Thursday, August 08, 2013


I am fairly certain that my father's favorite sport was basketball. My dad, at some point, had a telephone pole with a backboard and rim attached, installed into our driveway. This was a permanent fixture, not just a "hoop". Seriously, it was a telephone pole, driven deep into our driveway.

 I can remember a few games of one-on-one with my dad where the winner got to use the car that night. My dad was a very good basketball player. His nickname was "Gunner" because he loved to shoot. I, on the other hand, was called "Grape Ape" on the court, with my long arms and clumsy behavior resulting in lots of fouls. There was no way I was ever supposed to win any of those games for the family station wagon, but for some reason, if my night was really really important I could pull off an upset.

Basketball, as a sport, is a team game. But as a game, it is an individual sport. Recently we bought a "hoop", a plastic and metal basketball set, weighted at the bottom with sand, that can go from a height of 8 feet to 10 feet and can be moved up and down the driveway on plastic wheels. I have been trying to teach my kids basketball, the "sport", but it has become more about teaching my kids basketball the "game".

We play Around the World, Make-it-Take-it, PIG and Knock-Out. At the end each day as we play one of my kids will say something like, "Dad, if I make this shot you have to take me to Dairy Queen." So far they understand the shot has to be a challenge, a trick shot, or a far away effort, and they miss on a regular basis.

Jackson, at four and half years old, has recently taken up the basketball challenge. He has yet, since January, to make a shot. He has tried at least 500 times to make a basket. Tonight I gave him a smaller ball and I lowered the net to 8 feet tall. His two older brothers coached and coached him.

Tonight, Jackson made his first basket. We celebrated. We celebrated with cheers, hugs, high fives and lots of encouragement. I was smiling from ear to ear. After that first basket Jackson would not stop "chucking it from the cheap seats". He was a Gunner. Jackson made 8 baskets tonight. After all the excitment of his first unassisted 8 baskets Jackson said to me, "Dad, you have to take me to Dairy Queen eight times."