Monday, November 27, 2006

Glory Days on a Court

Have you ever had a moment bring you so vividly back in time you could almost taste the experience once again? As a point guard on the varsity basketball team for her high school, my niece began her final season as a senior last night with a victory over a fierce rival. As I took my seat in the front row of the bleachers, I could feel the dribble of the ball reverberate off the hardwood floor of the court. The pace of the excitement, the rhythm of the plays, and energy these 17 year old girls exerted carried me right back to my youth as if I traveled in a time machine. It was like 1985 all over again.

When I was a kid, I was a total jock. I was one of those kids who wanted to try everything. And thankfully, my parents rarely denied me any of those youthful indulgences. As for extracurricular activities, things were much less complicated then, so it wasn’t that much of a loss when I signed up for Brownies, and decided after a few troup meetings and a round of cookie sales that it just wasn’t up my alley. I also did singing lessons, drama lessons and art lessons. Coming in right above the art lessons, my biggest passion was sports. I was on the track team, the cross country team, the softball team, the soccer team, and my all time favorite: the basketball team. I won trophies in all these sports; was voted MVP on both softball and basketball. It was truly my glory days. But then a funny thing happened around sophomore year when my father died unexpectedly. I suddenly started to care what boys thought of me, I started to smoke cigarettes in the girls bathroom at school, and by junior year I was most definitely drinking beer at more than one weekend party. Not to mention I was on a doctor’s couch ranting and raving about the injustices over losing my father at such a young age. When I was voted senior class president, it was a personal triumph for me considering my setbacks. But I always missed sports. I still can’t clearly remember the exact motives for dropping out. I had a confrontation with my last basketball coach in my sophomore year and developed a real attitude problem. I was very immature. And I suppose then with my father’s death, everything seemed to come down like a stack of dominoes. But the need for the thrill of competition that sports provided remained a void in my life that I began to fill with socializing and partying, smoking and drinking.

At last night’s game, I couldn’t help but feel a little bit of longing for the good ol’ days, with a crowd cheering for you as you steal the ball from your opponent and run down the court dribbling your heart away. There is nothing like that feeling. Nothing can compare to the thrill of victory in sports. I couldn’t help but feel a little old, a little out of shape and a little plump, when I watched the game last night. I wondered where all my sports enthusiasm had gone. The guy next to me actually asked me if I had a daughter out there playing. Hello? Excuse me? Do I look old enough to have a 17 year old? That didn’t help me feel any better.

As I was driving home last night with CJ in the backseat, we were both very quiet. Him from exhaustion over running around with a bunch of other kids, and me from contemplating my lost youth. I never used to be one of those people who wallowed in their grief at every birthday, but as I close in on my 36th birthday early next year, I can’t help but wonder where in the hell the time went. I look at my niece, and the expression on her face when they won the game literally glowed with excitement and joy. The other day she found out that she has been accepted into the college of her choice, so it’s smooth sailing for her in her senior year. I can’t help but be reminded of how much she has going for her and how much she has to look forward to. Her whole world is truly her oyster right now, and what a great place in life to be.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


By far my favorite post you have ever written. Its so easy to look back at "lost" or "past" time and wonder. In your case specifically, I don't think you need to be a shrink to figure out the boys approval after the passing of your dad.

All of our lives are filled with crossroads, just about everyday, some take us in different directions, some circle us back to where we are now. Some we head down and then think its wrong idea and head back.

I, on almost a daily basis, think about what if. Its a pretty natural thing. I always long for the good ol days, especially after I wake up after a 6 beer evening and it feels like one of my old 16 beer evenings. With age comes wisdom, a mean trick by God. Wisdom's bad side is that it often makes you look back at the things you would have done differently and you say, "What an idiot I was". What we should be doing is using that wisdom to look at all the things we've done right.

You're only 36, you haven't even lived half your life yet. You will still get that "glow of excitement" on your face, maybe it'll just be over your children's accomplishments instead of your own.

Don't get me wrong, I hear loud and clear where you are coming from. But from what I know about you, at a young 36, the world is still your oyster too.


4:15 PM

Blogger Kate said...

What a sweet comment, Jim. Thanks for being such a great friend :)

4:38 PM

Blogger soccer mom in denial said...

I loved basketball until 8th grade when a coach order his team to attack me, using fingernails, to stop me from scoring. These were the "good players" who would be on the high school team with me. No thank you. I promptly became a card carrying drama and band fag.

Now I'm coaching a basketball team made up of 13 kindergarteners. And no scratching allowed. Thanks for sharing the "what ifs". A great post.

7:49 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

your writing is beautiful here. I was transported back in time....

9:44 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know, I think very few of us appreciate the moment as it's happening.

In another 15 years, you'll look back longingly to today.

10:09 PM

Blogger Mom101 said...

This is so cool. For me it was dance, not sports. And when I go back to my high school to see performances, like you, it brings me right back, but simultaneously makes me realize how far removed I am from those years. Sigh.

Fantastic essay, Kate.

2:53 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was never an athlete, but I really understand what you mean! I think it's truly a gift to have such insight. (And kudos to your niece too.)

9:50 PM


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