Basketball & Son

imageI’m watching basketball right now. There have been a couple of times in the past when I should have been writing but, you know, there was a basketball game on. So tonight I figured, why not watch this Toronto-Houston game and write. That’s good time-management, and exactly how my son James does his homework.

It’s possible, then, that I’m not fully paying attention as I write this; I might make a few errorballs. Airballs. Errors.

I love watching basketball. It’s been a long time since I’ve invested myself emotionally in televised sports. I used to be a big fan of baseball, an affection that survived the heartbreak of the ’86 Red Sox but left town when the Montreal Expos did.

As for me and hockey, that’s a long, conflicted history that I’ll save for another time or maybe a good therapist.

Meanwhile, we became a basketball family. All four of our children have played it, and two out of four have now played beyond high school. It’s their mother’s genes, trust me.

Boom! DeMar DeRozan slam dunk!

Child number three is sitting right here beside me, the one with the TV-homework skills. And eating skills. Constant eating. Also drinking litre after litre of water. This is what athletes do. He’ll be up to the bathroom twice in the night, probably. Such is the price of hydrated muscles and clean kidneys.

Good board!

I say things like that: “Good board!” “They need to penetrate the paint.” “Drive the lane!” These are expressions I’ve learned by watching the game. I understand, for instance, that you can say “shoot a three” but you don’t want to say “drop a deuce.” I know the game, but the intricacies of plays still tend to confound me. Sometimes when I’m listening to the commentators, all I hear is, “If your transition defence doesn’t draw the third defender a bath, then you have to swing like your mama don’t care in a man-to-man zone for three-point Times Roman, Charles Barkley, Charles Barkley, Charles Barkley.”

The Raptors are killing me with their turnovers.

James is good about setting me straight. Like right now I asked him what a two-guard is. I should know this, but bear in mind that much of my early basketball knowledge came from watching 10-year-olds, where the positions are essentially “everybody runs, everybody shoots.”

I like these evenings in front of the TV with my son. We’re both quiet men (except when we’re not) and we don’t share a lot of interests (besides food). I read and write. He reads and writes under duress. So sitting here, hanging out, making small comments about the game, James showing me something on his phone or laptop (tonight, what James Harden looks like without the beard; answer: huggable!), it’s nice. Plus the boy truly appreciates a good snack; the fourth-quarter leftover steak has just come out.

Big bucket!

I say “Big bucket!” too much.

But that really was a big bucket by DeRozan. 97-96 Toronto!

IMG_4895After years of going without, we subscribed to cable two years ago. It was James’s Christmas present so he could watch basketball and other sports. That’s when I started watching too. When James isn’t playing basketball, he’s training for it or watching it. He’s gotten tall and is getting big. This year, he started for a majority of the regular season games with the Champlain Cougars. Their announcer calls him James “Deadshot” Murray. His speciality is shooting beyond the arc (“beyond the arc”). I hold my breath when he shoots those.

He has one more year at Champlain and then who knows where basketball will take him. I hope it goes on; I love watching him play. Regardless, I appreciate where basketball has already taken him and his sisters so far, what it’s brought them: discipline and focus, a sense of fair play, friendship. I love that there is no fighting in basketball. I think basketball should be Canada’s game, but again, that’s a topic for another time.

Starting this summer, James will be sharing an apartment with his sister in Lennoxville. It’s time for him to move out, and not only because of our grocery bill. It’s just time.

I wonder if we’ll keep the cable. I wonder if I’ll keep watching basketball. I wonder if I’ll have someone to kibitz with on the couch. Hey, Abby, come here; lemme explain what a clear-path foul is…

Tonight, though, I made a little “Yes!” pump-and-jump on a defensive stop, and James chuckled at me. “Big stop!” Tonight, the Raptors beat the Rockets 99-96, Final Four this weekend, James’s provincials next weekend, and the playoffs are coming.

Tonight was a good night.


