March madness brings together 64 of the best college basketball teams in the nation. The competition starts with a bracket plan of team match ups and ends with a national champion.

I love ball. I love the the players; how they defend, shoot, twist, fowl, fly off the court into the seats, look weird and shrug their shoulders in disbelief when the ref calls a foul on them. I love the instant replays; the cheerleaders, the bands, the refs, the coaches. With no cable TV and four games to watch on a Saturday, I get saturated after two games. But what games they are. These are superb athletes at the peak of top of their game. Bow outs, no; close games, yes; and I always root for the underdog. The desperation last second fling of a 3/4 length floor length shot with the hope for a miracle. I even like those absurd interviews with players and coaches, (“we’re gonna get in there, play our game, and see what happens”). I appreciate the camera men for their  close-ups of a spectator biting their nails on and on and on. You never know what is going to happen.

Ball game, ball handling, ball control – it’s all ball.

As a young teen, we had a basket 8 feet high on the side of the house. Many shots shook the house until I started shooting with more precision. Next came to boys club which the gym was on the second floor. The nets were metal mesh. There were wooden struts from the ceiling so we had to shoot through them or else do layups or side shots. We played with no ref. The opposing defender would cry “foul” and we’d turn the ball over. After I played on athe club team, I’d scramble to find the sports page of the local Depew newspaper to see my name in the box score. Next was high school. I was on the junior varsity and my shining moment was when I scored 25 points and we still lost. I was hot that day. The team was Niagara on the Lake. Next was varsity – second string. I watched most of the season from the bench. Then came Canisius College. I attended games in the “Aud”. That’s shot for sports arena in downtown Buffalo with my pre-med buddies. “ Our cheer was “Canisius…Fight Team Fight.” Next experiences were as a teacher. A bunch of teachers got together and play five on five, four on four and sometimes one on one.. There were a few former college players who were better than average and most of the time I spent trying to get open and not getting the ball. Our object was to get and stay in shape. It was a night out with the boys. Next was another school where Ed Nook shop teacher, a big hulk of a guy, elbowed me in the chest. I had sore ribcage for three months. Next was Vinny Fogarties backyard in Fredonia. Our one on one always ended up with him driving around me with ease. He had a good jumper and always beat me in a friendly game of Horse.

Now it’s television and the 1970 New York Knicks. My hero was Bill Bradley. He knew how to run without the ball and become open for a pass and a shot. He was deadly from the corners. Author John Mc Phee wrote a book about Bradley “Moving Without the Ball.”

My friend Darrel disagrees with me for watching “spats,” as he calls it. “Once the game is over, it’s over. It’s on to the next game.” Darrel is right about the fact that watching sports is an an apparent want as compared with a real need. Darrel considers March Madness, the Super Bowl, Open Tennis, Boxing, and Olympics all a waste of time. For me, it is an apparent need. Once it’s over I soon forget about it. There’s no real learning. It’s entertainment. While entertainment is important and needed, some of us go overboard and overdose on apparent entertainment using it as excape. I don’t see any harm getting excited over ten men or women flinging themselves after a loose ball, stealing, catapulting themselves into the bench to save a ball and keep it in play, making layups that look like yoga moves, hook shots, and all the rest.

Now it’s nearing the baseball season. I turn my attention tomy favorite team, the Yankees. I focus on one particular man who plays left Field. He wears high, black socks, leads off, and looks and acts like a true professional. He doesn’t smile very Much. He is the serious Brett Gardiner.I might get to see him play on TV once every six months. Everybody has to have some sort of hero. His behavior as a ball player inspires me to act with dignity and sincerity. Ball has taught me how to play in my game of life.

BALL

March madness brings together 64 of the best college basketball teams in the nation. The competition starts with a bracket plan of team matchups and ends with a national champion.

I love ball. I love the the players; how they defend, shoot, twist, fowl, fly off the court into the seats, look weird and shrug their shoulders in disbelief when the ref calls a foul on them. I love the instant replays; the cheerleaders, the bands, the refs, the coaches. With no cable TV and four games to watch on a Saturday, I get saturated after two games. But what games they are. These are superb athletes at the peak of top of their game. Bow outs, no; close games, yes; and I always root for the underdog. The desperation last second fling of a 3/4 length floor length shot with the hope for a miracle. I even like those absurd interviews with players and coaches, (“we’re gonna get in there, play our game, and see what happens”). I appreciate the camera men for their  close-ups of a spectator biting their nails on and on and on. You never know what is going to happen.

Ball game, ball handling, ball control – it’s all ball.

As a young teen, we had a basket 8 feet high on the side of the house. Many shots shook the house until I started shooting with more precision. Next came to boys club which the gym was on the second floor. The nets were metal mesh. There were wooden struts from the ceiling so we had to shoot through them or else do layups or side shots. We played with no ref. The opposing defender would cry “foul” and we’d turn the ball over. After I played on athe club team, I’d scramble to find the sports page of the local Depew newspaper to see my name in the box score. Next was high school. I was on the junior varsity and my shining moment was when I scored 25 points and we still lost. I was hot that day. The team was Niagara on the Lake. Next was varsity – second string. I watched most of the season from the bench. Then came Canisius College. I attended games in the “Aud”. That’s shot for sports arena in downtown Buffalo with my pre-med buddies. “ Our cheer was “Canisius…Fight Team Fight.” Next experiences were as a teacher. A bunch of teachers got together and play five on five, four on four and sometimes one on one.. There were a few former college players who were better than average and most of the time I spent trying to get open and not getting the ball. Our object was to get and stay in shape. It was a night out with the boys. Next was another school where Ed Nook shop teacher, a big hulk of a guy, elbowed me in the chest. I had sore ribcage for three months. Next was Vinny Fogarties backyard in Fredonia. Our one on one always ended up with him driving around me with ease. He had a good jumper and always beat me in a friendly game of Horse.

Now it’s television and the 1970 New York Knicks. My hero was Bill Bradley. He knew how to run without the ball and become open for a pass and a shot. He was deadly from the corners. Author John Mc Phee wrote a book about Bradley “Moving Without the Ball.”

My friend Darrel disagrees with me for watching “spats,” as he calls it. “Once the game is over, it’s over. It’s on to the next game.” Darrel is right about the fact that watching sports is an an apparent want as compared with a real need. Darrel considers March Madness, the Super Bowl, Open Tennis, Boxing, and Olympics all a waste of time. For me, it is an apparent need. Once it’s over I soon forget about it. There’s no real learning. It’s entertainment. While entertainment is important and needed, some of us go overboard and overdose on apparent entertainment using it as excape. I don’t see any harm getting excited over ten men or women flinging themselves after a loose ball, stealing, catapulting themselves into the bench to save a ball and keep it in play, making layups that look like yoga moves, hook shots, and all the rest.

Now it’s nearing the baseball season. I turn my attention tomy favorite team, the Yankees. I focus on one particular man who plays left Field. He wears high, black socks, leads off, and looks and acts like a true professional. He doesn’t smile very Much. He is the serious Brett Gardiner.I might get to see him play on TV once every six months. Everybody has to have some sort of hero. His behavior as a ball player inspires me to act with dignity and sincerity. Ball has taught me how to play in my game of life.

 

Tom Stock

Tom Stock has been involved in the Long Island environmental and outdoor education community for decades.

He has published two books; THE NISSEQUOGUE RIVER: A JOURNEY and HIDDEN AGENDA; A POETRY JOURNEY.He has also published many essays and poems in such journals as the Long Island Forum and The Long Islander.

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