The NCAA tournament starts in just a few days, and with it comes the typical madness. The basketball madness most think of is crazy half-court buzzer beaters and monstrous dunks all performed by the nation’s best. And yet, there exists another madness. One filled with more mania than any NCAA tournament. The madness I refer to is, of course, that of 4th grade basketball championship.
Growing up, I was never the athletic kid. I was a nerdy kid who knew a lot about sports, but could never put my knowledge into effect. I’d be getting pushed and shoved around while never actually touching the ball. I’d face plant while running and would easily offer up the ball to others. However, I didn’t let these painful experiences discourage my love for the game, just my ability to play it. I knew so much about the basketball and American football game that I thought I could be a coach one day. When my mom pointed out the obvious, I said “Mom you don’t need to be a good player to be a good coach”. Statistics and numbers appeal to me more than the physical act of playing the game, an opinion in stark contrast to that of my little brother. He prefers to run around and be wild. He thrives in the rough world of 4th grade basketball despite being small for his age. His abilities were far beyond any that I had at the time and his work ethic, much higher. When he signed up for 4th grade In-house basketball I knew he would see success.
His team, the Thunder, was co-coached by my dad. My dad is very much like my brother, or rather my brother takes after my dad. They both share a passion for any sport and are naturally very athletic. My dad also played a lot of basketball growing up. He was the captain of his 10th grade basketball team. My dad coached my teams too and was frequently surprised by my lack of physicality and maybe a tad disappointed that I didn’t care to win or lose. He was elated to coach a team with my hard-working, competitive brother.
The Thunder had a strong start to the 2017 season, winning 3 games and tying one. With every win, my brother’s excitement grew …… The Thunder amassed a record of 5-1-2, their one loss coming at the hands of the Mavericks, a game when my dad was traveling on business. My dad drew up game plans and plays far beyond what I ,or anyone else, would deem to be necessary for 4th grade basketball. He spent hours just working on basketball with and without my brother. Him and the other coach worked hard on making every player on the team better than they had been before. At the time I believed everything he put in is just his characteristic subtle competitiveness, but I later realized it was something much deeper.
The Thunder won all of their games in the playoffs to qualify for the finals. They were to face the Mavericks, the team that had defeated them in the regular season. My brother was on cloud nine and with him, my father. With every increase in my brother’s happiness marked a 10 times increase in my dad’s happiness. My dad counted on my brother, just as much as my brother counted on my dad.
The Thunder had played exceptionally in the playoffs and felt that winning was a guarantee. I, despite being mainly indifferent about the whole situation, even began to catch some of the optimism radiating from my brother. But like every good story, this one has a twist. My dad could not come to the game. On the morning of the game he had a flight to New York. My brother was disappointed but not half as disappointed as my dad. He had hoped to be there for the team, and more importantly Arin. Any other person would have shrugged and let things unfold, but not my father. He stayed up late calling to see if his flight could get postponed. And in the case that he couldn’t delay his flight he wrote up a full game-plan for the other coach to follow, complete with scouting of players on the other team and preferred defensive matchups. My dad worked so hard just so his son could be happy.
Like any good story this has a happy ending. Well, a happyish ending. My dad was able to delay his flight and coach the Thunder. It was a hard fought defensive matchup but the aggressive play of the Mavericks secured them the victory. MY brother was disappointed, but not as much as he would have been. Instead of moping around, he ran and hugged my dad in front of everyone else.
Why did my father put so much effort into this basketball team? This is not NBA or a college team or a high school team, they are just 4th graders. In my heart I know he did so not because he cared, what my brother cared for. My brother hates to lose and when he loses he usually mopes and is sad. My dad reached NYC at midnight without any regrets as he saw my brother happy.
As I reflect I remember that he has done this many times with every member of my family. My father is a truly special individual to all who meet him. His actions are reflective of someone who truly cares about those he loves. We all have a different aspect of basketball that we like, but that like brings us closer together as a family.