I was in the 5th Grade and the world had me by the tail. Imagine if you will a young man sporting BK running deer hunting shirt , white T-shirt, Brittania blue jeans, feathered hair, and a solid level of confidence that preceded him into every room.
Now imagine me: 5′ 2″‘, 85 pounds, flannel shirt, generic tennis deer hunting shirt , a $3.00 haircut, over-sized glasses, and blue jeans from Sears. My confidence level was at an all-time low. That day, the cutest girl in class, the owner of my very first ever non-familial kiss, had just kissed my best friend Mike at recess. That day the librarian announced to the whole school that I was “too advanced” to continue reading books in the elementary school library and with restrained pride and muffled enthusiasm she pronounced that I would be given early access to the High School collection. I think that was supposed to be one of those inspiring moments that would encourage others to reach for the lofty academic goals set before them. All I can remember about the event was the shrill voice over the intercom and the large reverberating crash that echoed through the building as my (already dismal), popularity ratings plummeted straight through the basement. At any rate that day was a bad day.
The rest of my afternoon was pretty uneventful, as was the long bus ride home. As I walked in the front door my mom let me know that we were all going shopping as soon as dad got home. Things were looking up. A set of new clothes were just what I needed.
Before I knew it I was walking through the front door of Sears, they had everything and I do mean everything. This trip to Sears started out just like every other; one pair of jeans, two shirts, socks, and briefs. Then things changed dramatically. As we rounded the corner and headed for the sporting goods section, we came across a large display announcing that Sears was sponsoring a hoop-shoot contest. I signed up that evening and was back in the store again that Saturday to take my shot at fame and fortune. Dozens of kids (age 12 to 16), stood at the free-throw line and lobbed a regulation sized ball up to the basket. At the end of the day, two boys made the cut. I was one of those two boys! This was incredible, I was part of something so much bigger than the life I was born into. At that very moment, at Sears stores throughout the State, other kids were competing as well, and those winners would move on to the next level along with me. One day soon we would all be sitting court-side to watch the Seattle Super Sonics battle the Portland Trailblazers. I couldn’t wait. Down-Town Freddy Brown, Dennis Johnson, Paul Silus, Jack Sikma, what a wonderful day it would be. When I returned to school I was amazed to discover that no one else knew, and no one really cared when they found out. This wasn’t the first time I had experienced apathy, but it was the first time that I bothered to take notice of how it felt.
The big game was still two weeks away and I quickly faded back into my solitary life at school. All was going just as planned, nothing special, and nothing to call attention to my awkward existence, until my mom called my teacher with an extra special request. “Could you please let my little boy go to the gym and practice his free-throws during study hall, you see he’s in this hoop-shoot contest and…”. The next thing I knew, the teacher is standing in front of all my classmates telling them that I will be skipping study hall for the next couple weeks because my mom wants me to practice free throws. Imagine the looks I got as I walked to the front of the class every day at 2:35. I was headed for the gym while they were settling in for 52 minutes of strict silence and self improvement.
The day of the game finally arrived, as I was scoping-out the competition, I realized that only a handful of true athletes had made it to the final show. There were eight in all, seven boys and one girl. The Sonics had a spectacular first half, and the half-time show was right around the corner. I was so excited to be at the game that it didn’t really occur to me that we were the half-time show.
The final contest was just a blur, I remember hitting 3 out of 5, and one shot missing the net by at least three feet. The other boys did about the same, obviously overwhelmed by the extreme circumstances. The winner however, was a long haired girl, the only girl, and she was even shorter than me. When it was all said and done, I walked away with an official Super Sonics album, a poster, and a T- houston astros viking t shirt autographed by all the players. I also left that coliseum with the realization that this event would soon propel me into the athletic career that I had always wanted.
Looking back, I can clearly remember one night in the 5th grade shooting hoops in front of several thousand cheering fans. This was of little consequence to me, as I spent the next six years wishing I could play any at all. Six years of warming a bench, waiting for our team to get way ahead or way behind, so I might have a chance to play during the last 30 seconds on the clock. Those 30 seconds never came often enough for me and eventually I quit playing altogether.
It’s much easier to sit in the stands and wonder what could have been, rather than sit on the other end of the bench and know that it will never be.
John Lennon had some pretty good insight into this emotion when he said:
“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”
write by Almira