The brackets have come off the magnetic board, my lucky shirts have been thrown in the laundry, even my little girl came up to me after the game when she saw me collapse into my hands. She just held on to my arm with her tiny fingers, not saying anything, just being there, and I have to admit, it made this exit better than the rest.
I’ve been following our team closely now for twenty-two years, and every year except two has ended in bitter disappointment. You’d think you’d get used to it; you gird yourself for the possibility, and yet there’s nothing you can do to prepare for your team going down. I hadn’t dared whisper plans – that maybe Tessa, Lucy and I could go stay with Salem outside Atlanta next weekend – for fear of karma, but all the magical thinking in the world can’t save your chosen religion when you go almost twenty minutes without making a field goal.
The rest of you may wonder what befalls true sports addicts, how they could possibly get so worked up about a game where a bunch of 19-year-olds throw around an orange piece of leather. I’ve tried to explain why it’s more of a philosophy than a sport, but I’m sure those blog entries look as ridiculous as this one.
Dean Smith said “if you live and die by basketball games, you’re going to do an awful lot of dying” and so this, too, will pass. He also said, when kids would leave early to go to the NBA: “you go to college to get a job.” No doubt one or two of our players will be looking at that particular job come Monday, but as for me, I’m back to work as well. Back to hammering out stories without the occasional thought about Reyshawn’s late-season heroics, or wondering if Brandan Wright has the necessary passion.
Lucy will be a little older by next season, and she’ll be following the ball, knowing when a basket is made; who knows, perhaps her crush on Tyler will find another dimension. I can tell you this: tomorrow we are nailing a little hoop to her bedroom door, and we will be playing out future glories as we hibernate another eight months ’til it all comes around again. She will know backspin, she will know rebirth, she will know the long story arc of a rainbow three, and the indefatigable optimism of a season to come.