This was Mason’s second year to play basketball for the YMCA. Last year Mason played in the 10-and-under league, and this year he got bumped up to the 12-and-under league. The age cut off was September 1st of 2013, meaning Mason can play 12-and-under ball for one more year.
Mason’s team, which consisted of the same coaches and many of the same players as last year, went 7-1 this year (three of those games were forfeits), a record that was good enough to send them to state again. Last year state was in Weatherford (about an hour drive for us) but this year it was in Bethany which is much closer (it’s where Mason normally plays). Our team ended up consolidating into another team, building a powerhouse of sorts. The good news was that we ended up with a lot of good players; the bad news was, we only had two practices together with all the new players before we went to state.
Maybe it was nerves or maybe they simply didn’t mesh well together, but we lost our first game to a team we should have beaten. Our kids get intimidated anytime they face taller kids on the court and they did not play their best. Everyone who has seen these kids practice said the same thing. Our team looked awesome in practice, but it just didn’t translate to the court.
The tournament was double elimination and so we headed back to the tournament at 1:30pm for our 2pm game. Our 2pm opponent didn’t show, which game us an hour to regroup as a team. I had the opportunity to talk to a few of the kids and told them that we got beat by the best players at the tournament: ourselves. We didn’t pass, we didn’t run plays, and we didn’t play like normally play. We may have had the best players, but we certainly didn’t have the best team out there because we didn’t play like one.
When it was time for the 3pm game, our kids came alive. They ran, they shot, they played offense and defense, and they actually played like a team. Before long we were up by 20 points, a lead we held throughout the game. Mason hit one of his traditional 3-point shots and the crowd cheered. He played zone defense. He rebounded. He set picks. He did everything he was supposed to do and hustled as hard as he could. All the kids did, and it showed.
The kids were excited. We were on the rebound with a record of 2-1. We were in the losers bracket, sure, but we could dig our way out of this hole! Then our 4:30pm opponents showed up.
If that kid on the left is 12 years old, I’ll eat his size 15 show.
I don’t want to sound like I’m full of sour grapes, but note in this picture how those three kids are taller than the referee.
I tried to give the kids a pep talk before the game by telling them that the other team was in the losers bracket just like they were which meant someone else had already beaten them, but the kids weren’t having it.
Five minutes into the first half, the score was 0-20. (We were the 0.) Running one of our set plays, one of the kids kicked the ball out to Mason who got fouled on a three-point shot, sending him to the line. Mason hit the first one, making the score 1 to 20. That at least showed the kids that they could score, and that (I think) woke them up a bit. With the knowledge that it was actually possible to score against these giants, the kids turned it up.
Halfway through the second half, Mason (who was playing as hard as I’ve ever seen him play) got knocked to the ground while attempting to grab a rebound and was subsequently stepped on by one of his opponents. Mason laid on the ground holding his knee long enough that I ended up leaving the stands and walking out on to the court. Other than the outline of a giant Nike on the back of his calf, he was okay.
The final score was (I think) was 19-37. After the game the kids were frustrated and upset but they shouldn’t have been. They ran up against some monsters and that’s just the luck of the draw. I didn’t care if they won — I just cared that they tried. After the game I heard some bitter and critical complaints from parents about their kids not getting enough play time and that some of the “bad kids” got too much play time. And that’s unfortunate. I felt like both the kids and the coaches did a great job. Winning isn’t everything.
Thanks to Coach Charles and Coach Mike for a great season. I know Mason had a great time this year. He’s really developing as a player and really enjoys the game of basketball. Mason plans on spending the off season working on his shot and some of his other skills in preparation for next year’s season!
A one line message from Susan popped up on my screen at work at 3pm on Wednesday:
Just got a call from the school. They think Mason broke his leg.
