As previously mentioned, Four plays basketball. Well, he belongs to a basketball team. He's learning how to play. His team is comprised of third and fourth grade boys, and he is probably the most inexperienced player in the group. Two Saturdays ago, he played in his first game. It was only the second game the whole team had played, and just six players showed up. The Captain, who is an assistant coach, was working that weekend, so I had to sub for him, because we felt strongly that Four needed direct supervision on the bench.
The game didn't go well for our team. Our opponents were more skilled, and I instantly disliked them because they had matching shorts with their names and numbers emblazoned on the leg. This is a township rec league, not the NBA. I forgave the kids, but not the coach, Mr. Fancy Pants, especially after he suggested we weren't allowed to keep our best player in for the second quarter. WE HAD SIX PLAYERS! Four had taken himself out of the game, crying, "I can't do this anymore. It's too hard. They're too fast!"
I'd like to say we came from behind and beat the Fancy Pantsers, but alas, it wasn't a feel-good movie. We lost by ten.
I had to convince- really, bribe- Four to play in the next game. The Captain was finally done with inventory, and this would be his first chance to coach him.
"Do it for Dad," I said.
"Okay," he mumbled. "But then I'm never playing again!"
This time, we had a complete team, and they actually looked like they knew how to play. We scored baskets, we rebounded, we bounce-passed with aplomb. Four guarded his man like white on rice, his feet and mouth moving the whole time. At half-time, we were winning by 11.
At this level, the referees let two members of each team take a free throw. Usually, you pick players who don't normally shoot the ball to take a shot from wherever they want on the floor. Four was one of the chosen. His teammate made his shot, and handed him the ball. The whole team was up and watching, telling him to get closer, get closer. He stopped about four feet from the basket, tossed it up, and it went in! Normally, he can't even hit the rim, so it was a big deal, and he celebrated like he'd made the winning shot from half-court at the buzzer. He threw himself in the air, he high-fived the refs, he fist-pumped, and then he went for a drink, because all that activity was pretty exhausting. I almost cried. We won the game, too, and he basked in the glory of it all until bedtime, when he said he wasn't sure he was going to play again. Such is our life.
Tonight, we played a make-up game against Team Fancy Pants. At half-time, we were winning by five. By the middle of the fourth they had evened the score. With 42 seconds left, we got a free throw. Our man made it, but they rebounded, and won by three. I really, really wanted to beat them, to erase the memory of that first game. It didn't happen. But Four showed up to play, defending his man like they were shackled together on the chain gang, and he left the court with a smile. That's a victory.