Basketball

So we’re in Toronto … Olivia, Baziel and me. Eight hours after lifting off from Brussels, we nestled into the joys of Terminal One in Toronto. Adventure was in our six eyes.

We had to wait a fair long time for our shuttle bus to Scarlet’s temporary abode. Pas de problème. We all knew that we were about to be on a mission: to buy a basketball. You see, these kids are fanatics. They play on teams in Belgium. They dream of the future.

After we corralled Scarlet at Skyway Park, it was off on the 401 freeway to Yorkdale Mall, the home of SportChek, and hopefully many basketballs.

The ceilings were high, the glitter of wealth surrounded us and the people of Toronto flowed past in all their glory of multiculturalism. The store was full of athetic achievement, many sports represented in their clothing and equipment. Downstairs was the home of NBA devotees.

Ahh … the b-balls. Baziel settled on a Wilson Crossover model, and all was right with the world.

We wandered the mall in search of NBA jerseys but few were to be found. We had our treasure. It was time to play.

First to Anne and Ihor’s bed and breakfast. Anne glowed as she welcomed us in the door. The teens got it. They were glimpsing a new home.

Google Maps showed me a nearby school and we bounced our ball along the sidewalk. Around the back of the building were four hoops, all without nets, but that didn’t matter. Olivia and Baziel dribbled beautifully, laid up the ball gracefully, and nailed lots of long-distance shots. I … threw up the basketball in the general direction of the hoop. We had fun.

I was hungry, and convinced the kids to take a break for chicken. Yum.

Anne had mentioned that there was a basketball court near the local arena so we decided to explore in that direction. And lo and behold … there it was. Three young men crowded around one of the three hoops, testing each other. Baziel and Olivia did the same at another one.

Magically other teens and kids appeared. I just stared at all the athletes. One young boy in a red shirt was so skinny and so skilled. All those between-the-legs dribbles! At another basket, a supremely powerful young man was coaching a little boy who had gorgeous braided (?) hair and an everlasting smile.

A fellow came over to challenge Baziel to a one-on-one game. Olivia and I smiled as the contest unfolded. Then it was three-on-three. Baziel was beaming.

For the last hour it was a full game – five against five – as the sun declined. Belgium saying hi to Canada and Canada welcoming Belgium.

I loved it all.

B-ball Lessons

I watched the Grade 5/6 girls basketball team today.  They were in another school against two opponents.  I was thrilled to see them play after being on the west coast for nine days.

As the games ebbed and flowed, I saw 12-year-old kids that I love rocket down the court – sometimes making great plays and sometimes messing up.  I realized that I wasn’t attached to the transcendent moments.  My love especially extended to errant passes, missed free throws, “losing the handle”.

The NBA is full of astonishing athletes.  Years ago, Michael Jordan could do seemingly impossible things with the basketball.  But I didn’t love him, nor the other stars.  Today was different.  You go, girls!  You gave it all you had … and I cheered.

Game Number One was with a less skilled team.  The score quickly mounted to 12-0 and my thoughts turned towards the other folks.  Being so outplayed can be such a blow to the ego, but these opponents kept holding their heads high, grabbing the ball after we scored a basket and motoring towards our end.  We intercepted passes, blocked shots, and got in their faces, but those “others” didn’t give up.  I was so proud of them.  When they eventually scored a basket, the cheer from their fans was the biggest I heard all afternoon.

The final score was 28-7.  We didn’t gloat.  They didn’t slump.  Two teams gave ‘er.  In the large scheme of things, it didn’t matter that one team performed far better than the other.  Everybody got to play, and play hard.

Game Number Two had us up against a school that has three times the number of students that we have.  Our girls didn’t believe the stats.  We had hands up in the opponents’ faces.  We fought under the basket for rebounds.  All of our missed shots didn’t slow us down a bit.  At one point a player on the other team broke away towards the basket.  One of our girls raced back and swatted the ball away as she was starting her layup.  Brilliant … worthy of TSN’s Sportcentre highlight show!

The opposition featured powerful players and a stifling defense.  But no heads hung low for us.  We were behind 6-0 and then roared back.  In the final minute of a 10-8 game, we must have had four shots, and none of them found the net.  Still, the fury of our press to tie was a joy to watch.

Win one, lose one?
On the surface of things … yes

Fully alive for two?
Absolutely

B-ball

Today I went to the lunch hour practice of the recently named girls’ basketball team at school – a whole bunch of 10-, 11- and 12-year-olds. They’re such nice kids, each very much her own person. Some of them are shy and some are a force of nature. Both are perfect. They’ll all be fine adults.

Most of my life is medium intensity – no incredible spurts and no lolling around. Today was different in the presence of these girls. Take defense for example: arms full out, fingers inches from the opponent’s face, eyes wild. Unlike an NBA arena, I got to be intensely close to the action. And it was exciting. It mattered not a whit that these players were 4’10” rather than 5’10”. The fire burned … and there was no way the opponent was going up for an uncontested basket.

On offense, there’d be stutter steps and surges to the left or right of the defender – blasting into another gear. The ball would go high off the backboard and either clunk off metal or swish in the middle of things. It was all speed … and at such close range for this guy sitting on the stage.

Isn’t it supposed to be true that when I get “older” I settle into being mellow for the rest of my life? Perhaps not. Maybe there’s lots of room for explosions, sprints and orgasms of the spirit.

Bring ’em on.