Basketball Lessons

“Dad, can we watch the Hawks and Knicks game when we get home?”

I almost wept when my five-year-old son asked me that question last weekend.

“Sure, buddy.”

“Who are you cheering for, dad?”

“Are you crazy?  The Hawks!”

“I’m cheering for the Knicks.”

Four hours later, when I let my son out of his room, I informed him that Jeremy Lin was hurt and would not be playing today.  Upon hearing this news, my son switched his faithful devotion to the Atlanta Hawks.  Some lessons are learned the hard way.

What is it with all of the athletes that seem to have a legitimate relationship with Christ playing for teams that no Christian in his right mind would ever cheer for?  Tebow played for the Florida Gators, Denver Broncos and now the New York Jets.  That’s pretty close to the Axis of Evil in sports.  But still my son wants to cheer for whatever team he’s on because he knows that Tebow, “knows about Jesus and repented.”

Meanwhile, most of my favorite teams are filled with players that just got out of prison for kicking their pregnant girlfriend(s) or driving mopeds down the interstate with a blood alcohol content somewhere around 0.97.  It kind of makes it hard for me to explain to my kid why he should cheer for the team with the quarterback that has a teardrop tattooed under his eye and not the team with the quarterback that goes on missions trips and preaches Easter services.

In any event, Jeremy Lin was out for this game and that allowed my son and I to cheer for the same team for once.  It was a learning experience for him.

He learned why a player sometimes only shoots one free throw and sometimes shoots two.

He learned what a foul is.  Later in the day he would get an extreme example of a basketball foul from Mr. Meta World Peace.  Thanks for the lesson, Meta!

He learned the difference between the game clock and the shot clock.

And then the tough lesson came.

With about two minutes left in the game, things were close but it just looked like the Knicks were going to win.  Maybe that’s because the lady doing play by play for ESPN was telling us this in so many words.  I don’t know what it is about this lady’s voice but it always makes me feel like I’m in trouble.  Watching a game that she’s calling automatically takes me back to 8th grade P.E. when Ms. Lippum would yell at me for forgetting to dress out.

The Hawks had the ball with eight seconds left when they decided to just throw the ball up towards the goal and hope for the best.  If the best they were hoping for was, “Hey, we only lost by one!” they got it.  Game over.  Hawks loose.

And my son cried.

Loudly.

We’ve been working on this.  I’ve been teaching him not to cry when he or his team loses but to think about what needs to be done better and try harder next time.  But deep down, I sympathized with my sons tears.  I wanted to say, “Yep, let it all out, son.  This is what happens when you cheer for dad’s teams.”

I thought about the time when I was just a little older than him and I cried because Todd Blackledge and Penn State beat Herschel Walker and the Georgia Bulldogs in the Sugar Bowl.

I thought about the time when my mom threatened to never let me watch another Braves game because I was yelling at Tom Glavine through my television set as he was giving up hit after hit in a playoff game against the Pirates.

I thought about sitting in the Georgia Dome watching the same Hawks lose to the same Knicks in a playoff game and feeling like I was the only Hawks fan in the dome because, well, I pretty much was.  Spike Lee still has a restraining order out against me.

Eventually my son got over it and went outside to play.  But even before the game was over, while it was still up for grabs, he said something that let me know that he had already learned his most valuable lesson.

It’s a lesson that I should probably learn but never will.

“Man, I should have cheered for the Knicks.”