About rossmurray1

I'm Canadian so I pronounce it "Aboot." No, I don't! I don't know any Canadian who says "aboot." Damnable lies! But I do know this Canadian is all about humour (with a U) and satire. Come by. I don't bite, or as we Canadians say, "beet."
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39 Responses to Basketball & Son

  1. Paul says:

    Such rare and cherished moments when you get a chance to share time with your son. Great post Ross – I could feel the camaraderie. So, if you finally have cable, then a cell phone can’t be far behind. Darned creeping technology – next thing you know you’ll be twittering and tweeting and we’ll have to put you in a cage so you don’t fly away and get hurt. Ha! i got a giggle out of your son’s eating and drinking habits. Having had a couple of teens myself over the years, i have come to realize that they don’t eat, they graze. Much like a cow, they spend 90% of their waking hours seeking food and drink. Ha!

    Oh, as an aside Ross, I have a guest post over at Cordelia’s Mom and I would be honored if you had the time to drop by for a read. Thank You.

  2. It’s good to recognize and appreciate those moments when they’re happening. There are times when I recognize moments with my daughter and it feels bittersweet. The years are flying by!

  3. I really enjoyed this, Ross. I love watching hoops with my son, it gives me an excuse to watch more and there is a bonding that takes place while building those tribal alliances. We don’t watch much NBA since I am still bitter about the Sonics leaving town, but my son has slowly moved me back to watching a few teams with players I like.

    What I love most about basketball is the life lessons players learn from it. There are the obvious ones like working together and knowing your place on the team, but my favorite is how basketball doesn’t stop when a player makes a mistake. There is so much to learn from making a mistake and recovering quickly. My college coach always said that he could tell if he wanted to coach a player by how they reacted to mistakes. I’m sure the same lesson can be learned in all free-flowing sports, but basketball is the one sport where you can see the player’s faces and emotions. Dealing with that pressure as a kid has really translated well later in my life.

    Now, if Wisconsin would just beat Kentucky by 20 I’d be a happy man.

    • rossmurray1 says:

      Faces! Yes, exactly! I love that. I’ve never heard this visible-mistakes line of thought before but it makes sense. Non-fans will make fun of the fact that scores can run up to 100, but there are so many possibilities for errors at both ends of those points.
      I hear people say Wisconsin but that feels like underdog thinking. Although Notre Dame was awfully close…
      As for NBA, it has its flaws for sure (kill the All-Star Game). Weird being a Canadian fan right now, with the Raptors doing well. Where else can you have a whole country cheering for a single team? With not a Canadian citizen on the squad? Be better off cheering the Timberwolves (who lost last night to TO).
      Enough. I’m off.

  4. BuntyMcC says:

    Go Deadshot! I played basketball into university but neither child did. Sigh. No cable, no March Madness. Sigh. University b’ball is so much better than pro; I have said for years that pro basketball courts should be 20% larger and the baskets at 12 feet – to put the game back where it was when people were 20% smaller. Confession: when I started playing, females played six-a-side and players were restricted to half the court. Passing was so much more important then. Nostalgia. Sigh.

  5. Lynn says:

    Just hanging out with your kids is the best. A few years back, I was given free tickets to a Raptors game. I had never been to one before so off I went with my then, 24 year old son, who had been to a few games. Not sure if you have ever been to live game but it is kind of like going to Vegas. All kinds of stuff happening in between those guys dribbling balls up the court. My son found it hysterical to watch my reaction to all that was going around us. A wonderful time spent together hangin’ out!

    • rossmurray1 says:

      I’ve been to a few pre-season games in Montreal, including Raptors-vs-Knicks this year. It really is a spectacle, isn’t it? But for live experience, I’ll take university basketball any day.

  6. The Cutter says:

    So the Raptors are good this year?

