It’s I.’s last basketball game of the season. He and his friends believe they’ll end tonight on a high with a big win.
I. goes as far as telling the other team’s coach when he sees her at the gym that her team better “be ready” because his team “has gotten a lot better.” For the record, their record is 2-8.
Lots of Friday nights, I don’t look at the scoreboard. Instead, I watch the boys as they run up and down the court. Nothing beats third grade boy swagger. They tough-guy dribble, turning left then right, before bouncing the ball just a tad high and losing control.
I. runs up and down the court. His energy threatens to burst from his little 9-year-old body. He wears a grin the size of Texas. They play because they love the game. Plain and simple.
I’m told this will all change. Soon. By next season, boys will find themselves in one of two groups: jocks or others. The line between the two will widen from here on out.
When a boy falls and hurts himself during a game or practice, crying will no longer be acceptable. Boys will no longer openly comfort one another. They’ll be no more shoulder patting and “You OK?” tsk, tsk-ing like little grandmothers.
Early in the first quarter, a boy on the other team raises his arms and shoots. The ball sails through the air and swooshes through. It’s a beautiful, nothing-but-net, picture-perfect basket. I cheer.
“He’s not on our team,” my friend admonishes.
“I’m just giving credit where credit’s due. That shot was awesome.”
From that moment on, I cheer for every good play I see. Our team, their team. It doesn’t matter. I’m cheering for all the happy boy faces sweaty from exertion and flush from excitement. I’m cheering for playing with a team like a team regardless of what the scoreboard reads.
I’m ending the season with a big win.