Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Mad Props

My brother passed on to me recently that our dad has a chapter written about him in a book offered on, Sons of Slum and Gravy, that puts a quite a light on him. I ordered the book, but I haven't gotten it to read it yet. I'm sure it'll be quite interesting.

I'm old enough to have had a hand in raising two grown stepsons, and many of us have either done the same or are doing so now. It ain't easy. A million decisions to make on the fly, some good ones, some not so good. So I was thinking maybe it was time here to recognize our 'rents for putting up with our sorry asses and the craziness and mayhem and still raising us to be pretty solid citizens.

My favorite story I have about my dad is a sports related one that pre-dates our West Point slacker skateboard days. I was in the 7th grade and my brother was in the 6th grade, and we played in a church basketball league with my dad coaching the team. We were pretty good, but far from the best.

One game, we played the Jewish Community Center team that was roughly about as good as us. The first half was a comedy of errors for us and JCC whipped our asses pretty good. On the tip for the second half, JCC stole the ball and scored a lay up. Only we hadn't switch sides, so they actually scored for us! Whoo-hoo! How awesome is that - 2 of the easiest points our team ever scored! My dad, however, didn't see it that way. He demanded that the points be taken off and the second half be restarted! We couldn't believe it! The whole team was pouting and whining, as 11 and 12 year olds are wont to do. I think he even threatened to forfeit the game if the ref didn't do it!

After pissing and moaning, we played an uneventful 3rd quarter. Down by 10 in the 4th with only a few minutes left, something magical happened - we became the Harlem Freakin' Globetrotters! We scored, stole the ball on the inbounds or JCC's attempt to get it upcourt, and then scored again, basket after basket! With about a minute left, we tied the game, and we ended up winning by 10. I swear to you, if we had played another minute, we would have won by 30! Was it because of what my dad did at the beginning of the second half? I couldn't say for sure. He never yelled at us for messing up on the court or for losing, though, like a lot of parents did/do.

Contrast that with my worst experience in sports: playing little league the year before. Our coach was this fucking asshole Mr. Barlow who only cared about winning. He had favorites, and players that didn't start saw minimal playing time. Neither my brother nor I played organized baseball as a kid after that year. Oh, and we were 20-0! Worst. Sports. Experience. Ever.

I coached modified basketball at the fancy-pants girls school I worked at, and I can say the relaxed sports environment my dad provided for us continued with me there. I won't bore you with story after story, but I have to relate one to you. For a few games a year, I would choose a player, a different one each time, to be the "Coach-For-A-Quarter". The player I chose would name the starting line-up, pick the defenses, and make decisions on substitutions for the first quarter. It was sheer genius. Not a single player started herself in the dozen or so games in which I did this. I came up with this idea entirely on my own, but how can I say my experience of my dad's coaching and support, that winning or losing didn't make or break you, had nothing to do with the way I turned out? I can't. Thanks dad.