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A Tribute to Basketball
You can tell if a team is ready to play by looking into their eyes. A wide eyed player is scared. A hard eyed player is determined. As a coach, you want your boys’ eyes to have that gleam.
At the beginning of every game, their coach would look into each of their eyes in turn. He was never disappointed.
The locker room today had a mixture of intense anticipation and solemn nostalgia. The majority of the players were silent, going about the immense personal task of task of preparing mentally for what was about to come. The only steady noise besides random comments and the occasional unanswered joke were the voices of two guards reviewing defensive assignments.
“Shooter, doesn’t get room to breath. If he goes to take a s*** I know how many times he wipes. Don’t gamble on him, find him on the breaks and deny him on out of bounds plays.”
“Athlete, gets to the rim and out in transition. Close out short, box him out and sprint back with him on D.”
“Football player, running back. Quick, but can’t shoot from outside the paint. Give him room and help hard off him when he doesn’t have the ball.”
They had gone over the opposing teams players all week long. They had practiced defending their plays more time than they can remember. However, they knew that all of the planning in the world couldn’t give them a win. Going into a basketball game was a lot like being dropped onto the front line of a war zone. You could scheme and prepare mentally, but in the end all you had were your guts, your reactions, your team-mates, and 32 minutes to do something with them. The analogy had never carried more weight than today, when they knew that no matter what happened during those 32 minutes, when the buzzer rang one team’s season would be over.
The Coach came striding into the locker room with about five minutes before warm ups, greeting them with the usual “Everyone up where you can see me and I can see you” He then took thirty seconds and met each player’s gaze in turn, before addressing them all.
“I want to start off by saying it’s been a pleasure working with each and every one of you this season. You’re a special group of young men, both on the court and off the court. You’re as hardworking and mature a team as we’ve ever had, and I know I speak for this entire coaching staff when I say we’re gonna miss you when it’s time to say goodbye, whether that’s two hours or two months from now.” He took a deep breath, cleared his throat, and looked glanced around at them again. They all saw the gleam.
“You all understand the importance of tonight. I’ve told you all week, that starting this evening everybody’s 0 and 0. Nothing that’s happened earlier matters. I don’t give a d*mn what it says on the front of their jersey, or how many coaches they have on their bench, or which players they’ve stolen from which schools. The only thing that matters now is what happens in these next 32 minutes.”
“This could be our last game gentlemen, and I know the seniors will tell you the season has gone by too fast. You only get so much time to do what you love, so tonight, don’t waste a second of it. We’re not gonna leave here tonight wishing we could have worked harder, wishing we could just have those seconds back. We’re not gonna back down, and we’re not gonna give up. We’re gonna go out there and we’re gonna scratch and claw and give everything we have for each other. And at the very least we’re gonna go out there and make sure those b****rds know we’ve been here, let them know who they’re playing against. Now let’s tell them who we are in the locker room down the hall! Seniors, break it down!”
As one the team leapt forward and surrounded their coach, throwing their hands towards the center. From the middle of the seething mass a senior forward bellowed “Big Blue Pride on three! One, two, three...”
As one they thundered “BIG BLUE PRIDE!”