Tonight I had the pleasure and simultaneous sadness of watching my sons at their final basketball game at the Arlington Boys’ and Girls’ Club. My older son who played from about the time he was 7 to 13 years old, started coaching part time and then full time 2 seasons ago, and coached my other son’s teams during all three sessions each year.
I’m very proud of both of them for different reasons. My older one is the consummate athlete. He doesn’t play basketball in high school, his athletic muse being track, but he coaches basketball with zest at the boys club. The kids really listen to him. The parents come up to him and thank him each game (he’s the only coach who is not a father).
I see him rally his troops when they are down to give them hope and admonish them when they make the same mistake over and over again. I see him comforting a player who gets subbed out and watches the team lose. I’ve also seen him ribbing and getting a ribbing from the other coaches who are my contemporaries. Life skills he’s acquired that he hopefully will carry when he moves on to large enterprises.
The younger one is not an athlete in the pure sense, he’s more bookish. He played because he had to (at first) and I think over time he has acquired the taste for the competition. I really enjoyed watching my older son attempt to tell my younger son what to do when he went out next. The younger one, not as assertive physically, grew 4 inches this year and suddenly discovered how he could use his size and weight to push kids around that he wasn’t able to before. Watching him boxing-out a kid that only 1 year ago dominated him was quite a site.
Last week I watched my younger one hit a 3 pointer with seconds to go and break the back of the other team. It was his first 3 pointer in 5 years of playing. There was a time where he couldn’t push the ball from the foul line and hit the rim. This week, I saw him hit a critical turnaround jumper with a minute to go to preserve a lead.
But all things comes to an end. In the final two seconds of the game, the best player on the other team got an inbounds, passed two defenders and hit a shotput-like 3 ptr to tie the game. In overtime, my sons’ team lost, and the disappointment was palpable with both of them, but particularly poignant with my older son. He’d no longer be involved in the league in which he was so intimately involved for 10 years. I could see the disappointment in his eyes. I could see him trying to compose himself so he could walk with his team and shake hands with the winning team. It was a bittersweet moment for the whole family.
Life though is like that. You work your tail off and sometimes no matter how close you were with 7 seconds to go, you might end up having to be brave. I remember when the ball went through Buckner’s legs. I was up here in Boston, a Southern Connecticut NY Mets fan…watching them seemingly curl up against my other team, the Boston Red Sox. I loved both these teams because neither one were the accursed Yankees (or the Hollywood Dodgers). In that split second as the ball went through Buckner’s legs, while I was trying to adjust myself to the thought of a Red Sox victory that was going to be bittersweet, I suddenly had to deal with the fact that the Mets lived another day. Happy and Sad. Like tonight.