hoops in the barn, dreams of the heart

The old barn hoop. Of such rickety things are childhood dreams made.

Seeing Morgan William’s game-winning shot that toppled seemingly unbeatable UConn, and sent the Mississippi State’s women’s team to the NCAA championship game, reminded me of what giant dreams a little person can accomplish. Occasionally.

William, described by The New York Times “with generosity” as being 5’5,” nailed her 15-foot jumper at the overtime buzzer, in just the same way as so many aspiring young athletes have dreamed – especially short ones.

I was not even 5’5” when I began shooting baskets up in our barn. The rim, which often lacked a net, was affixed to a plywood backboard on the second floor. Said floor was made of springy barn wood more than half a century old, and the high-ceilinged former hay loft boomed loudly with each dribble of the ball. The court featured two wide beams that jutted from the floor to the wall at a 45-angle, providing handy screens for 10-foot jumpers.

I played up in that barn for hours on end, sometimes competing against my brother or various friends, other times just shooting by myself. These solo shoot-arounds were accompanied by a transistor radio playing hits of the day like “But It’s Alright” by J.J. Jackson, and also by my fantasies of playing in a real-life game. Often I imagined myself playing for the MSU Spartans and my favorite player at the time, Pete Gent, who went on to play football for the Dallas Cowboys and write a book about it.

No amount of winter cold deterred me from my fantasy games, nor summer heat for that matter. I was determined to become a basketball star by high school. I modeled myself after other shrimp-sized high school standouts, such as Colin Curtis, a guard for the Dansville Aggies who coolly sank 40-foot set shots against my hometown Williamston Hornets.

But my greatest inspiration was the legendary Richie Jordan of Fennville. A 5’7” marvel of strength, skill and spring, Jordan could dunk the basketball and averaged 44 points a game his senior year. The All-American guard scored 60 in his final game, which was not enough to defeat Bridgman in a 101-91 showdown for the ages.

I not only imagined myself being Richie Jordan on my springy barn court, but I dreamed of being him as I lulled myself to sleep. Think of the glory of scoring that game-winner, the drama it would create and the girls who would cheer. Nothing was quite as exciting as a small-town high school basketball game back then. Surely it was all within my grasp, if I just worked hard enough!

Of course it was not to be. I did work pretty hard, but so did a lot of other guys who were bigger, stronger and faster than me. A back injury ultimately sidelined me for good and put me where I belonged – with a notepad in my hand, writing about my schoolmates and their occasional Friday night heroics.

Which, incidentally, began the fulfillment of a more important dream: to write about life.

It is good to see a hard-working shorty like Morgan William reach that heroic height with her buzzer-beater, and afterward declare, “Dang, I just won the game.” No doubt it was a moment she had dreamed of, many times.

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to hoops in the barn, dreams of the heart

  1. hey, this is so cool! do you still have the hoop, or just the photo of the hoop?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s