My nine-year-old son plays basketball. It’s one of those popular church leagues where somebody delivers a sermon at halftime. Last week, or the week before maybe, the man doing the sermonizing told a moving tale about his good-for-nothing son who wasted his entire college fund getting krunk in Las Vegas. Except, it wasn’t true! Psyche! He didn’t even have a son! He was just modernizing a dusty piece of scripture.

I’m no theologian, but I recall “lying” being frowned upon in most Biblical circles. Maybe it’s okay if your audience isn’t really listening.

For a kid who’s not quite ten, my son isn’t a bad basketball player. He hasn’t much shooting range, but he can bring the rock down the court fairly quickly, and he occasionally jukes out opponents with a nifty between-the-legs dribble. He can also knock down his free throws, which is why I was so troubled the morning he bricked seven of eight attempts.

BANG! CLANG! KLUNK!

It was like watching Steven Tyler forget the lyrics of “Walk This Way.” What the hell was going on?

“What the hell is going on?” whispered Mrs. Angry, but I had no answers. The referee might as well have handed my son a piano and asked him to bank it in. 

BONG! KITCK! TING! PONK!

That my son was even receiving so many free throw opportunities was an aberration. Nine-year-old basketball is very similar to squirrel basketball. How do you whistle a foul on squirrels?

SWISH!

Finally, my son nailed a free throw. One out of eight! That’s a 12.5 FT% only Shaquille O’Neil would envy.  Micheal J. Fox in Teen Wolf looked more convincing at the charity stripe.

“He made one!” said Mrs. Angry happily, but I continued to stew moodily in my dismay. One out of eight! I blamed my genetics, a notoriously inferior strain of basketball DNA. I recalled my one-year of organized hoops and shivered. The terrible family curse had been passed down to my son! My poor son! A victim of cruel fate.

The game ended, but the score that mattered to me was one-out-of eight. As I weaved my way through the scrum of listless parents and hyperactive children, I formed a plot against destiny. My son would practice his shooting every day! We’d study the very best players in the world and emulate their mechanics! I’d sign him up to a basketball camp, and he’d go, damnit, whether he wanted to or not! I would purge the Curse from my son’s otherwise impeccable genes!

Energized with raw determination, I caught up to my son, who was cheerfully sucking down a cup of Gatorade.

Great game, son!” I said between clenched teeth.

“Thanks!” said my son. I waited for him to mention the seven missed free throws. One-out-of-eight! But with no mention forthcoming, I took it upon myself to broach the topic.

“Soooo…what happened with your free throws, man?”

Furrowed brow. “What do you mean?”

I just couldn’t take it any more. “ONE OUT OF EIGHT! You only made one free throw!”

“Yeah,” said my son, smiling widely, “but it was a swish!”

And that’s when I learned a lesson that not even a billion half-time sermons could teach me.

 

 

 

 

 

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