Power of Sports

January 29, 2012
By , Roslyn, NY
During his time in High School Joseph Back was the man: The all state point guard and the best player on the team, the 95 GPA, the man dating the prettiest cheerleader, the one with the coolest car, and the kid everyone wanted to be. He walked around with a special strut, one saying I am the man and I know it.
As a high school senior Joseph led his team to the State championship against their cross town rivals St. Benedicts, A championship game which would take Joseph about 30 years to get over.
It started off as good as ever, Joseph was on fire. 4-7 3 pointers, 6-6 foul shots, 25 points, 3 steals, 4 assists, and 7 rebounds, he was having the game of his life. After Joseph nailed back-to-back 3 pointers, St. Benedicts responded with a reverse layup to give them a 51-50 lead with 6.2 seconds left.
Only time for one shot, which every single person in the gym knew who was going to take it.
The inbound came right to Joseph, he took two dribbles to his right, a dribble between his legs, pump faked, and released a 3 pointer. But at that second a body slammed into him forcing him to the ground. After lying there for what seemed to be an eternity, the whistle finally blew, foul.
Joseph slowly walked to the foul line and stood there wondering how he could rid his mind of the pressure that 300 pairs of eyes forced upon him. No answer.
3 dribbles with his right hand, 3 dribbles with his left hand, 3 spins of the ball. His trusty foul shot routine, 6-6 today. But these shots were different. One for overtime, two to win, zero and go home.
First shot off right. Now he started to panic. Millions of thoughts rushed through Joseph’s mind, he felt like he no longer remember how to shot.
3 dribbles with his right hand, 3 dribbles with his left hand, 3 spins of the ball. Now the second shot. He knew that since his first shot was so off right he’d aim to the left, just a little, this time. 3 feet off left, as an overwhelming sense of uneasiness filled the gym.
Now the third and final shot, force overtime or go home. The St. Benedicts crowd swayed back and forth anxiously awaiting to rush the court, almost as if they new Joseph was going to miss the final shot.
3 dribbles with his right hand, 3 dribbles with his left hand, 3 spins of the ball. Thousands of foul shots made in his life time with this routine, and now he only needed one for the most important shot of his life.
Joseph let out a relaxing breath and released his final shot. It felt good. He watched as the ball slowly soared towards the basket, praying it went it. Crank! The ball nailed the back of the rim and soared 5 feet into the air. Crank! Off the right rim. Crank! Off the left rim, and straight to the floor.
The St. Benedicts crowd stormed the court as Joseph felt straight to his knees.
Twenty years later Joseph is married with one son, Greg. His wife Jessica is a stay at home mom, while Joseph is now the Vice-President of the Statistical division at Livingston Pharmaceutical inc., a job which requires an enormous amount of work and time, especially outside of his usual 7-10 work schedule. Joseph’s brutal work schedule heavily restricts the amount of time he is able to spend with his family. Because of this, lately his relationship between both his son, and his wife have become increasingly distant.

“Bye dad, ill see you later.” Josephs son Greg said.
“ See you later Greg, have a great day at school.” Responded Joseph.

“I’m leaving, bye Alyssa, I’ll be home late tonight so don’t wait up” said Joseph.

