It came up during Game 4 of the NBA finals. It came up last year too, and the year before that. It’ll probably come up annually from here on and sporadically between times for the rest of my son’s life. He has his mother’s memory for these things.
The thing in this case is Game 6 of the NBA finals 2013 between the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs were up in the series 3-2. James (my son, not Lebron) was rooting for the Heat that year.
But I need to back up a bit more. We had subscribed to cable only about six months earlier. Prior to that, we were a family that survived on rabbit ears and endlessly replayed VHS and DVDs. I can recite for you all 10 seasons of “Friends,” if you’re so inclined.
As I’ve mentioned before, the cable was in essence a Christmas gift to James so he could watch his beloved basketball on a large screen instead of hovered over choppy, possibly pirated Internet feeds.
The move had the added pleasure of drawing me into professional sports in a way I hadn’t been since the Expos left town. With the basketball on and my son sitting there watching, I discovered the quiet joy of enjoying sports on TV, with company. James doesn’t read much, he doesn’t write, we don’t have a lot of common points – besides munchies, metabolism and mimicking. Sharing basketball is where our pie charts intersect. Also pie.
Jump to Game 6, 2013. I don’t know when I did it, possibly heading into the fourth quarter, with the Spurs up by 10. It must have been closing in on midnight. James had an exam the next morning. So I sent him to bed.
I don’t remember a huge protest from him. I knew he wasn’t happy about it. But it was his final year of high school. He had to do well in these exams. I held firm. James went to bed. I continued to watch the game.
With 28 seconds left and the Spurs up by 3, Miami inbounded the ball, Lebron shot the three, missed, Chris Bosh rebounded, kicked it out to Ray Allen, who peddled back, and drained a three-pointer to tie the game with 5.2 seconds on the clock. Miami won in overtime 103-100 and went on to take Game 7 and the championship.
What an amazing game!
Let me quote NBA.com for you: “Never has an NBA championship turned so significantly on a four-second sequence.” From Wikipedia: “The game is considered by players and commentators to be one of the greatest games in NBA history.”
Three years later, I still don’t know whether I did the right thing by sending James to bed. Did that extra 45 minutes of sleep improve his exam results? Will he remember that science or algebra or whatever it was? By contrast, professional sports may be ludicrous but they are so emotionally charged that they embed themselves in our brains among the happiest memories. A memory I robbed him of. Did I mention it was one of the greatest games in NBA history?
This is parenthood. This is the grey area of decision-making.
There are certain things I can attest to unequivocally as a father. For example, never underestimate the wellness power of freshly shined shoes. Spanking is unproductive for everyone involved. Never even hint to your wife that her having her period is somehow inconvenient to you.
And then there are things there are no answers to, like is it less of a drag to fill the lawnmower after you mow or before? Do you force your child to do something she has a natural talent for even if she says she doesn’t want to do it anymore?
In the pursuit of percentage points, do you deprive your son something he’s waited 17 cable-less years for?
Charcoal or gas?
We can never know which decisions will lead to regret, resentment, charred steak…
And so it comes up. It came up during Game 4 on Friday, the first in the Cavaliers-Warriors series that wasn’t a blowout either way. Finally a game worth watching, we both agreed, even though it was late and James had to work at 7 a.m. But he’s an adult now. I can’t send him to bed. I can only recommend it.
In fact, I said to him, “I could send you to bed,” so technically, I brought it up. But I said it jokingly, attempting to lighten the burden of regret. I’m hoping that, maybe this way, he won’t bring it up in my eulogy.
Please visit my Kickstarter page to find out how you can support the publication of my debut novel, A Hole in the Ground. Almost there. Go see!