Once again, I have Brian Madison to thank for lighting a fire under me, getting me writing again. On Facebook lately, he has been posting questions to his friends: “Brian Madison wonders…” Yesterday he asked, “What Olympic sport would you like to be best at? What Olympic sport would you currently be best at?”
In spite of the fact that I have not picked up a bow in years and years, I guess I would have a shot at being in the top 50th percentile of humans over the age of 12 picked at random to compete in archery. Which, while not much, is better than I can say for most anything else.
But which Olympic sport would I like to be best at? For years, plagued by congenital orthopedic difficulties, which led to me being routinely lapped by literally my entire gym class, I would have said running. It seems so blissfully meditative for those who do it, and the barrier to entry is low. No special equipment required, no special terrain. But I realized last night that the truest answer was (and had always been, in retrospect) basketball.
I have been a basketball fan for a long time – since Dad put up a hoop in the backyard of the parsonage where we lived when I was 9-13 (on a grassy slope, but hey, at least I could practice shooting.) It was at that time, too, that a local high school senior, a member of our church, made alternate for the Olympic women’s basketball team. My pediatrician had predicted when I was a baby that I would be 5’10” (still short, but not crazy short for a woman), and I was learning to make a shot from anywhere, so – in the realm of the possible, right? But as I became an avid watcher of the game, I learned that there was way more to it than shooting, and I focused my attentions on my more athletic younger siblings, both of whom played team sports, but neither of whom ended up as interested as I had wished they would be in playing basketball.
I don’t follow a team anymore – I don’t really have the time or energy to invest in what color shirt the winning team is wearing (an anomaly here in basketball land) – but I love getting absorbed in the game – any pickup / high school / college / pro / intramural game. And what absorbs me most now is what absorbed me most when I started going to games in junior high – the passing.
I would love to have constant communication with and seamless awareness of four other people that I trusted completely, four people whose physical abilities I knew intimately, whose every movement I could map, even as I mapped the movements and trajectories of our five opponents – a Larry Bird / Magic Johnson 360 degree awareness of the ball and the basket and my teammates and the clock. A genius for playing well with others.
It is true, as my husband says, that the 5’8″ that I have claimed for myself is my inflated “basketball height.” It is true that “I wish I was a little bit taller.” But that’s not why “I just lean upon the wall,” as Skee-Lo continues to opine. No, I am plagued with the tendency to pop in the earbuds, tune out, and compete as if life were an individual sport. I don’t have that 360 degree awareness of my fellow players – often, I don’t even have an idea of who is in the game, much less who is on which team, and what their positions and capabilities are. As Dr. Grant Wacker is reported to have said to a class today, “I’d ask us all to think on the harm we do by being oblivious.”
Kyrie Eleison; Christe Eleison; Kyrie Eleison