Basketball — More Than a Winter Hobby

Except for a few stragglers, the leaves have relinquished their beautiful colors and fluttered to the ground. Swimming pools are covered. Mr. Sunshine greets us less and less. Clear blue skies grace us intermittently, but gray overcast skies are regulars. Once deep green grass is now brown. And it’s cold! Furthermore, it’s dark before I’m ready for it to be dark. Lord, I hate winter. There’s only one thing that makes it more than bearable for me: basketball. Thank you and your old peach basket, James Naismith. And glory be to Dean (Smith, that is).

Cherished are the sounds of tennis shoes (excuse me, ‘kicks’) squeaking as players stop and cut…and the sound of that glorious leather ball bouncing on the hardwood floor, or rattling the rim, or tickling the twine. Even the stinky smell of a gym filled with sweaty ballers is a welcomed aroma. It means my favorite season of the year is finally here. Basketball season–It’s even better than summer!

Now, I’m one of those folks who likes basketball–period. It matters not who is playing or at what level. (OK, that’s a bit of a fib, but I’m trying to leave the Dukies out of this.) I love the game, strategies, creativeness, teamwork, toughness, pure basketball skills, and the various levels of athleticism on display. It’s simultaneously frustrating, exciting, challenging, and joyous to watch the competition between teams, individual players, and coaches. It might look easy or even boring to someone who never played basketball, but to many of us who have, a game of basketball can be pure artistry.

My family laughs at my basketball obsession, but I think they understand. Or at least a few of them do. As a child, Mother and Daddy had to physically threaten me to get me off the outdoor court even when it was raining or snowing. Shoot, do you think a little bad weather stopped Larry Bird or Pistol Pete? I don’t! And it wasn’t going to stop me either if I could only figure out how to handle my pesky parents who kept calling me inside. I finally told my mother to leave me alone, that I was going to pay for college with basketball. Never mind the small detail that women’s college basketball scholarships didn’t exist at that time. They did later, and yes, I did get one.

As the years have passed, a few things in my life have remained constant. And my passion for basketball has never wavered. My friends know they’re wasting their time if they call me when a Carolina (no, not South Carolina, oh blasphemous one!) game is still in progress. During the games, I’m always glued to the TV or streaming the game through the internet while listening to the Tar Heel Sports Network radio broadcast. Occasionally, I’m also on the internet chatting with other fans who are equally obsessed with Tar Heel basketball. If you interrupt me during that sacred time, you best be bleeding profusely or dying.

Few of my local friends and family qualify to watch Tar Heel games with me. Usually, they’re not serious enough about the games to suit me. During a visit to my sister’s house, I excused myself to the exercise room to watch the Tar Heels on an older, smaller, lower resolution TV. My sis and her husband shouted from a nearby room several times to invite me to watch on the large HD TV with them, but I maintained that I was “just fine” where I was. Knowing the large TV to be far superior in all ways to the old TV I was watching, my kind brother-in-law decided to convince me face-to-face to join them. I politely declined again for I was certain that his tricky remote control finger would be switching to another channel during every commercial with inadequate concern for getting back to the game channel before I missed a single second of action. Missing a few seconds of game action might be meaningless to some, but it’s completely unacceptable to me.

My sis walked down the hall and stopped to hear my brother-in-law making his case for us watching the game together. Thank goodness she did, for a moment later, my brother-in-law made the mistake of blocking my view of the game intentionally. I didn’t have to say a word. Sis stepped in for me, and informed her husband that he definitely shouldn’t do that, that basketball is a hobby but that it’s much more than a hobby for me too. “She doesn’t just like basketball; she loves basketball. She studies basketball. Heck, she has her PhD in Tar Heel basketball! So get out of there and leave her alone.” And after a chuckle, he did. Thanks, sis!

So my favorite season is finally here again in spite of it being winter outside. I’ll spend hours upon hours reading and posting about basketball and watching all levels of basketball games whenever possible. And when the Tar Heels are playing, if the creeks don’t rise, wherever I am, I’ll block out the rest of the world and watch their games with all the intensity and focus I can muster. And if the creeks do rise? Well, I’ll find me a boat and a paddle.

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