  7. Yup – the Raptors and their turnovers. It’s an ancient joke, but they could start a bakery.

    Great post – I enjoyed reading it. 🙂

  8. Carrie Rubin says:

    My husband is already grieving the loss of the father-and-son-watched football games he’ll miss out on when our oldest goes to college next year. It’s kind of their thing. But he’ll still have me to go to the Cavs games with him. Even though I mostly just go for the popcorn and beer…

  9. Ned's Blog says:

    In covering our local high school sports for the paper, I have yet to use the phrase “dropped a deuce.” But I’m thinking I will sometime soon. And on the subject of fathers and sons and finding common ground, basketball is our neutral zone. My 15-year-old loves it and is in a group that will probably make state next year. I’m good from “beyond the arc” but he kills me “inside.” And I don’t just mean knowing there’ll soon come a day when our father-son mini-tournaments will “fade away.”

    Really enjoyed this piece, Ross.

    • rossmurray1 says:

      Thanks, Ned. The day he beat me at 21 was bittersweet. Every day he’s beat me since then just pisses me off.

      • Ned's Blog says:

        Haha! I know the feeling. I lost our annual New Year’s Day 1-on-1 tournament for the first time this year. I made a resolution to kick his booty on Easter — It will be my own personal resurrection attempt…

  10. markbialczak says:

    Nothing but net for you and James for the next few weeks, Ross. Enjoy. Great game for sharing, on the court and in the living room. Well done with your offspring, my friend. May Abby wish to tickle the twine, too.

  11. My kids have both played basketball and they call the positions now 1s, 2s, 3s, 4s and 5s. Whatever happened to guards, forwards and centers. Must be part of that common core math!

  12. Aren’t you genetically and geographically predisposed to follow hockey? Like…you can’t really help yourself?

    I’ve never played a sport in my life. Not one game. (Well…bowling.) Nobody ever asked and dear old dad, that hero, couldn’t be bothered. But I’m a pretty good spectator. My daughters play basketball. But I can’t stand watching them play. If it doesn’t go well, my heart breaks. It’s too much for me. But it’s good for them. This is a good age to learn how to navigate disappointment.

    You’ll keep cable. You’re into basketball.

    • rossmurray1 says:

      We were a musical/drama house for starters. My dad didn’t teach me to play ball; he taught me violin. I wouldn’t change a thing. But I grew in a hockey town. You can probably fill in the blanks, though I recognize now that my perceptions had a lot to do with my own insecurities as much as if not more than actual slights and unfairness. But old resentments die hard. The irony is that I now do PR at a hockey-centric high school. Life is funny. Gotta keep that all bottled up-like.
      I think being a parent spectator teaches you a lot about handling disappointment vicariously. Unless you’re a hockey parent. Jerks.

  13. mollytopia says:

    I don’t know much about basketball but “Deadshot” sounds super impressive – I do understand that shooting from outside the arc with any amount of accuracy is a big deal : ) My girl is 10 now, and I love those quiet moments when she shows me something silly on her phone – latest obsession is a new wallpaper app…Insert wistful sigh…Keep the cable. Totally self-serving opinion because I work at a TV network haha! Great post!

  14. ksbeth says:

    i love your random ‘basketball encouraging rants.’

  15. List of X says:

    Keep the cable. You might need it to watch James.

  16. That was sweet. So great that you and your son share this.

    And yes, there was much moaning and gnashing of teeth around here when the Expos left Montreal. Mitchell was 12 when the franchise came to town, and was…how shall I say? Attached? Obsessed? That year of the players’ strike, when they were on their way to the top? Awful. And salt on the wound was when the CBC did a pretend pennant victory parade.

    Yeah, good times.

    • rossmurray1 says:

      I’m sitting at my sister-in-laws with my nephews watching the Blue
      Jays play at the Big O and were just talking about that strike. Wishful thinking but they’ll never be back.

  17. gavin keenan says:

    Written like a proud father, and rightly so. Happy Easter / Passover (and keep the cable)

  18. Karen says:

    First, this is a lovely post.

    Second, you should have hung in with the Red Sox a little longer (only another generation or so). I gave birth for the first time in 2004, and later that year the Red Sox won the World Championship for the first time in 86 years. I’m still not sure which event gets top billing on the highlight reel of my life. 😉

    Anyway, it’s Opening Day (sort of) here in the US. Go Sox and Play ball!

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