I’m not a huge sports fan. But more than that, I am not a huge basketball fan. In fact, of all the sports, basketball is pretty far down the list. I’m more of a circus fan: Ringling Bros., Cirque du Soleil, FSU Flying High Seminoles at Callaway Gardens, Canopy Studio, Cole Bros. Circus, yup seen all of those and pretty big fan of each one.
Tonight was my seven year old daughter’s first basketball game. I think I grimaced and cringed for the first twenty minutes. It was painful. My daughter, Sammy, who is like me in so many ways, is a little timid and I was quite impressed with her bravery of trying out basketball for the first time! As I sat on the cold, hard bleacher with my five year old’s stuffed animals teetering on the edge of the seat, I wondered how Sammy would fare in this game. Would she like it? Would she freak out? Would she keep defending her “man” when her own team had the ball? I put my hands over my face. I also rubbed my temples. Because underneath me, Ellie was tapping her foot on the echoing bleachers while all those shoes were squeaking on the court.
My first visit to a basketball game goes way back. When I was in elementary school I had a playdate with a friend … which ended up at her older brother’s middle school basketball game. The squeaking! The buzzer! I think I jumped two feet off the ground when I heard that buzzer for the first time. All I could do was stare at the clock which was counting down the minutes till my freedom of that noise hell!
I have been to some games I’ve enjoyed. As newlyweds, my husband and I attended most of the UGA basketball games. It was a decent outing which gave us something to do that didn’t involve going to a bar. You see, back then there were no bars appropriate for thirty year olds in a small college town. And all the bars allowed smoking, so even if you went out for just one beer at Mellow Mushroom, you’d still come home smelling like a smoke stack.
But when my husband coached the private school basketball team, I attended all of the home games. It was social, we had no kids, and it was fun to watch him do something he loves so much. Later on I was a pregnant spectator, and, after tonight’s bleacher experience, I can’t understand how I could tolerate sitting on that hard metal for so long with a big pregnant belly. Our little girl turned into a toddler going to Daddy’s games and eating pizza while watching the Donovan Rams play. And during this stage, I spent most of my time reigning Sammy in so she wouldn’t interfere with the game and/or get trampled by sweaty high school boys with large feet and long, flailing limbs. So when the hubs would ask how I liked XYZ play, I had no idea what he was talking about because my eyes only rested on the game for sporadically. Ok, even if I was watching with undivided attention and in slow motion I probably still wouldn’t see the play unless it was being commentated to me simultaneously. We enjoyed cheering for our team, though, and I especially have fond memories of them playing in a tournament at Philips Arena, with Toddler Sammy sporting her #1 T-shirt to help cheer Daddy on.
Aside from basketball, I do like sports a little bit. I like stadiums. I like the atmosphere. I like the connections: my friend’s dad knows my husband’s favorite team (the Hoosiers) and I know my friend’s dad’s favorite team (Duke.) We enjoy chatting about the sorrows or victories. I can follow a game even better (that means I can slightly follow it) if I am familiar with a player. At my first job as an Academic Advisor at UGA, I advised Ben Watson, so I loved watching games he played in – at UGA and then later for the New Orleans Saints! For a few good years I also got to watch a little boy I used to babysit play for the Dawgs. When the players started to look like tiny ants way out there on the field, I would just look for Kolton Houston’s jersey and follow it to keep my focus on the game.
My boss’ team just won their National Championship. We all know how much she loves her Tigers, so after the big win, we all greeted her wearing orange and purple to show her how happy we were for her and her team. She was quite pleased. And she said, “It’s not just about football. It’s about memories. Going to games with your family when you are two. Sitting next to Dad and having him whisper an explanation of a call in your ear. Then bringing your own kids to join in on the tradition.” That’s kinda how it is for me, too. My parents took me to Falcons games when we were little and sat outside in the cold, before the dome was built. My sister and I would stay up late on the Saturday night before the game to make posters which would never be seen by any TV camera, but we were caught up in the excitement and demanded to bring them on Sunday anyway, poster in one hand, hot chocolate in the other.
I have enjoyed more than one German soccer stadium as well. Funny enough, I had two sets of friends with season tickets to rival Soccer teams. I enjoyed the disgust I was met with when I told people I was a Schalke fan and a Borussia Dortmund fan. I mean, that’s like being a Braves fan and a New York Yankees fan. Yuck! I especially enjoyed learning the songs of the stadium. Blau-weisse Schiesse tra-la-la-la-la doesn’t translate very beautifully, but it was very spirited in the moment!
But that basketball gym tonight was a doozie. I couldn’t figure out why the game was being stopped so often. It almost made me wish to be at a college game. The poor kids were trying to learn the rules as they went, and clueless me on the sidelines felt their pain of trying to get it right.
Now that we have a little basketball experience under our belt, time to focus on the next big game: Saturday’s Falcons playoff game. And since we all know that I surely must have been a mistaken UPS baby delivery to my sports-loving family thirty-nine years ago, I’m going to surprise myself by throwing my husband and daughters a special Football Party! Since there’s food involved, I’ll be sure to maintain an interest without grimacing for that game!