I managed to bang out “on my way” before locking my computer and trotting out to my truck. I drove, mostly like an ass, as quickly as I have ever driven from my work to Mason’s school. I weaved in and out of traffic, honking and flashing my lights along the way. When I arrived at Mason’s school I threw the truck into park and left it running as I ran into the school. The mental image I had in my head was of Mason laying somewhere with a bone sticking out his leg. I also wondered if the school had a wheelchair or if I would have to carry him out to the car.
When I entered Mason’s room I found him laughing and walking around with is friends. Walking. It was at this point that I realized a wheelchair would be unnecessary.
Once out in the car, the story I got was that Mason had fallen on his knee while playing basketball. There was no doubt to this part; his entire kneecap was already a deep purple. How we got from “bruised knee” to “your son’s leg is broken” it still a mystery.
Susan arrived a few minutes later. She asked how badly his leg was broken and I said, “well, in my day they called it a bruise and gave you some ice.” Mason got out of my truck and got into Susan’s car. I went back to work, and Susan decided to take Mason to the after hours clinic, “just to be sure.”
PART TWO – THE CLINIC
The after hours clinic on Mustang road felt Mason’s kneecap and then told Susan that they thought it was broken after all. Three x-rays later, they confirmed that Mason’s kneecap was broken. Two of the x-rays didn’t show anything but the third apparently showed part of Mason’s kneecap missing. Based on this third x-ray, Mason received a knee brace and a pair of crutches. We were told to make an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon as soon as possible. We were also given the three x-rays on a CD-R, which we were to take with us.
PART THREE – THE ORTHOPEDIC SURGEON
The following day (Thursday), Susan got Mason squeezed into a 1pm appointment with Orthopedic Associates. With a kid on crutches and a CD full of x-rays in tow, we arrived for Mason’s appointment.
After viewing the CD, the doctor told us that he could only see x-rays 1 and 2 — number 3 was corrupted. Number three was the one that apparently showed the break. The doctor had Mason do a series of tests, took another x-ray, and then said, “It’s not broken.” So, now we’re back to that diagnosis. His advice was to ditch the crutches immediately and get Mason walking on the leg. He said the brace was optional — Mason could wear it if he wanted, but for no longer than two weeks.
PART FOUR – TWO DAYS LATER
It’s Friday morning. The kids are off school, and I’m staying home with them. Mason and Morgan are currently playing “Nerf Wars,” a game in which they run around shooting one another with Nerf guns. Mason has run up and down the stairs at least a dozen times at full speed, firing Nerf bullets over the railing at Morgan who is hiding behind the cat’s climbing toy.
Wednesday night for Mason’s birthday, Susan, the kids and I attended the Thunder vs. Hornets game. From the moment we found our seats and sat down I knew there were going to be problems. The people sitting directly behind us were already drunk and being loud and belligerent. This was 20 minutes before tip off.
You know you’re going to be dealing with obnoxious drunks when they shout “USA YEAH MAN WOO!” during the opening prayer, which is exactly what happened. A few minutes into the game, the two guys directly behind us began shouting “DE-FENSE! DE-FENSE!” That is a perfectly acceptable thing to do when your team — or any team, really — is on defense. It’s moronic to do so when the home team is shooting free throws. Later, during one of the timeouts, the Redneck Duo discussed whether or not they could hit a player from there with their hunting bow. The longer the game went on, the louder these two got.
At the end of the first quarter, one of the guys left to go buy three beers even though the venue is only supposed to sell you two at a time. When he returned, he told the stranger next to him how he had defeated the system by buying two beers, setting them down, getting back in line, and buying a third. When he returned to buy the third beer, the vendor said, “damn, that was fast!” When his other buddy returned behind us, he told him how he had defeated the system by buying two beers, setting them down, getting back in line, and buying a third. When he returned to buy the third beer, the vendor said, “damn, that was fast!” Then when his girlfriend returned to her seat, he told her how he had defeated the system by buying two beers, setting them down, getting back in line, and buying a third. When he returned to buy the third beer, the vendor said, “damn, that was fast!” During the third telling of the story, we all chimed in and did the punch line with him — “damn, that was fast!” Annoying.