“Alright have a good day I’ll see you tonight,” responded Alyssa.
About 17 hours later, at 12:30, Joseph crawled back into bed utterly exhausted and anxious to go to sleep after another grueling day at work. Joseph especially has been under streets lately because of the company’s President decided to step down, making everything more hectic around the office.
Seconds away from falling into a deep sleep Alyssa awakend surprised to see Joseph in bed.
“Oh hello Joseph I didn’t hear you come in.” Alyssa Said
“Sorry darling, go back to sleep.” Joseph said.
“Joe, while I have you we need to talk. I think you should be spending more time with Greg. Basketball season is coming up and most of the fathers have been taking their sons to the park, and I can tell Greg gets very jealous,” Alyssa said to Joe.
“Look, I know I’ve been very stressed out with work lately, but I need to step up now more than ever, since our President just left the company and now the company’s looking to promote someone within, and I know if I work hard enough I can get it ” Joe said.
“I understand but just promise me you’ll make more of an effort from now on. For example, Greg has an 11:30 basketball game tomorrow. I’m sure he’d love if you took him” said Allysa.
“Yea your right, ill take him, go to sleep, good night” Joe said, as he let out a sigh of relief as his head hit the pillow.
The Next morning, Greg and Joseph, while on their way to the basketball game have what seems to be their first conversation in what feels like forever. Though it was awkwardly forced small talk, it was an improvement for Joseph.
“So, how’s school going buddy,” asked Joseph.
“It’s good,”
“Whats your favorite class”
“Well I like math and science a lot, and English is reallllllly boring”
“Yea I never liked English either”
Finally, they arrive at the game, where they see Joseph’s brother, John, who also has a son Greg’s age and is also on the team.
“Mr. Big shot Vice-President, shock to see you here” John Said.
John also works as a Statistician but he, along with their father, works at a local firm that offers all the statistical advice for the small, local companies. Ever since graduating from the University of Michigan, and choosing to work at a larger, more profitable company than their family owned one, Joseph has been the butt of many jokes, like that one, throughout the family.
For the next hour Joe sat there amazed at how good his son was at basketball. He felt sad, realizing that he missed his son’s full progression into a good basketball and that it came no thanks to him. Joseph sat there uncomfortably as he drifited into his nostalgic past. He realized why he had never been around any of his sons basketball games and why he never practiced with his son. He couldn’t stand the haunting memory of that last game.
After the game ended Greg came over to Joseph with a flyer that all the kids were instructed to give their fathers.
“Here dad, im supposed to give this to you” Greg said.
After quickly glancing at the flyer, Joseph, as he just resurrected that horrible championship memory, immediately crumpled up the flyer and put it in his pocket.
“So Dad, are you going to play?” Greg said.
“No son, I don’t play basketball,” Joseph responded as the two walked away.
Greg was not surprised considering neither he or Alyssa, Joseph’s wife of 15 years, had an idea about his All-State past and that fatal State Championship game. Since that game, Joseph has never played in a basketball game, nor has he even picked up a basketball. Just the thought of those 3 missed foul shots is enough to make Joseph cringe.
Later that night after silently drifting through family dinner Joseph went into his office and took the crumpled flyer out of his pocket. He stared at it. Joseph didn’t move a muscle. After clearly noticing the uneasiness on Josephs face Alyssa walked in.
“Hey, what you got there Joe?” Alyssa said.
“Nothing” Joe responded, as he crumpled it back up and stuffed it into a drawer. Alyssa quickly responded and went over to the draw and read it.
“Why is this causing you so much trouble? You don’t play basketball” Alyssa said.
“There’s something I should tell you” Joseph responded as he bowed his head in shame.
“I used to play basketball, and I was pretty darn good at it also. Back in high school I was voted an All-State player and led the state in points as I led my team to the State Championship”
“Oh my God that’s great Joe, why did you never tell my this” Alyssa said.
“Its not great Alyssa, It was the worst time of my life” Joe angrily responded.
“Why? What happened?” Alyssa eagerly said.
“Its nothing, it was a while ago” Joe said.
“Joe, what happened” Alyssa said, trying to extract what was evident of a bad memory Joseph has never let go.
“I missed three straight foul shots to lose my team the game. There you happy. It was horrible, everyone at school never looked at me the same anymore. I blew the state championship game in front of the whole twon. It was the single worst day of my life, and I haven’t played basketball since.” Joe quickly said.
“What! That’s crazy Joe. You were just a kid, you were human, everyone misses shots, and you were under a TON of pressure, to not play basketball since, that’s crazy. Look Joe, I didn’t live in your town but I can guarantee you that if you asked anyone who did they’d tell you, you did great and either way they were proud of you. I think you should play in this league. It’ll be a great thing for you and Greg to share, and hey you never know maybe you’ll get to redeem and revive your basketball career,” Alyssa sympathetically said.
Alyssa walked out leaving just Joe and his thoughts. He sat there pondering his situation for almost two hours, weighing his options.
“It would be nice to get back into basketball,” Joe said to himself
“But I simply don’t have the time, especially now that I’m trying to get promoted to President. I can’t afford these distractions!”
Joseph finally put his thoughts to sleep and decided that for now he is going to concentrate on work but as soon as he is notified on whether or not he is promoted he’ll join the league. He breathed a sigh of relief and sat back eager to relax, when Greg came in.
“Hey dad! What’s up? Did you decided whether your going to play or not?” Greg said.
“I decided that for now I’m going to concentrate on work, but as soon as I find out whether or not I got promoted I’ll join the next tournament.” Joseph said.
“I think you should sign up now, basketball can be good to escape from work, it’s a lot of fun!” Greg said.
