|The nights are getting cooler, the days shorter, and soon the leaves will begin to turn. Kids are back in school, Labor Day has passed us by, and the long hot summer is soon to be just a memory. This time of year is seen as sad by some, but to me it just means that basketball season is nearing us again, and once again my anticipation is beginning to build.
Basketball is so many things to each of us. Obviously, everyone who plays this game on a regular basis at their core does so because they love the game so much, and this is an effort to communicate that to complete strangers and friends alike. When you think about it, what other game can unite so many, and touch the lives of all the people who have the love of the game so deep within them. From reading all the posts from all of you scattered all over the world since I've joined this board, I see the passion and spirit that we all have for not just our favorite teams, but for the game itself. I guess I’m in a sappy mood, but I thought it might be nice to hear from some of you about why you all were brought to the game, and what is so special about it that so many of us spend so much time thinking about it and making it such a part of our lives.
To me, basketball is a passion from deep inside me. It comes from being a son, a player, a native Hoosier, a teammate, a friend, a fan, an observer, a coach, a counselor, and a writer. For me, it started from traveling on the road to high school games far away just to see a great game. It came from hearing stories from older family members about how they played and how they loved the game. It came from seeing how relationships were made over the course of a season, it came from the bond that only teammates can share, and the lovely experience of people bonding together to pursue one common goal. It comes from the knowledge that together, ordinary people can achieve extraordinary things. Basketball to me means family, and community, and togetherness, and loyalty, and the pursuit of a common goal with people you grow to care about....
I love basketball. I love the squeaky sounds of tennis shoes against a newly waxed hardwood floor. I love the silence and echoes of walking in to an empty gym. I love the sunlight coming thru the windows of some older cathedrals of basketball, glistening against the fresh paint of a newly painted floor. With that new paint comes new hope.
I love the rhythm of a basketball bouncing, and I love the sound of a perfect shot rippling thru the net. I love the roar of a sellout crowd at a crucial moment. I love the music, I love the bands, I love the spirit and electricity that fills an arena before a huge game. I love it when the bleachers are cramped, and it’s too hot, and you see the others there, just like you, passionately sick with the same love of the game so many of us inherited. I love the smell of the popcorn, the smell of the fear and excitement of the anticipation of 2 teams getting ready to explode with every bit of energy and passion they can muster, all to obtain just one shining moment for their town, their school, their franchise, and themselves.
I love the sound of a coaches’ whistle on a fall day, and the sound of a referees whistle on a winter night. I love the sounds of a crowd yelling at an official, the sound of a pep band playing during a time out, the sound of an organ playing during a crucial run. I love a one on one move, a 2 man screen/roll, a 3on2 fast break, and a crisp 5 man offensive set play. I love the individual battles within the game....a guard dribbling up against pressure, a player going up strong over a defender trying to block his shot, a rebounder trying to block out a bigger and stronger man.
I love the strategy of a game. I love the debates and the discussions it creates, and the controversies. I love the competition and heated hated rivals. Is there anything better than beating a team you hate, especially if you weren’t expected to? I love home games and road games, night games and afternoon games. I love the coaches and their personalities, I love the hype of the media, I love the anticipation and buildup of a big game. I love scouting a team or a player on a dark cold night in some lonely town, just in case 3 months from now you may play them. >
I love the palpable united feeling it creates among people and cities. I love walking downtown and seeing flags flying high with team colors, seeing store windows painted, seeing old friends coming back for games from years ago. I love seeing a big city with hugely different parts get united behind one common theme and goal....I love seeing complete strangers with vastly different backgrounds sitting in a bar discussing the latest game or move their team made. I love the feeling of hope and uplifted spirits that a winning team can provide.......there can never be a price tag placed on that type value of watching how people just WALK differently when their team is winning, or how the air seems cleaner or the sun seems brighter.
Basketball is a rural game. It’s a lonely country kid shooting baskets as the sun goes down on a dirt spot, making shot after shot after shot....playing out the scene in his mind on what he hopes to do years from that moment. It is families gathering around from all over to watch their relatives play, and reliving their own moments from another era, and wishing they could go back. It’s a game where this poor rural kid can escape his poverty, and love in a world of his own where the only things that exist are him and the goal.
Basketball is a suburban game. Its neighborhood kids meeting in someone's driveway to pick teams and play all day. It's new shoes, and summer camps, and playing horse with your friends. It's beating your Dad for the first time in one on one, and not knowing for sure whether he let you or not. It can be how identities are born, and friends are made, and disputes are settled. It’s a way to learn about others, and to learn about yourself.....just how hard will you work to get better? How much can you push yourself? How much does it matter to you to be the very best you can be? It’s a game that can unite a neighborhood, frame a childhood, and can be played simply in any schoolyard or driveway.
Basketball is a city game. It's played in the roughest of neighborhoods, it’s played in the streets, it’s played for pride and for honor. It’s played passionately and for a purpose, and can be a source of pride and honor. It's played everywhere, in every city, every neighborhood, every country.
Basketball is the ultimate team game......a team must function as a single unit, like a symphony orchestra with each musician given a specific chorus to play to make the overall opera sound exquisite. Often it fails, but when a team meets this goal it plays the ultimate songs...the songs and sounds of winning. Everyone must be able to do everything in basketball....no pinch hitters or relief pitchers, no offense and defense subs, no goalies, no anything.
Basketball is for the rich and poor, black and white, boys and girls, and young and old. It discriminates against no one.....everyone with enough passion can find their way into it. It's truly the best sport ever invented by man, just like "Shooter" said in "Hoosiers". Basketball means second chances for long past glory, it means the underdog always has a chance, it means that no one has ever lost, but they just run out of time.
It's overcoming adversity, it’s always believing in the fundamentals, it's playing hard even though you are outsized, it's doing things the right way because that's the way you are supposed to love your life. It's never giving up until the horn blows, it’s always having hope while the ball is in the air......basketball is numbers and stats and wins and losses and ultimate joy and terrible sorrow...........................and it’s the rebirth of everything each fall to start it all over again, where everyone is undefeated and your past is wiped away. It’s fair and unfair, cruel and kind, simple and complicated, fascinating and numbingly repetitive.
Basketball is quiet times in solitude and self- reflection. It is exciting pep talks and speeches, and rowdy chanting fans. It’s working to get better by yourself at 6:30 in the morning, and eating pizza with your teammates at 12:30 in the morning. It’s a maddening set of contradictions and questions and planning and work that for every team but one ends each season with crushing disappointment.......yet every time that happens I, like all others, find myself missing the game again, and longing for October's chilling winds and browning falling leaves to be here again.
November is yet to come again, but it’s close.....the cool breeze coming thru my window tells me so, and the sounds of an echoing pickup game from down the road are ringing in my ears.....basketball is almost here again, and we can soon start this up once more, where the feelings within myself are like Pat Riley says...."There are but 2 things, winning and misery."
My love for basketball I know I inherited from my Dad, and my hometown, and my relationships with all the people whom have entered my life that love the game as I do....and as aggravated as I get with the teams I pledged my allegiance to, I can't wait for them to come back and gear up to let me try again.
I ask all of you the following: What do you love about the game of basketball, and what made you that way? And have you thought about the people in your life who brought you into the game, and who put the love of the game into you? Tell the rest of us how you became a basketball fan, and why you still are today.......November is almost upon us after all, and we won't have time to talk like this when it gets here…….for then basketball season will have finally arrived!! >