Right after those three beers is then the f-bombs started. F this game, F the Hornets, F everybody. I finally turned around and told them to watch the F-bombs. Then they returned to yelling “DE-FENSE! DE-FENSE!” and whistling so loud that every time they did it Morgan would jump and plug her ears with her fingers. Don’t get me wrong; I have no problem with people enjoying a game, but a modicum of self-control in public is expected. Shortly after asking them to refrain from using the F-word, I heard them say, “F them, we paid our $10!”
When Susan had had enough she texted guest services. At the beginning of every game, fans are told that if someone is being unruly, you can text a number and they will send someone over to address the issue. So she did, and the response she got back was, “go find an usher.” This was during the middle of the second quarter and we were sitting in seats 14, 15, 16 and 17 in the nosebleed section. Finding an usher is not the easiest thing to do at that point.
And so with about a minute left in the first half, we decided to leave. For the record, this is when *I* began dropping f-bombs, out of the range of my children’s ears (I hope). When I stood up and turned around … let’s just say, words were exchanged. The drunker of the two told me what he thought about me and I told him what I was about to do to him. After a long stare down Susan began pulling me in one direction and this drunk buffoon continued yelling about his “19 and 0 record,” which could have only referred to cow tipping.
Out in the hallway Susan found a vendor and complained about the people to him. The man said he couldn’t leave his station, but began actively looking for an usher. We had already received that advice, via text. After 5 minutes of standing around, we did eventually find an usher, who asked where the group was sitting. Susan then asked if we could be relocated somewhere else and the usher shook his head no. And then we left, with one kid (Morgan) confused and the other one crying because we had just left the game on his birthday. On the way home we stopped by Cold Stone Creamery and had some ice cream. When that didn’t cheer him up, we stopped by GameStop and bought him a copy of NBA2K13 for the PS3. Thank god that cheered him up because I was about to go broke.
When CiCi’s Pizza first opened their doors they charged $2.99 for their all you can eat pizza buffet. What I dislike most about CiCi’s isn’t their pizza (although it can be pretty bad) — it’s being around people that can only afford $2.99 pizza. (It really is the dearth of humanity.) I now feel the same way about the nosebleed section at Chesapeake Arena. The problem with buying $10 tickets is that you end up sitting by people who can only afford $10 tickets. (At our last game, it was a row of Hispanic kids who spent half the game kicking our chairs, and the other half kicking me in the head.) It’s a shame because I don’t think you should have to expect to put up with things like that. I don’t think that “comes with the territory” just because you bought cheaper seats.
Susan sent a follow up message to the Thunder organization, so we’ll see what if anything comes of that. We have tickets to three more games and we’re debating on whether to hang on to them or sell them. I’d rather buy one or two pairs of semi-expensive tickets next year than half a dozen pairs of cheap ones and have to deal with this again. Unacceptable.
Mason was four or five years old when he attended his first NBA game, sometime during those two seasons when the New Orleans Hornets temporarily relocated to Oklahoma City during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Back then Mason was more into the food and halftime antics than he was the game, but there was something about basketball that stuck with him. Since then he’s played one season of soccer and took a couple of month’s worth of karate, but all along he’s said what he really wanted to do was play basketball.
When we moved into our old house we inherited a mounted-in-concrete basketball goal that faced the street. Because you had to stand out in the street to use the goal and because he was so little, Susan and I would take turns out in the street with Mason while he shot baskets. Long before he was physically capable of launching the ball high enough to send it through the hoop, he was out there trying. A crack in the street was designated as the free throw line; the opposite curb marked three-point range. Mason was as happy as a clam standing out in the street shooting baskets, sometimes hours on end.