“You know what,” Joseph said as a smile came to his face.
“I’m going to sing up tomorrow”
“You wont regret it Dad!” Greg said.
Later that night Joseph stayed up reminiscing about his basketball memories, but this time the good ones. He remembered his first basketball game ever and when his dad first taught him how to play. He remembered leading his team to the state championship and all the great games he had his senior year. He finally went to sleep anxious to sign up for the Basketball tournament.
For the next 4 days, Joseph drifted aimlessly through work showing no initiative and no real determination to do his job. He could not focus because of this tournament and his boss noticed. As soon as he got into work his boss told him of a meeting he wanted to have which would decide wether he would become president, that day at 7. What was he supposed to do, the tournament he and his whole family anxiously anticipated overlapped with one of the most important meetings in his life. He didn’t even think about it.
“Sorry, I cant make it tonight Mr. Stevens,” (Joseph’s boss)
“Joe, if your not their ill consider it your resignation from the company.” Mr. Stevens said.
“No need, I quit” said Joseph as he proudly walked out of the office.
He could not believe it. Out of nowhere he quit his job, which has defined him for years. Nevertheless, he didn’t care, he had no worry in the world. He was just so excited for the tournament, yet also worried. He had not played basketball in years and was wondering whether he still had it, his natural shot which led him to so many good times during high school.
It was finally time. Joesph stepped into the gymnasium looking like he was finally home. He looked up at the high ceilings, the large stands, smelt the freshly waxed floor, and breathed a sigh of happiness. The game was seconds away when Alyssa and Greg finally walked in.
“Alyssa!” Joseph yelled.
“Just a quick thing to tell you before we start. I quit my job.” Joseph said quickly as he jogged back on the court.
“WHAT!? Joesph get back here! What do you mean you quit?” Alyssa yelled franticly.
Joseph just looked at her, gave her a wink and started to play. Alyssa sat their with a puzzeled look on her face thinking about the abrupt yet serious information her husband just told her. She decided she’d talk to him later and began to watch that game.
Almost immediately, Joseph found out the answer to his previously wondered question. Yes, he could still shoot, in fact he hadn’t lost a step.
19 points, 4 assits, 4 rebounds. Joseph dominated and helped his team win an astounding 71-33 game; it was one of the best moments in his life. Because of the fact that there were only 8 teams, the next game was the semifinal game.
Joseph didn’t choke one bit. 16 points, 8 assists, 4 rebounds. Another great game and it was time for the championship game. To say Joseph was nervous is an understatement. All he could remember was his High School stae championship. Sensing the overwhelming look of nervousness on Josephs face, Alyssa went up to him.
“That game was about 20 years ago. You’re a new person, you’re a great father, a great husband. Just relax, go out there and have fun. No matter what your still going to come home to a great family”
“Yea dad” Greg said butting in.
“We love you, good luck!”
“Thanks guys, I love you too.” Joseph said.
Joseph began to warm up and before he knew it, it was time for the opening tip off. The game started great, Joseph made his first six shots as his team started off with a nice lead. He led the team to a 32-29 lead into halftime and was feeling as confident as ever. Josephs team came out strong from halftime but the other team came out even better. Joseph, and another dad Josh, traded back to back baskets numerous times leading up to a one point lead for Joseph’s team with 45 seconds left in the 4th quarter and Josh’s team with the ball. Joseph already had 32 points and was on absolute fire. The inbound came in and Josh let the shoot clock run down to 2 seconds (17 seconds on the game clock) as he hoisted up an off-balanced lay-up. Somehow it went in. Josephs team quickly inbounded the ball and ran down the field, as the clock ticked down Joseph drove to the lane having about to take what he thought was an open layup. Just as he jumped his legs were taken out from under neath and he went flying.
Two foul shots for the game, one to tie, zero and lose. He couldn’t believe it, it was Déjà vu. He felt different this time, confident, he knew he was going to make them.
He walked to the foul shot and right before he was about to shot he rembered his superstition. 3 dribbles with his right hand, 3 dribbles with his left hand, 3 spins of the ball. He did his old routine and let the ball fly. Off right. NO WAY, he thought to himself. Now he began to get nervous. The haunting memories off his three foul shots in the state championship came back to his mind.
“Relax” he said to himself.
“You got this.”
3 dribbles with his right hand, 3 dribbles with his left hand, 3 spins of the ball. Just as he was about to let his shot go someone yelled out, it was Greg.
“Come on Dad! You got this!” Greg yelled.
“ I do have this.” Joe said to himself.
3 dribbles with his right hand, 3 dribbles with his left hand, 3 spins of the ball, and he released his shot. From the second it left his hand he knew it was in. It wasn’t. His shot was short and he couldn’t believe it.
The sons of all the dads, all the wives, and everyone in the stands came onto the court to congratulate the winners and condole the losers. So did Joseph, he didn’t care. Unlike the last time, it didn’t bother him, he knew he tried his best and he knew that now he had his wife and his son, that this was just a minor speed bump in what he knew was going to be a long smooth road.
“Sorry Dad,” Greg said with a sad face.
“It’s fine son, you’ll have to teach me to shoot foul shots later” Joseph said.
“Sounds like a plan to me” said Greg.
“So dad, what are you going to do about work now?” Greg asked
Out of nowere Gregs brother John stepped in and said “Well actually weve been looking for another employee down at the local firm. The pay may not be as large as your old job but you would only have to work from 9-6, it would give you a lot more time with Greg”
“Ill take it.” Joseph said as he picked up Greg and put him on his shoulders.
“Ill take it” He repeated to himself as he began to nod with a big smile.

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