The Basketball Kid Takes a StandNovember 30, 2007
Second panel: main street in a small town at night, parked cars buried in snow, stores dark, snowy sidewalks not even dotted with footprints
Third panel: a small-town baseball field covered with snow
Fourth panel: snow falling down past the windows of a lit-up high school gym, the parking lot packed, the light in the windows glowing
Fifth panel: people jammed shoulder-to-shoulder on wooden bleachers, some in thick sweaters, some still wearing parkas, some with mouths open in exhortation, others close-mouthed, worried, everyone looking in the same direction, everyone with an expression that one way or another says this moment matters
And in this moment the clock is frozen with just a few ticks left.
“OK, Kid,” the coach says in the last possible timeout huddle. He is looking where everyone else is looking. All the spectators, all the other players. Everyone praying the same prayer.
“Time to do your stuff, Kid.”
A buzzer sounds. The hometown players put their hands together and bark out their huddle-breaking chant: “Believe!”
Four of the white-jerseyed players take the floor. Others find a seat on the bench. One player lingers at the edge of the court, standing, mopping his face with a towel. Everyone keeps their gaze on him. Is he thinking of all the close scrapes and near misses and miraculous last-second heroics? Is he wondering if his luck may have finally run out? Is he wondering if the many setbacks already experienced during this difficult game are the harbingers of a damning defeat, a beginning of a new life of losing, a new life of the constant unraveling of confidence and faith?
A ref stands nearby, the game ball in his arms.
“Anytime you’re ready, Kid,” the ref says, a whistle clenched in his teeth.
But The Basketball Kid is still thinking. He’s thinking of everything. The close scrapes, the near misses, the miraculous last-second heroics. The difficulty of the game at hand, the possibility of losing, the possibility of that loss opening up into a whole life of losing.
Time out, he wants to say.
He is wondering if this is the beginning of the end of The Basketball Kid, but he wants to carve out a little shelter in time and linger there and wonder just a little about the opposite of the beginning of the end. But such shelters don’t exist. He takes his towel from his face, but then instead of tossing it in a customary display of cleancut small-town politeness and warm-hearted small-town kindness to the team manager, an awkward addle-brained bespectacled dufus that The Basketball Kid long ago rescued from friendlessness, The Basketball Kid just lets it drop to the ground. It’s a small but ominous departure from the usual script of heroism, and it registers in the crowd with a nervous murmur. The only person seeming not to focus on the intimations of the towel crumpled rudely on the floor is the author of the gesture. His mind, previously so pure, so focused on The Now, has finally, perhaps irrevocably, begun to wander.
How did it all start? he wonders. How did I become The Basketball Kid?
Next Episode: The Origin of The Basketball Kid (Plus: At Long Last, Wayne “Tree” Rollins!!!)