After a six-month hiatus caused by my old-guy baseball season and prolonged by my old-guy laziness, I returned Saturday to pickup basketball at Timberhill Athletic Club.
There's a good game there Saturday mornings, a nice mix of high school and college students plus middle-aged (or more) folks like myself; I love Saturday pickup at TAC because it's really competitive in a very friendly way -- people play hard with a minimum of sniping and lots of compliments for teammates and opponents alike.
If we have enough guys, as we usually do, we play full court, and that was the case Saturday. After we'd been playing for a while, I noticed a boy, probably about 10, shooting baskets on one of the hoops while the action was going on at the other end (that's standard operating procedure at pickup courts, though I usually don't do that while I'm waiting my turn for fear I'll clang a shot and have the ball bound into the game).
What stood out about the kid, other than reddish-orange "shorts" that went down almost to his ankles, was that he reminded me of myself at age 10: blond, sort of chubby and obviously in love with sports.
He wasn't waiting to join our game -- we've had kids play at times, but not that young or slow-moving. He was just shooting baskets because he liked to shoot baskets.
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Later, I saw him sitting on a couch in front of one of TAC's television's, watching Ohio State play Minnesota in football. I'd earlier said hello to him on the court and now asked what his favorite sport was.
"Probably basketball," he said.
"Do you play on a team?" I asked.
I don't want to overdramatize a chance encounter with a heavy blond kid, but I do hope his experience with organized athletics goes better than mine did overall. I was a decent high school baseball player, but I didn't go out for basketball after the seventh grade, when a constantly negative coach kept me on the bench and broke my spirit for trying again in later school years.
I never stopped playing pickup ball though, and won't as long as my body holds up. Hopefully someday the kid from the gym will join us, when his high school basketball schedule permits.
Follow Steve Lundeberg on Twitter, @AnyGivenLundy, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.