There’s a love-hate relationship with athletics in my house.
It’s not that it focuses on the hate part, it really doesn’t. It’s more because, as much as I may have been that Midwestern boy at heart, I got tired of arguing for the Sunday football, the basketball games, all of that.
The funny thing about it is that they weren’t always shied away from us. My oldest daughter played soccer when she was little. She was even a cheerleader for one year . . . in Texas . . . it lasted one season. It was one season too long, by the way. If cheerleading is a major investment and time sucker in your area . . . in Texas it’s a lifestyle. Same for football. So it would seem that, again, athletics would be a big part of our home.
You’d be wrong.
Let me, first, go back to my childhood. Many of you readers (few though you might be most days) probably look at the word asthma as a common thing. When I was young – younger than my boys, particularly after the age of 2 – I came down with asthma. Then, unlike today, there was little or no recognition of the disease. I was one of very few kids with it. The medications were experimental. I lucked into a doctor (thanks to my parents!) who was one of the leading researchers into asthma treatment. I had piece of equipment that put powdered medication into my lungs that he designed. I spent a week in the hospital at the age of 5 in an effort to get a better handle on the disease. Through high school I took medication and carried an albuterol inhaler. Once, when I had an attack, I took albuterol and ended up with my hands shaking so badly I failed a test . . . because my writing was so awful.
In high school I wanted to go out for football. That same doctor in Omaha informed me that it was possible . . . but I’d have to start working out months before the team did and realize that, even then, I might not be able to do near as much as the kids around me. Then came tryouts . . . and when I realized that I was going to be the fresh meat turned into hamburger for the starting lineup to practice with . . . and I lasted maybe a week. After “maxing out” the amount of weight I could lift in my legs and upper body I couldn’t get out of bed. I’m a stubborn kid, but I know when I’m beat. When I did about half the laps the other kids did . . . I was finished.
But I played basketball. All through junior high I was on the team.
Enter this last week with my sons to this equation.
“Dad, what did you do when you grew up for fun at Grandma and Grandpa’s house,” was his query?
“I rode my bike a lot,” was my first response, which is true. I rode miles and miles, sometimes in a single day. It was my mode of transportation.
“Most the time, though, your uncles and I played basketball. We had a hoop. Even in the winter we would shovel off the driveway and play in our winter coats.”
My son had a hidden agenda in asking this. He’d apparently had this discussion with my parents already. The reality was they had started a basketball rotation in their PE classes. Now that they’re in junior high it’s a little more competitive.
“I’m not very good at it,” he informed me. “I shot a free throw and it bounced off the rim and hit me in the head,” was his next tale he’d regaled me with. I had to fight the urge to chuckle a little. (Admit it, you’re thinking about it, too)
“You played when you were in kindergarten,” I informed him. “In fact, your long arms and wiry build make for a pretty good basketball player.”
This encouraged him.
Today I was supposed to take him to the park to work on his shooting. I wasn’t able to do it . . . an accident on the freeway made it so my hour-long commute was more like two. In a change of attitude equivalent to Frankenstein’s creature thinking “well, the doc ain’t so bad!” my daughter took my son to the park. When I got home I was informed that this little boy who can’t seem to figure out how to do even a single push up managed to hit two 3-pointers and as many free throws.
“That’s pretty amazing, kid,” I informed him. When he asked if I’d been able to do that I told him the truth…I was a pretty good long ball shooter. However . . . my lungs weren’t strong enough for the old full-court press. I played a lot of basketball and and I did a lot of pickup games through high school. I just wasn’t on an organized team.
“Why didn’t we do more basketball and stuff before,” he asked. It was a question I dreaded. The reality was that we were pretty sedentary. His mother, my wife, wasn’t interested in sports – at all. She hated every aspect of it unless it involved going to the park, drinking, eating hot dogs, and partying. Otherwise the sports didn’t interest her. By the last few years, due to her job, her weight, and a number of other issues her knees were shot, she grew sedentary, and I gained a lot of weight myself. That, in turn, makes running around throwing a football and shooting hoops a difficult thing.
“We were pretty stationary,” I told him. “I was pretty heavy, I couldn’t run around much, and you guys weren’t interested much.” All that was true, by the way.
“Hmm,” was his reaction. “Well, can we go to the park tomorrow and shoot some baskets again?”
“Of course,” I told him. “I’d love to do it.”
I started to smile, gave him a hug, and then couldn’t help myself…
“Maybe you guys will sit and watch the Husker games with me, too?”
He looked at me, his smile kind of crooked, and informed me . . . “I wouldn’t go that far, Dad!”