Exercises in creative futility, part 1

Getting long, so I’m breaking it into parts.

I knew he was going to make the shots.

That’s what I like to think, anyway, so many years after the fact. I probably didn’t. But it makes for a neat hook, doesn’t it? That I may have had the pre-conceived notion about the success of his attempts, in a game that probably didn’t meant a lot to anyone other than us. That I, the writer, was smarter than everyone else in the gym, even as the ball left his hand. But it might be a lie. I can’t be sure, since I don’t really remember.

So what was the game? Who is ‘he’, in this context? And what am I talking about? All very good questions. Keep reading, you may find out.

*****

I love basketball. It’s hard to explain why, sometimes, when I don’t play it or watch it or immerse myself in it as much as I did in my youth.

I remember many an afternoon and evening spent on the driveway, engaged in one-on-ones with Dennis, or bigger games with whoever was around that afternoon. If we weren’t outside shooting hoops, we were inside watching games, or videos that depicted the history of the sport to music and with commentary, or playing NBA Jam until our fingers got sore.

We played community leagues together, starting in elementary school, but couldn’t usually muster up the courage to try out for the school teams, being in social circles that would not have been readily accepted on a sports squad. But we had our avenue with these leagues, and enjoyed them.

We loved the game, my brother and I. We loved playing it. We loved the players, the creativity, the free-flowing, unpredictable nature of the game well played. We loved imagining ourselves as being on the grand stage, Game 7 in the NBA Finals, down to the wire, with one shot to decide victory or defeat. I can’t imagine how many times we played that out, on the driveway, in the afternoons or evenings spent outdoors. I can’t imagine how many shots we made, or how many we missed.

*****

It’s easy for one to see the parallels between basketball and life. It can be both individual, and a group effort. Sometimes you’ll have the ball, sometimes you’re trying to help set up for someone else with the ball, and sometimes you’re trying to stop the guy with the ball. Little moments that may seem insignificant initially- a made shot here, a foul there, a defensive stop or a rebound- add up when the final score is tallied.

It may be too romantic a notion for me to draw parallels for the relationship between my brother and I as well. On opposing sides so often on the driveway, but always together in the leagues. We were both opposites and complements, knowing the other as intimately as anyone from all the games played, having wonderful chemistry on the court, but being so similar that coaches wouldn’t want to have both of us out there at the same time (an understandable notion, most of the time- but more on that later).

I would often get the best of him in our one-on-one matches, but when we did those team games and played against each other, it was his side who came up victorious more often than not. I often found this irrational, inexplicable, frustrating that I could win alone, but not in a group against him.

I hope I’m not the sort to read into that, attempt to analyze it and find meaning, to draw those parallels that I mentioned before, to assume that the same parallels still hold true today. If I was, I wouldn’t like what it meant.

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