Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Sports Shorts

I vowed that I would not get caught up in the NBA playoffs.  When the general consensus is that "games are won in the 4th quarter" really means "there's no reason to turn it on until the 4th quarter" because the players are just going through the motions up until the last 12 minutes, I have a hard time respecting the competition.  The scene at a professional basketball game is more about the noise and the t-shirt-shooting-air-guns and seeing yourself texting on the Jumbotron than any athletic contest which might or might not be happening on the floor.  It's hard to take the experience seriously.

But TBG's Cleveland Cavaliers are competing, and the will-he/won't-he dance of LeBron James has made winning almost a necessity for the town.  Big market teams (eg. New York's Knicks) are lusting after LeBron's talent and image and The Mistake By The Lake is having a tough time competing.  After all, is there anything that could compare to playing basketball in Madison Square Garden?  Gund Arena is a nice space, but it's not The Garden, now is it? 

So, I've been watching because it's been on.  I'm finding most of it fairly boring (even, I'm sorry, the Cav's) with players I don't recognize on teams I don't care about.  So, when the Big Cuter, on the strength of having seen them play the Warriors in Oakland, told me to care about the Oklahoma City Thunder, I was less than enthusiastic.  

But Jeff Green is their starting forward, and he did play 3 years at Georgetown.  The Oklahoma City Murrah Building Memorial is one of our nation's finest commemorative spaces.  And, most important, the Big Cuter would be watching.  As regular readers know, I'll do just about anything if my kids want to share it with me.  So, now I was watching because I (kinda, sorta, not really but okay) wanted to watch.

And it was fun.  Surprisingly fun.  It was like watching college basketball.  Kevin Durant was one-and-done at Texas.  I remember Nick Collison from Kansas' championship teams, and D.J. White from the Little Cuter's Hoosiers.  Knowing the players definitely helps.  And when one of those players is shooting 3's and not missing and another is stuffing the ball over the heads of taller opponents, then some hooting and hollering is definitely called for. 

Their coach, Scott Brooks, is a nice young man and so are his players.  These are good kids on the court.  Pau Gasol was a medical  student, motivated at age 11  by Magic Johnson's announcement that he was HIV positive to search for a cure for AIDS..He left school as his basketball career took off, but he speaks 5 languages and hangs out with Placido Domingo. Serge Ibaka's parents were both members of the Congolese national basketball team. None of them have been arrested, nor photographed drinking with underage girls or coming out of a strip club at 3am.  The contrast between their behavior and the quality of their play and the scrolling news below the screen detailing Tiger's worst 9 holes of his professional career made for some nice thoughts about duality and personal responsibility and parenting.

Watching other people's kids is a recurring theme for me here in The Burrow.  I seem to spend a lot of time doing it, and it usually puts a smile on my face.  With the Georgetown connection I can pretend it's really my kid and all of a sudden I'm totally into it.  Kevin Durant's mother and father were courtside, cheering. At one point, his mom looked up into the crowd and raised her arms over and over again, insisting that they stand and cheer for her son.  And they did.  

Jerry, at Gently Said, is right - it's a  great feeling when your kid excels.and she was sharing the love.  Kevin's mom moved to Austin when he started school, and she continues to this day to remind him that talent is a fleeting gift, and that he must be more than what he is on the basketball court.  Listening to him in interviews is to see good parenting rewarded.

Back to the game.  The crowd is cheering and the players are encouraging it and TBG and I are leaning forward off Douglas and then The Thunder forget to double up on Kobe, and then they don't box out and, like kids usually do when the pressure is on, they stop and watch the train wreck happen.

Oh well.  They lost

Like the true fair weather fans that we were, TBG's hand was on the clicker to change the channel when he stopped because the nicest thing happened. Instead of the usual sweaty post-game interviews filing the screen, we saw the Lakers and The Thunder hugging each other.  Kobe took time with The Thunder bench players. Heartfelt handshakes and congratulations were exchanged.   And then there were the fans.  Oh yes the fans.  Their season was over, lost in the last 0.5 seconds, and instead of groaning they were on their feet cheering.  They were proud of their team and they loved their team and they weren't in any great hurry to be anyplace else.  So, they stayed in their seats and thanked the players for a great season.  

TBG and I smiled.  This  is why we watch sports.