Currently, I am totally enthralled in basketball tournaments. I even filled out the college bracket this year. For as long as I can remember, I have loved this game. I credit it to my Dad. Basketball was one of his passions. He played in his younger years, for both school and the National Guard. He was a talented player and led his team to many victories. As I was growing up, my Dad was my first coach. We had a hoop in our driveway and almost nightly, my Dad, sisters and I would head outside to hone our skills. He would stand under the hoop and feed us balls. He eventually would wander out and play one on one with us as well. Being a little younger than my sisters, I would have to move in closer to the basket while we played. I actually remember the first shot I made. My Dad had to run over to the neighbors for a little while. He drew a line in the driveway and told me to keep practicing from that distance and he would return home soon. I'm not exactly sure how long I was working on this, but I eventually made one of the shots. I couldn't wait to show my Dad. As I saw him driving down the road, I started shooting as quickly as I could, just trying to make one more shot so he could see me. As he turned into the driveway, I did it. I made a basket from the line he had drawn. His reaction is stamped into my memory, still to this day. He gave me a fist pump from behind the wheel and one of the biggest grins he had. I ran to the car and he stepped out and gathered me into his arms and told me he was proud of me. That is one of many favorite moments I had with my Dad.
This time of year, my Dad would also be hooked on watching the tournaments. He would probably call and say, "did you see so and so? That is some good ball playing!" He liked seeing the coaches get worked up over plays that were questionable. Most of all, he loved seeing the heart and will of the players. We both enjoyed highschool and college games the most, because of the raw passion of the game at those levels. These young people aren't playing with dollar signs in their eyes, but for the love of the game and desire to represent their school, working towards a championship.
Now that my Dad is gone, I watch the games and try to imagine what he would be saying and who he would be rooting for to win. Each year he would comment on how it would be nice to see one of the Catholic schools win it all. I have to admit that I would like to see that too!
Since having kids, I haven't been as faithful of a basketball follower as I have been in the past. But no matter how much of the season I miss, there always seems to be this underlying enthusiasm for the game. My Dad instilled so many things in my life. As trivial as basketball may seem, I am thankful he passed on his passion to me. It feels like one more way I can honor him and keep him close to my heart. Let's dance!