My son James was front and centre in a news photo depicting the thrilling 73-72 RSEQ championship win by the Bishop’s University men’s basketball team on Saturday. In the shot, he’s not playing. Instead, he’s on the bench with his teammates as, out of frame, Joany Castor-Thedal’s three-point shot glides through the net with .8 seconds left on the clock.
Except he’s not on the bench; he’s mid-air, literally jumping for joy, letting out a howl, as are his teammates and the fans in the stands. The action was on the floor. The reaction was everywhere else.
(Bravo to photographer Maxime Picard for having the foresight to know where the emotion would be during this intense final moment.)
We’ve been attending Gaiters home games all season, back in the Mitchell Gym after a hiatus of a few years. We used to drive our basketball-playing kids down to the games on weekends when they were in high school, but when they started attending CEGEP in Lennoxville and could go without us, the Call of the PJs was too strong on those nights requiring the long ride down the 143.
With pleasure, of course. We love the game and love watching our kids play. While Deb played basketball in high school, I never participated in team sports outside the occasional woodwind quartet. (I can still hear the chanting: “O-boe! O-BOE! O-boe! O-BOE!”)
Instead, I get to experience the highs and lows through my children, but never, I don’t think, as a means of validating myself as a parent. Demonstrating sportsmanship, working hard, staying committed, I think Deb and I can take some credit for that, but ultimately their accomplishments are their own.
That said, there were times in the stands when we felt ourselves going full-on Mama/Papa Bear. “Why aren’t they putting James on?” we grumbled. And in truth, some games he got minimal minutes. He’s a rookie (again); it’s to be expected. Some games, some of his teammates didn’t sub in at all.
James wants to play, of course, and he would sometimes express his frustration to us. Mostly, though, he accepted reality, appreciated the minutes he got and made the best of his other role: being a good teammate. Cheering on his brothers. Being the first off the bench during timeouts to encourage the players coming off the floor. Enjoying being a part of something bigger.
Deb and I got on board too. We attended the games or I watched online never knowing for sure if or how much James would play, but learning to root for the team, becoming emotionally invested in the season. It was James’s team, therefore it was our team too.
So of course we would attend the championship game, especially when, against the odds, the #3 Gaiters were hosting #4 UQAM. Never, though, did we expect such a crowd as the one that showed up to cheer on Saturday. With nearly 950 in attendance, there was barely room to swing a cat.
It was thrilling to watch the two teams stay even for much of the first half, the fans roaring for every basket, every stolen ball, each blocked shot, then moan at the turnovers, go quiet as the Bishop’s lead disappeared late in the fourth.
And then, down by 2 with 15 seconds left, came the shot. You really should see the video. No, seriously, you should.
I jumped out of my seat, and it wasn’t the first time that night. It wasn’t a conscious decision. Like the boys on the bench, I just leapt up, in excitement, in the exhilaration of being part of that moment, with all those people.
I know James would have given anything to be on the floor right then. Who wouldn’t! He did play in the game, though; got four minutes, shot a three-pointer, missed (alas). He can say, though, that he played in the 2020 RSEQ championship game, a fact, he informed me this week, that may soon be memorialized in a discreetly located tattoo. Don’t tell his mother.
But in the photograph, I don’t think he’s thinking any of that. I suspect he’s thinking of that basket, the win, the team, his teammates, all of them soon to be wearing medals and goofy championship ball caps, hugging each other, proud to be a part of something bigger than themselves.