Monday, March 07, 2011

And One

Zela Elementary -- that's The Little Bears to me and you, Russ -- didn't play for basketball championships every year. In fact, I can't recall a time before the 1977 season, when Zela went head-to-head with Fleger Ridge, that my tiny elementary school played for a county title.

A kid named Rich was the flashiest player on our team. Rich was more mature, more confident than any of the players on our team. This made him the go-to guy in the clutch. The overall best player was Susan, the only female team member. Susan's basketball IQ was incredibly high, which meant she usually made everyone around her better with her play.

I was a role player.

Role players don't typically draw a lot of attention. We play hard and contribute to the team, but at the end of the game few remember the player who has good rebounding technique, or the guy who made the pass that lead to the flashy assist.

Fans remember Rich, and they remember Susan.

I don't recall a lot about the championship game. Most of it was a whirlwind, and I was a confused 11 year old trying to look as though I wasn't. By the end of the game I had scored 1 point -- the back-end of two free throws -- and committed one really hard foul. I'm told I had several rebounds, but I don't remember any.

Rebounds just ain't very sexy.

After Zela lost, the players lined up for trophies. Suddenly I heard the announcer say the phrases "All-Tournament" and "Marc" together. In the same sentence. Confused and unsure, I watched what the guy before me did after his name was called, and did that. I collected my trophy, let them put a ribbon around my neck, then jumped back in line with my team-members.

My identity changed in that moment. I was no longer the insecure kid pretending to be an athlete. In that moment I became a basketball player; a leader, a person who appreciated strategy, and someone who valued team work. Even in middle age with a bum knee, being a basketball player is a significant part of who I am. I'm a husband, a father, a professional, a lover of movies, a basketball player . . .

I still have the trophy to prove it!

It's odd how the smallest of moments can play so large in our lives. And this seems especially true for the lives of children. The sum of those small moments ultimately equal who we become as people.
We can't all be stars, and we can't all be flashy. But each of us can become who we want to be, or who we need to be.

If we pay attention when opportunity knocks.

No comments: