s ability to do even the simplest of tasks correctly. Meanwhile, Roger and Sue were on the sidelines engaged in a heated discussion and when she returned to the stands she commented that there was going to be hell to pay that night. Things were not going well.
The second half was a nail biter – I literally chewed off two of my acrylics while our boys amazingly made the four baskets needed to tie the game. The din of the cheering parents grew increasing louder as the tension sky-rocketed and I barely managed to utter a few words of advice to the ref before he looked at me, put his finger to his mouth and pointed to the door. But we were not to be deterred and I firmly believe that it was our incessant screaming that drove the boys to victory that cold spring day.
Pain is only temporary, but victory is forever
Then there were the parties, the ice cream, the trophies, and the trip to the emergency room for Sue and Roger. Apparently their son had broken a bone in his foot, but like any gladiator worth his salt – he carried on. My husband repeated every play of the game to anyone who glanced in his general direction and after hearing it myself four times, I reminded him I was there.
We still cherish the memories but I’m back to generally despising balls and any game in which they are used. Until next year’s championship. Then I’m in for the kill.