A couple of years ago I did one of those things that as a parent you should never do. When Mason told me he was going to grow up and be a professional basketball player, I told him that was pretty unlikely. At that point he kind of stopped playing basketball. It took us a couple of weeks to put two and two together. When we did, I did one of those backtracking things (“What I meant to say was …”) and he began playing basketball again. So, parental lesson learned.
When we moved to our new house in 2011, one of the things Mason said he was sad about was losing his basketball goal. Last spring, my friend Howard gave us his old goal that needed a backboard, and my friend Andy gave us his backboard that needed a goal. A few screws and zip ties later and the two were united.
That brings us to last month, when we discovered that the YMCA near our home has youth league basketball. After much pleading from Mason, we signed him up for the 8-10 year old league. To be honest I didn’t think he would enjoy it much. I know Mason likes shooting baskets, but I was unsure how much he would enjoy attending practice, and dribbling, and playing defense, and running laps. Turns out, he loves it all. Every last bit of it. He loves being on the court.
After only two practices, Mason’s team — the OKC Celtics — played their first game. I was pretty nervous before the game, and I told Mason the truth: I didn’t care if his team won or lost, I just cared that he got to play and that he had a good time.
None of us knew this was going to happen, but Mason was chosen to perform the opening tip off for his team. I guess there’s something I’ve left out of this story up until this point — Mason’s tall. He’s the tallest kid in his class (“except for the kid that got held back,” he always says), he’s the tallest kid on his team, and except for the referees, he was the tallest kid on the court. (And, in full disclose, because of his birth date, he was probably also one of the oldest kids on the floor.) When the referee threw the ball up, Mason sailed way above his opponent, swatting the ball down toward his teammate. Game ON.
Although Mason’s team has only had two practices, I guess they learned what their positions are. I guess I shouldn’t call them positions at this point; it’s more like, “where to stand.” Mason’s spot to stand is underneath the goal. After the tip off, Mason ran to his spot. One of his teammates launched a bounce pass to him. Mason threw up a layup and it went in. The score was 2-0, and the crowd went wild.
As the Celtic’s opponents began to come back down court, they lost control of the ball. One of Mason’s teammates grabbed the ball. The kids ran to their spots. Someone passed it to Mason, and he threw the ball through the hoop. 4-0. One of Mason’s teammates scored, making it 6-0. On their next possession they went back to “Operation Mason” and he threw another ball through the hoop, making it 8-0 with Mason scoring six of the eight and shooting 100%.
Mason got pulled out during the second quarter, partially because the YMCA has a rule that every kid gets to play at least half the game (a rule we support 100%) and partially because due to Mason’s bright red face and a misunderstanding, they thought he was over-exerted. He wasn’t, and was dying to get back on the court. He eventually did, playing all of the third quarter and half of the fourth. Mason ended up scoring a couple more times, including the last bucket of the game. The final score was 20-5, I think. (In many youth leagues they stop keeping score if one team gets too far ahead of the other, which is what happened during this game.)
Mason’s a lot like me in the fact that he has more interests than time. He’s got school, he’s got reading, he’s got his video games and gadgets and now he’s got basketball. Maybe he’ll play high school ball or college ball or professional ball and maybe he won’t. It doesn’t matter to me at all. What matters to me the most is that Mason’s doing what he wants to do, and for right now, that’s basketball. Thunder up, Mason, and Happy Birthday son.
Once a week, one of our local radio stations (98.9 – KISS FM) has a contest for the Gatti Town Kid of the Week. To enter your kid into the running, you simply have to submit an e-mail to the radio station explaining why your kid should be chosen.
This next sentence may make me sound like a pompous ass, but I’m going to say it anyway: when I enter things like this, I almost always win. I’m a good writer, true, but more importantly I write what these types of contests are looking for — a “feel good” list of things that separate your kid from other people’s kids, written with a sprinkling of humor and a modicum of proper grammar.
I’ve heard the Gatti Town Kid of the Week being advertised on the radio from time to time, but I never remember to write the e-mail when I get either to work or home, depending on which way I was driving when I heard it. Last Monday I heard the commercial while sitting at home, so I decided to open up my e-mail client and bang out a quick submission as to why Mason should be the Gatti Town Kid of the Week.
Two days later, I was notified that Mason was the winner.
For the record, I just as easily could have submitted a winning e-mail for Morgan, but Mason, with his current school activities including being elected class president, working on his school’s recycling program, and other activities made it easier to write.
Attached to the e-mail informing me that Mason had won was an mp3 recording of the letter being read on air. This is probably cooler to me than the actual prize Mason won. The winners are announced after I get to work, where I cannot use a radio (I work in a basement). I remember spending lots of time as a kid with the record button pushed in and my finger on the pause (or rather, “un”-pause) button trying to catch a recording of my own voice after talking to a radio DJ. Having the mp3 e-mailed to me was very cool.
Mason’s prize was four free buffets (two adults, two kids) to Gatti Town (formerly Incredible Pizza, which itself was like a super-sized Chuck E. Cheese restaurant) and $10 in tokens. Of course this free package ended up costing me an additional $20 in tokens; $10 for Morgan, $5 for me, and $5 for the Skee-ball queen.
Over the weekend I picked up the tickets. Walking into a radio station is always an exciting experience for me. I was told to report to the sixth floor. From there, while waiting, you can see into some of the DJ booths. Then came the awkward ten minutes during which the secretary could not find my name on any list, and seemed unconvinced that I was the father of the Gatti Town Kid of the Week! As a kid I would have been more nervous, but seeing as though I had my iPhone in my hand on which was (a) the e-mail the producer of the radio show had e-mailed me and (b) the mp3 recording of Mason’s name being read on air, I was pretty sure the mystery would be unraveled. It was, and soon I was on my way out the door with our Golden Ticket.
Last night Mason, his sister, Susan and I visited Gatti Town, gratis. Oh, like royalty we were treated! Captain Gatti rolled out a red carpet for our arrival. Our dinner assistant showed up to tie bibs around our necks and even offered to pre-chew our food for us! For the main course, we ate half-live baby seal!
Okay, none of that really happened, but we did eat buffet pizza for free. Mason and I played some air hockey. While the kids raced go-karts, I played Outrun 2 and the latest Afterburner game while Susan earned tickets playing Skee-ball.
And a good time was had by all, on the house. Congrats to Mason for being chosen as Gatti Town’s Kid of the Week. At the radio station I signed a piece of paper informing me that there can only be one winner per household every six months. Next May, I’ll send one in for Morgan and see how it goes.
Earlier this week, Mason was in a school musical/play titled “Go West!” The play was about going west in search of gold. Mason played Robert Fulton, who tried to lure some of the train and horse riding gold diggers into taking his steamboat.
Mason had several lines in the play and made two appearances. After the show I got Mason to pose with one of the stage props.
Both Mason and Morgan’s schools had Veterans Day programs yesterday. The kids were asked to invite any Veterans from their family, which included both of their living grandpas.
The day began at Morgan’s school, where kids, Veterans, and kids’ parents were treated to juice and donuts for breakfast. After that, we filed into the gym for the program.
The second graders sang two songs, and Morgan was very excited to get to hold up “the capital A.”
“They’re all capitals,” I said.
“Yeah, but I’m first,” said Morgan.
Later in the afternoon it was off to Mason’s school. You might remember, Mason was elected Class President earlier this year. One of his duties is to speak at school assemblies. Yesterday, Mason read a poem in front of the school honoring Veterans.
Mason got a lot of compliments about his jacket and he’s certainly getting some miles out of it, but I think he’s about to outgrow this one.
Mason: I’m still hungry.
Me: You want one of those frozen PB&J sandwiches?
Mason: Mommy said those are only for school lunches.
Me: Yeah, well right now she’s not here and I’m in charge.
Mason: But what happens when she comes home?